Kabul, charity tax and the Green Deal were among topics discussed at the 10 Downing Street press briefing.
Asked whether the PM would raise the Neil Heywood investigation in discussion with Li Changchun, the PMS said the agenda was not set but it was likely to be discussed.
Asked what the PM was going to say about the investigation, the PMS said that the PM was likely to echo the Foreign Secretary’s words welcoming the investigation.
Asked whether the Foreign Office regretted that Jeremy Browne was not aware of the death of Mr Heywood on his visit shortly after it had been confirmed, the PMS said that the government had been informed of his death on 16 November by Chinese authorities and asked the authorities to investigate shortly after that.
Asked whether the government was pleased with the progress of the investigation, the PMS said that it was an operational matter and she would not discuss it.
Asked why it had taken so long to organise compensation for victims of terrorist attacks since 2002, the PMS referred the journalist to the Ministry of Justice.
Asked whether Theresa May was planning a statement on Abu Qatada, the PMS said the Government was making good progress with discussions with Jordan and we’re confident that when a deal is done we will have the assurances needed to resume the deportation process. Currently there is a legal injunction to prevent the deportation recommencing before the 17 April.
Asked how long the government had known about the injunction, the PMS referred the journalist to the Home Office.
Asked whether the government was still committed to the Green Deal, the PMS said the Green Deal was in the Coalition Agreement and the commitment remains. Separately, there is a consultation on building regulations concerning conservatories under 30 sq m and how building regulations do or do not apply.
Asked what the consultation plans were for conservatories over 30 sq m, the PMS said that the consultation proposes that people carrying out conversions should make consequential improvements to efficiency for the rest of the home if these measures are not already in place. There is Green Deal funding available to protect people from upfront costs.
Asked whether the government still stands by the figures in the Budget regarding the tax on charitable donations, the PMS said that the basic principle has been set out in the Budget. The government wants to explore ways in which a cap can be introduced which stops the abuse by some wealthy individuals who bring down their personal tax bills through charitable giving. There is a process by which the policy will be implemented and there will be a consultation in the future.
Asked whether it was the government’s intention that there is no reduction in charitable giving as a result of the policy, the PMS said that the broad intention of the policy is to ensure that there is a cap on reliefs as there is very clear evidence that some wealthy individuals using the reliefs to pay very little tax. The government is encouraging philanthropy but at the same time we want to stop abuses of the system.
Asked whether there would be a cap of 50% introduced similar to the system in the United States, the PMS said that the government would be discussing the implementation of the policy with the charitable sector and a consultation would follow.
Asked whether the consultations would be separate to discussions with the charitable sector, the PMS said that a formal consultation would be separate to any discussions.
Asked whether the PMS could be specific on the timing of the consultation, the PMS said it would be published in the summer.
Asked whether the PM would be having any conversations with charities, the PMS said that the Treasury was leading on the process but the PM often meets people from the charitable sector.
Asked whether the PM had ordered a review of government policy presentation, the PMS said that he was briefed on policy development regularly.
Asked whether it was still the PM’s view that the UK should buy a conventional aircraft for UK aircraft carriers, the PMS said that the MOD had decided to reintroduce carrier strike capability and the Government was committed to implementing that decision. We’re currently finalising the 2012/13 budget and balancing the equipment plan and as part of that process we are reviewing all programmes, including elements of the carrier strike programme.
Asked whether there would be a Parliamentary statement following the attacks on the British Embassy in Kabul, the PMS said that the Foreign Secretary had already issued a statement confirming that the embassy had been targeted and was unaware of a Parliamentary statement being planned.
Asked whether the PM had any concerns over Afghan security because of the attack, the PMS said the PM would agree with the Foreign Secretary’s statement saying that the Afghan forces had acted bravely and swiftly to address the situation, which underlines the progress made in Afghan security.
Asked whether the PM was confident that the Jubilee ticket ballot would receive more public satisfaction than the results of the public Olympic ballot, the PMS said that the PM was confident the celebrations would be a success.
Asked whether there was any truth in speculation that the UK would be providing a further £10bn for the IMF, the PMS referred the journalist to the Treasury.
Legal Aid Bill
Asked what the government’s intention was regarding Legal Aid Bill concessions, the PMS referred the journalist to the Ministry of Justice.
Asked whether there was anything specific on the agenda for the PM’s meeting with the Portuguese PM, the PMS said that Eurozone and growth issues would be discussed.