Press briefing: morning 20 March 2014
This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
The Prime Minister’s Spokesperson (PMS) answered questions on Ukraine, the Budget, TV licences and flight MH370.
Asked what sanctions would be discussed at the European Council and what the Prime Minister would be pushing for at the working dinner, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) said that would depend on discussions with the other 27 leaders but that Britain would be seeking sanctions on a broader range of political and economic areas.
When asked whether the Prime Minister accepted that Crimea was now Russian the PMS said he did not and that recent actions had been neither legitimate nor legal. In answer to a subsequent question on whether the Prime Minister held out hope that Crimea would be repatriated to the Ukraine the PMS added that the UK position remained unchanged and that the PM wanted Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity to be respected, with consequences if they were not.
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In response to a number of questions on reductions in taxes on beer and bingo the PMS pointed to the Chancellor’s comments earlier in the day. When asked whether the Prime Minister had confidence in Grant Shapps the PMS said that he did. In response to a question on whether the Prime Minister would be disappointed if savings on beer and bingo weren’t passed on to the customer the PMS said that the reductions made had been welcomed by many people and he was sure that businesses would be keen to attract customers.
In response to a question about whether people might spend their pension lump sum the PMS said that the government was clear that this was about allowing people to make their own decisions. When asked if the Prime Minister agreed with the Chief Secretary to the Treasury that this was a risk the PMS added that it was right to make the reforms and allow people the freedom to make decisions on their savings and have the right to free advice. When asked when the reforms would come into law the PMS said that they would be enacted in April 2014 following primary legislation.
Asked who would pay for professional advice on pensions the PMS said that the government would introduce a new duty on pension providers and trust-based pension schemes.
Asked if the Prime Minister thought that decriminalising non-payment of TV licences would be a good idea the PMS said that the Prime Minister would listen to the views of MPs and that the charter renewal process offered an opportunity to review the current status.
Missing Malaysian plane
Asked what help the UK government was providing to the search for the missing Malaysian airliner in addition to the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) the PMS said that discussions had taken place between the UK and Malaysian governments. The deployment of HMS Echo had resulted from those discussions. He said its exact role would depend on the status of the investigation when it arrived.