Press briefing: afternoon 16 December 2013
This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
The Prime Minister’s Spokesperson (PMS) answered questions on Afghanistan, an immigration cap and energy bills.
Asked to confirm whether the Prime Minister (PM) believed it was ‘mission accomplished’, the PMS said the PM had explained his position to media earlier in the day and pointed them to the PM’s words. Asked whether it was mission accomplished given a 36% rise in poppy production, the PMS said the PM was explaining what our armed forces had achieved in Afghanistan. The PMS added the situation in Afghanistan had significantly improved in terms of the threat terrorists pose, and that was a result of the achievements of our armed forces. He added that in 2001 it was a haven for those who sought to do us and our allies harm.
Asked whether the PM had meant to strike a triumphant tone with the phrase, as former President George Bush had done, the PMS asked the media to look at the PM’s words on the achievements of our armed forces and why that meant there wouldn’t be combat troops there by the end of 2014. Asked if the PM regretted his choice of words, the PMS said he did not. Asked why the PM used it, given the phrase had reportedly become toxic since former President Bush used it, the PMS said the PM was asked a question by the media as to whether or not the central objective about increasing security in that country, and that being very much in the national interest of this country. Asked whether the phrase ‘mission accomplished’ was put to the PM by a journalist, the PMS said he believed that was the journalist’s question and added the words had been published online for everyone to see.
Asked if the PM was disappointed that the number of Afghan security officers who had died had gone up by 80%, the PMS said we must absolutely acknowledge the very significant casualties Afghan National Security Forces had suffered. He said this reflected the way Afghan National Security Forces were increasingly taking the lead in providing security to their country. He said this was part of the process leading to UK troops drawing down. The PMS added we would, through the Officer Training College, continue to provide support for the Afghan forces so they could continue to provide security. The PMS added the PM absolutely acknowledged their losses. Asked if the job was done and did that mean we would no longer support British operations such as drone strikes, the PMS said there was a process of drawing down our combat troops and that process was underway.
Asked if the PM agreed with the Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) that a cap on immigration was undeliverable, the PMS referred media to the PM’s Financial Times (FT) article. He added the balance and competencies papers make analysis rather than recommendations and he was not going to comment on any leaks around those. Asked if the PM was talking about capping migration from future member states or existing member states, the PMS said the PM talked about a number of topics in the FT article including future accessions, freedom of movement and the impact it may have on the welfare system, the additional measures the UK would be taking next year and how we may take a different approach on future accessions.
Asked about advocating a cap on immigration for existing EU members, the PMS said the PM’s policy on net migration was that it should come down to tens of thousands. The PMS also said the PM had set out the types of things we may want to consider with regard to future accessions. Asked about a cap on citizens from EU member states and whether it would be from a future EU member state and not an existing one, the PMS pointed media to the laws around freedom of movement and transitional control and added that the government operated within the law. He also referred media to the PM’s article in the FT.
Asked about Theresa May’s comments on freedom of movement and renegotiation, the PMS said we needed to look at free movement in the context of the impact on welfare systems and that the Home Secretary had written to the EU, along with a number of other member states. The PMS added there was also the issue of future accessions and that the PM has been clear we needed to look at free movement. Asked if those were the only points of free movement he would be looking at, the PMS again referred press to the approach the PM had set out in the FT.
Asked why the PM had not set out his views to Parliament so parliamentarians could question him, the PMS said he was sure the PM had been asked a number of questions in Parliament over a considerable period of time on his immigration policies. Asked if the PM was keen on changing those laws, the PMS said the PM had set out the areas he wanted to look at and those were concerns shared by other countries. Asked if the PM agreed with the DPM that freedom of movement is freedom to work but also freedom to look for work, the PMS pointed media to the legislation.
Asked if the PM thought we needed to renegotiate Hinckley Point energy prices, the PMS said the PM’s view had not changed since he set out the Hinckley agreement.