Press briefing: afternoon 19 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 north/south divide, immigration, Russian Olympics and rendition.
Asked if the Prime Minister (PM) agreed with the Business Secretary that London was “sucking the life out of the rest of the country”, the PMS said the government was committed to rebalancing the economy and gave the example of the HS2 line. Asked if there was a risk that by making London more accessible the HS2 line could damage the north, the PMS pointed media to the comments of leaders of various cities that would be better connected, including Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and Birmingham, who had all expressed strong support for HS2.
Asked to confirm if the PM agreed with backbenchers, that discretionary control around Romania and Bulgaria should not be lifted, and extended further, the PMS said the government had extended transitional control to their maximum, from 5 to 7 years, and for future accessions the PM wanted to take a different approach. Asked if the PM shared the concerns of some backbench MPs that we were “importing a crime wave” from Bulgaria and Romania, the PMS said the government was doing more to control immigration and doing more so freedom of movement was not freedom of movement to claim. He added this was alongside other measures previously announced by the government as part of the Immigration Bill. Asked if it was correct there were special contingency plans in place at the border for the 1 January in case of unexpected developments, the PMS referred media to the Home Secretary’s recent Select Committee comments.
Asked if the PM had decided whether he will attend the Olympics in Russia, the PMS said he did not have details on the PM’s travel plans for 2014 and added he was not aware of any final decision on the issue.
Asked if the PM was convinced the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) was the right organisation to examine rendition claims, the PMS said the approach set out in the House by Ken Clarke earlier in the day was the right approach. Asked if the ISC reported directly to the PM and not the House, the PMS said it was an independent committee and that the government had made a number of reforms to the group, including that the PM no longer appointed the head of the committee.