Asked if the Prime Minister (PM) was still determined to solve the ‘cliff edge issue’ on child benefits, the PMS said he did not have anything to add to the debate, and referred the journalist to previous PM comments on the issue. He added that he was not going to get drawn into speculation about tax or benefit changes ahead of the Budget.
Asked what the PM would say to people gathering at a rally in Westminster Hall to protest against the Health and Social Care Bill at such a late stage, the PMS said the pressures facing the health service, particularly pressures from an ageing population, and the rising cost of treatments, meant that the health service needed reform.
Asked what the PM would say to disabled people after the sacking of 1,500 people from Remploy, and whether he would describe it as barbaric, the PMS said that the Government was protecting the budget for specialist disability employment services, but trying to spend the money more effectively than in the past. He added Liz Sayce had been asked to carry out a review, and that the Government has consulted on her recommendations. He said the consultation showed the proposal, that money should follow individuals and not institutions, received widespread support. He said it also supported the proposition that Government funded segregated employment was not the best way forward for disabled people.
Asked why the Remploy announcement had been dealt with by Written Ministerial Statement instead of an Oral Statement, the PMS said it was common practice to make an announcement by WMS.
Asked if the broad wording of the WMS was an attempt to ‘slip it out’, the PMS said there had been an independent review, a consultation on proposals and now the Government was going ahead with those proposals.
Asked what the PM thought on fresh suggestions that corruption within the police threatened the original Stephen Lawrence murder investigation, the PMS said if there was any new evidence of police corruption, that evidence should be handed to the police or the IPCC and they should be empowered to investigate that further. Asked to clarify ‘empowered’, the PMS added they should be able to follow that evidence wherever it takes them.
Asked what the PM thought of the NAO report on Whitehall efficiency reforms, which showed efforts to save money have ended up costing more money, the PMS said it was important to tackle waste in Whitehall. He added the report related to Government efficiency programmes started in 2004 and recognised this Government’s commitment to dealing with some of those issues.