Press release

Press briefing - afternoon 16 April 2012

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Prime Minister's meeting with Li Changchun of the Chinese Communist Party, charitable donations and social housing.

Prime Minister’s meeting with Li Changchun

Asked whether the death of Neil Heywood would be raised when the Prime Minister meets with Li Changchun, the Prime Minister’s spokesperson (PMS) said that the focus of the meeting would be on strengthening trade, cultural and education links between Britain and China, but that it would be likely to be discussed.

When asked whether the Prime Minister thought that Jeremy Browne should have raised the issue of Mr Heywood’s death when he visited China in November 2011, the PMS said that we were pleased with how the investigation was progressing and that he was not aware of the situation at the time.

Asked where the meeting would take place, the PMS confirmed that the meeting would take place at No10 Downing Street.

In response to a question about who instigated the meeting with the Prime Minister, and what the purpose of Li Changchun’s visit to the UK was, the PMS repeated that the focus of the meeting would be on strengthening trade, cultural and education links between Britain and China, and referred the journalists to the FCO for details of the visit.

When asked why Li Changchun was meeting the Prime Minister and not the Foreign Secretary, the PMS repeated that the purpose of the meeting was to strengthen links between the two countries.

Asked to summarise the government’s view of the Heywood case, the PMS said that as the investigation was ongoing it would be inappropriate to predict or speculate on what the Prime Minister would say, but she informed the journalists that it would likely be raised in the meeting

Charitable donations

Put to the PMS that figures released by the Treasury contradicted the government’s proposals for a cap on the tax relief for donations, because they showed that around 72 per-cent of high earners had paid full tax, the PMS explained that the purpose of the figures was to highlight that there were a small number of very wealthy people who had made substantial donations but who have paid much lower rates of tax. The PMS added that the Government did not think this was fair to the majority, which was why we were consulting on changes.

The PMS went on to say that the government wanted to encourage charitable and philanthropic giving, and that the proposed cap on tax relief was designed to prevent individuals from abusing the system. The PMS also made clear to journalists that we would be discussing how the government’s proposals could be implemented with charitable organisations, and would formally consult over the summer.

Asked why the government was making it more difficult for people to donate, when changes had already been made to the way people could give in 2011, the PMS pointed out that the government had also published a Giving White Paper, setting out various ways people could donate. The PMS repeated that the government’s proposals were intended to stop the small number of donors who were trying to abuse the system.

Asked how long the consultation would last, the PMS said that government consultations usually last 12 weeks but that full details would be published in due course.

Asked why the there was a variable projected figure of between £50 - 100 million outlined in the budget, the PMS explained that this is an estimated amount of money  which could be raised from the introduction of the cap, but how that cap would be implemented was still subject to discussion and consultation.

Asked why the Treasury did not make more of the planned consultation at the time the proposals were announced, the PMS said that the HMRC had published details on their website on 5 April, that they had made clear that we would consult in the summer, and that draft legislation would be published later in the year.

Social housing

When asked if the Prime Minister agreed with Frank Field when he said that those who have made the most contribution to society should be given priority for social housing, the PMS referred the journalists to the statement made by Grant Shapps on this issue. She said the statement made clear that local councils are now able to set their own rules about who qualifies to go on their local housing waiting list, making the system fairer and able to genuinely meet the needs of local people.