Press release

Press briefing: morning 22 October 2013

The Prime Minister’s Spokesperson (PMS) answered questions on the cabinet meeting, immigration, energy, Facebook, the economy and Syria.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

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Cabinet

Asked about the cabinet meeting that day, the PMS said that the Prime Minister (PM) had updated cabinet on the European Council meeting later this week. The PM had previously been clear about his determination not to be in an ever closer union with the EU.

The Chancellor had updated the cabinet on his visit to China and the Justice Secretary discussed promoting legal services abroad through a conference in 2015. Four of the world’s top 10 legal firms were based in the UK and ministers would be expected to promote the UK professional services sector when abroad.

The Health Secretary had updated cabinet on NHS planning for winter, and discussions with the pharmaceutical sector about the procurement of drugs. Asked whether there were any announcements made regarding the winter planning, the PMS said the government had already announced an extra £500 million for A&E departments under the greatest pressure.

The Energy Secretary had also updated cabinet on the Hinkley Point investment deal.

Immigration

Asked whether the government was rolling out the pilot of the advertising vans nationally, the PMS said that the Home Office had confirmed the pilot would not be extended.

Questioned on proposals to claw back welfare payments from migrants’ governments, the PMS said the government was working closely with other European countries to look at the issue of benefits. The rules on the habitual residents test were already being changed and more work would be done. Government departments would need to work together and share the responsibility to address the issue.

The Department of Health was consulting on migrant access to GP services. Asked whether it was a GP’s duty to safeguard the NHS in this regard, the PMS said that taxpayers would expect people to play their part in ensuring fairness for those who fund the NHS.

Energy bills

Asked about energy prices and Scottish Power’s fine for mis-selling, the PMS said that the fine was a matter for the regulator and sent a strong signal of bad practice. It was very understandable that consumers would want to see if they could get a better deal on their energy tariffs.

Facebook

Asked about the PM calling Facebook’s change in policy to allow videos of beheading to be posted on their site ‘irresponsible’, the PMS said that Facebook should address the problem.

Economy

Asked whether the government was celebrating the lower public sector borrowing figures and higher tax revenues, the PMS said that the economy was turning a corner but there was a long way to go.

Syria

Asked what the government was doing to resolve the situation in Syria, the PMS said the very reason the Foreign Secretary had called for talks in London was to increase the chance of peace in upcoming talks in Geneva.

Published 24 October 2013