Commission on Human Rights Act
Asked about timings for the Commission on Human Rights Act, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) said that there would be an announcement soon.
Asked why it hadn’t been set up in May of last year, the PMS said that we had never said that it would be set up in May. We published the Coalition Agreement last May, which set out a whole host of Government policies we would implement of which this was the latest.
Asked if it had been signed off yet, the PMS said that it was signed off in the Coalition Agreement. We made announcements when we were ready to make announcements and this announcement would be made soon.
No 10 Policy Unit
Asked if anyone was being brought in outside of the civil service to take up jobs in the No 10 Policy Unit, the PMS said that we had said that the Policy Unit would be made up of some civil servants and some Special Advisors. There could be appointments made from outside the civil service, which was usual.
Put that No 10 had previously said that the jobs in the Policy Unit would be given to civil servants, the PMS said that he didn’t know who had said that but we had advertised jobs at the end of last year and had a competition in the usual way.
Asked about salaries, the PMS said that they would be covered by the rules that applied across Government: certain salary bands were published.
Asked if it was Ministers or civil servants who made the final decision in terms of who got the job, the PMS said that for appointments of civil servants to posts where they worked very closely with Ministers, those Ministers often got to meet candidates before the offer of a job. The Policy Unit was for the Coalition Government and would report to both the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister.
Asked why there was a need for these new positions, the PMS said that we had set up various structures in the Cabinet Office to reflect the fact we now had a Coalition Government. We had to have civil service staff to work within those new structures.
Asked what the size of the workforce was in No 10 and the Cabinet Office, the PMS said that he didn’t have a figure to hand, but staff levels would be going down in the coming years as the Cabinet Office made savings. The resources for the Policy Unit were effectively the resources that would have been used for the Strategy Unit in the Cabinet Office, which no longer existed.
Asked if our position was the same as outlined by Hilary Clinton this morning that a no-fly zone would need the backing of the international community and the UN, the PMS said that our position remained as was set out by the Foreign Secretary during his statement to the House earlier this week: we needed international support, a clear trigger and an appropriate legal basis. We were working on plans and taking it step by step.
Asked if the Prime Minister still had confidence in Prince Andrew, the PMS said that we had set out the position at the beginning of the week and it remained the same.