Press briefing: morning 11 November 2013
This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
The Prime Minister’s Spokesperson (PMS) answered questions on China, A&Es, Russia, CHOGM, premium rate phone lines, unions and Iran.
Asked whether the Prime Minister (PM) was going to China, the PMS said the PM was invited to Beijing at the G20 summit and was exploring when a visit would be possible.
Sir John Major’s comments
Asked for the PM’s view on comments from Sir John Major on social equality and aspiration, the PMS said the PM and Sir John spoke regularly and discussed a wide range of things. At the heart of Sir John’s comments was the importance of the aspiration nation. Families would want to know that the government had the right policies in place to ensure their children could fulfil their potential and ambitions. The government was focused on education and welfare reform to make that happen.
Asked whether the PM agreed that interest rates should go up to help savers, the PMS said it was a matter for the Bank of England, but the government had introduced measures to protect pensioners, such as the triple lock on pensions.
Asked whether the PM was taking personal charge of the pressures on Accident and Emergency (A&E) departments this winter, the PMS said the PM was working with the Health Secretary on health matters with a focus on A&Es. The PM had already announced £500 million of extra resources to help A&Es and would keep up to date with the latest NHS data. A&Es had seen 1.2 million more people come through their doors compared to three years ago and in the most recent period had been meeting its performance measures. There had already been reforms around adult social care and treatment for over 75s. Services also needed to be configured to meet their local requirements.
Asked how the government was raising the issue of the Greenpeace activists, the PMS said the PM had spoken to President Putin and the government was regularly in touch with its Russian counterparts.
Asked about the use of premium phone lines by government departments, the PMS said the PM understood concerns people had, especially when seeking advice at difficult times in their lives such as bereavement. The Cabinet Office was working with departments that were most affected as well as Ofcom, to explore the use of national rate lines instead of premium lines.
Asked whether the PM had spoken to the Indian government regarding their decision not to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), the PMS said the PM and Foreign Secretary respected the views of other Commonwealth governments and were in constant dialogue with the Indians.
Asked for the PM’s view on unions intimidating company bosses and their families, the PMS said the PM had made his view clear in Prime Minister’s Questions the previous week. Intimidating behaviour was wrong. The government was considering whether there was more that should be done.
Asked about the E3+3 talks with Iran, the PMS said the Foreign Secretary had said they were difficult negotiations. There was a deal on the table and it could be done. The entire E3+3 had said to the Iranian government that they needed to carefully consider the measures needed to reach agreement.