Press briefing: morning 13 February 2012
This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
The Prime Minister's Spokesperson (PMS) answered questions on subjects including Greece, Scotland and public sector bonuses.
Asked what the PM thought of the Greek vote on new austerity measures, the PMS said that it would be unhelpful to comment given the government have not been part of the bailout solution for Greece.
Public sector bonuses
Asked whether the PM believed there was a problem with bonuses in the public sector, the PMS said that the Chief Secretary to the Treasury and the Minister for the Cabinet Office had written to departments asking them to investigate current agreements. The government had taken action on pay in the public sector with caps and freezes and they were now looking at arrangements for arms-length bodies.
Asked whether the government would cancel contracts containing bonus payments, the PMS said the government would abide by the law, but were actively investigating the current arrangements.
Asked whether the PM believed a potential referendum on Scottish independence should now take place in 2014, the PMS said that the government were currently consulting and that the PM had already expressed the view that the referendum should take place as soon as possible to avoid the negative impact of uncertainty on Scottish business.
Asked whether the PM agreed with Alex Salmond’s comments that there was a clear consensus in Scotland that the referendum should take place in 2014, the PMS said that the government were currently consulting but the PM remained of the view that the uncertainty was bad for businesses.
Asked whether the PM agreed that allowing Abu Qatada to remain in the country was a poor use of police resources, the PMS said that the government wanted Abu Qatada out of the country as soon as possible. The government had asked for strict bail conditions to be applied and would take all measures necessary to protect the public.
Asked whether the government would consider ignoring the ruling preventing his deportation to Jordan, the PMS said that the government were looking at all options for removing Abu Qatada from the UK.
Asked whether the government had come to a decision whether to lodge an appeal to the Grand Chamber of the European Court, the PMS said that he would not get into the detail of the options the government was considering.
Asked why the PM was talking to the insurance industry about the cost of living, the PMS said that insurance premiums were a major outgoing for many families in the UK.
Asked whether the PM was happy with the announced Merlin lending figures, the PMS said that the figures had shown that banks met their targets in the second, third and fourth quarters of 2011 and overall lending was up on the previous year. The aim of the targets was to sustain the supply of credit to the UK economy and these figures showed an overall increase. The country has been through a severe financial crisis, which had a significant effect on the banking sector and it would take some time for the financial industry to return to normal.
Asked whether the PM believed it was an issue of lack of demand for credit, the PMS said that lending levels were clearly driven by a number of different factors, but demand had an impact on lending levels.
Asked whether the PM thought the Merlin targets were set too high, the PMS said that the targets were set with the intention to increase the level of lending in the economy.
Asked whether the PM believed press freedom was under threat due to police inquiries, the PMS said that the reason for the Leveson Inquiry was general public concern around the relationship between the press, government and the police. The PM had always been clear that there should be a robust and independent press that held government to account.
Asked whether the PM was concerned that three cabinet ministers had reportedly noted their concern over the Health Bill, the PMS said that the cabinet were all behind the bill.
Asked whether the PM agreed with Simon Hughes that the SoS Health should be replaced in the second half of parliament, the PMS said that the membership of Cabinet was not a matter for Simon Hughes.
Asked whether the PM was inviting ex-footballer John Barnes to the upcoming racism summit, the PMS said that full details of the summit would follow.
Asked who was going to make the decision over Prof Ebdon’s appointment as Universities Tsar, the PMS said he believed the legislation said that it was an appointment for the SoS Business.
Asked whether the PM intended to overrule or change the SoS Business’s mind on the appointment, the PMS said that Prof Ebdon was appointed according to the proper process.