Asked if the Prime Minister was confident that the Government would win the vote on tuition fees this afternoon, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) said that he was not going to speculate on the outcome of the vote, suffice to say it was a Government priority to implement this policy.
Asked if there would be any more concessions, the PMS said that the policy had been clearly set out, and that he did not anticipate any concessions.
Asked if there would be a large police presence in Whitehall this afternoon, the PMS said that it was a matter for the police, but he was sure that the police had plans in place.
Asked if there was any information on the timing of higher education and the White Paper, the PMS said no, not yet.
Asked what exactly the votes today were on, the PMS said that there were two votes today; one on raising the cap to £6000, and the other a resolution on the upper limit, which were both based on existing tuition fees legislation.
Asked if there would be any sanctions for Principal Private Secretaries if they voted against the Government, the PMS said that the Coalition Agreement and the Ministerial Code set out the position.
Asked if the Prime Minister had intervened to prevent minimum sentencing being scrapped, the PMS said that we were reviewing the position, but the Prime Minister’s view was that those who committed the most serious offences, deserved the toughest sentences.
Asked if that meant that the Prime Minister thought there should be minimum sentences to ensure that that happened, the PMS said that there was a review underway. We were not abolishing, for example, the mandatory life sentence for murder, nor were we proposing any reductions in minimum terms for murder.
Put that the Justice Secretary, Kenneth Clarke, had suggested that he would scrap some of the minimum terms, the PMS said that there were a series of guidelines which effectively set a point of departure for judges in cases, i.e. they set out Parliament’s intention in terms of the appropriate tariff. In individual cases judges had discretion to move away from that if the circumstances of the case allowed for it. Kenneth Clarke had been saying earlier in the week, and what the review was saying, was that over a period of time those guidelines had become complicated, so we were reviewing them to see if we could simplify them.
Put that Kenneth Clarke had said he would get rid of the minimum term for murder, the PMS said that there were two things to bear in mind; the first was that there was a review underway to look at simplifying guidelines where possible, and secondly the Prime Minister’s view was that serious offences required serious punishments. He did not want to see a watering down of sentences for serious offences.
Asked how strongly the Prime Minister felt about this issue, the PMS said that the Prime Minister felt very strongly about this issue.
Asked if the Prime Minister was concerned about the job losses announced by BAE this morning as a result of the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), the PMS said that at the time of the SDSR we made clear that we had to make some decisions about the resources that were put into defence, and those decisions had to reflect both our assessment of national security and the financial environment we faced. The SDSR implied a significant investment in the defence industry in the next few years.
Asked if there was a timetable for counter terrorism votes, the PMS referred the journalist to the Home Office.
Asked if the Localism Bill had been delayed, the PMS said that it would be happening very soon.