The Prime Minister's Spokesperson (PMS) answered questions on subject including banking, immigration, G4S, EU powers and free schools.
Asked whether the PM was concerned that a member of the Treasury Select Committee had called the banking inquiry a ‘whitewash’ and a ‘total joke’, the PMS said that membership of the inquiry committee had been agreed between the parties. The committee for the inquiry has powers to appoint special advisors including counsel would be able to examine witnesses on its behalf.
Asked whether parties picked their respective members, whether the Chancellor had a say on the membership and whether the PM was happy that there were no women on the committee team, the PMS said that the membership had been agreed between the parties.
Asked who the peers on the committee would be, the PMS referred the journalist to the Treasury for details.
Asked whether the PM was concerned that the recent weather was damaging the economy, the PMS said that he was not willing to make predictions on the economy.
Asked whether the PM agreed with the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) comments on migration, the PMS said that the OBR produce some long term forecasts which inform government policy-making.
Asked whether the PM was reviewing the inclusion of foreign students in immigration figures, the PMS said that there were no plans to review the situation and that the Office for National Statistics ultimately decide how to measure net migration.
Asked when it would be clear how many troops would be required to deploy for Olympic security, and whether there would be a penalty for G4S, the PMS said there was no update on the numbers, G4S was still recruiting and training staff. The primary focus was to ensure the games were staffed properly.
Asked whether the taxpayer would foot the bill for G4S failures, the PMS said that the costs of securing the games would come out of the existing budget. The focus was to ensure the Olympic Games are secure.
Asked whether the PM thought that there should be any renegotiation of the EU powers while Europe was facing the Eurozone crisis, the PMS said that the government had announced that there was work underway examining the balance of competencies looking at what should be dealt with at EU level. If there were opportunities to renegotiate powers or to further our national interests we would take those opportunities.
Asked what the PM’s view was on lifting the current sanctions in Zimbabwe, the PMS said that there would be discussion of sanctions with international partners. The purpose of sanctions was to influence behaviour, and we wanted to see reform in Zimbabwe.
Asked whether the government had a policy of pushing funds towards free schools and away from non-free schools, the PMS said that we had a policy of diversity in the school system and an objective of raising standards. Free schools had a part to play in that.
Funding for lending
Asked whether the PM was confident that the latest Bank of England action would increase lending to small businesses, the PMS said that the Bank of England and the government were using the strength of the government’s balance sheet to support the flow of lending in the economy. We had looked at a number of ways of supporting lending and the ‘Funding for Lending’ scheme was the next stage in that process.