The Prime Minister's Spokesperson answered questions on bovine TB, Royal Mail, civil service reform, shareholder democracy and ECHR ruling.
Asked whether there was more detail on Cabinet discussions on the proposed badger cull pilot, the Prime Minister’s Spokesperson (PMS) said that the Department of Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) had published a strategy setting out its intention for the UK to be bovine TB free and that the cost to the taxpayer of doing nothing was in the region of £1 billion. He added that the government has consistently made the point that no country that had successfully dealt with bovine TB had done so without tackling the disease both in cattle and wildlife.
Justice and Home Affairs opt out
Asked if this was about an opt out from European powers, the PMS replied that this was about the exercise of opting out of all pre-Lisbon Treaty policing and criminal justice measures.
Asked if specific numbers had been given on the number of opt outs during Cabinet, the PMS replied that the Home Secretary would be updating the House shortly.
Asked whether the Home Secretary’s statement would include reference to the ECHR, the PMS said no, that was a separate issue.
Asked is there would be a statement on Royal Mail tomorrow and whether this would be a routine update, the PMS replied that as this is a commercially sensitive issue, the only guidance that he was able to give was that Parliament would be updated before recess and this would include an update on plans to sell shares in Royal Mail.
Civil service reform
Asked if the statement on civil service reform was likely tomorrow, the PMS said that yes, there would be an update to Parliament on progress on the civil service reform plan which was published a year ago. He added this was about how ministers and civil servants continue to work together to deliver on the government’s priorities.
Asked if it was the Prime Minister’s view that any increases in the number of political appointees working in the civil service should be part of total numbers for departments or on top of this, the PMS replied that details of any additional matters would be in tomorrow’s statement but that in regard to administrative costs in Whitehall, the recent Spending Review showed that since the start of this government, the costs of civil service administration costs had been reduced by 40%.
Asked if the PM believed in shareholder democracy, the PMS replied that the government believed that there were clear and strong benefits linked to incentives for the long term to employees having a stake in businesses. He added that there may also be a role for wider public participation.
Asked if the PM was keen on share offerings to members of the public in Royal Mail, the PMS replied that he was unable to comment ahead of the statement because of commercial sensitivities but that public participation had been a real success in past examples.
Asked how angry the PM was about the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling on life sentences, the PMS replied that he was very disappointed and that he profoundly disagreed with the Court’s ruling. He added that the PM was a strong supporter of whole life tariffs.
Asked if the PM believed that the case made by the ECHR was completely wrong, the PMS said that the government had strongly argued against this and he reiterated that the PM was a strong supporter of judges having the ability to award whole life tariffs.
Asked what this would mean for government review of the current way Human Rights Convention was operated, the PMS referred to the PM’s words from the weekend that nothing was off the table.
Asked if the government could appeal against this decision, the PMS replied that no, but that the Ministry of Justice would have six months to consider its response.
Asked what options were on the table, the PMS said that government would consider the detail of the judgement before responding.
Second jobs for MPs
Asked if the PM had any views on whether there should be a cap on second jobs for MPs, the PMS replied that when it came to rules of Parliament, it was a matter for the House.