Asked whether the government would publish any evidence of sarin gas use in Syria, the PMS said that there was limited but persuasive evidence and the UK was in discussion with its allies, but there was nothing further to add at this stage.
Asked about the government’s commitment to establishing the register of lobbyists, the PMS said that the PM believed it was important to be transparent and publish details of all meetings on a quarterly basis. The government was committed to establishing a register of lobbyists.
Asked whether wealthy pensioners should return benefits they don’t need, the PMS said that the PM had made a commitment to protecting important benefits for pensioners. The commitment was in place until the end of the 2015/16 financial year. The helpline established by the Department of Work and Pensions was for help with all benefit queries and not to enable pensioners to return unnecessary benefits.
Questioned on house prices and the economy, the PMS said that the government had inherited a tough economic situation, but work was ongoing. Problems in the Eurozone were still impacting on the UK, but the government had seen the creation of 1.25 million private sector jobs and had reduced the deficit by a third. The Chancellor had set out measures to help people get on the housing ladder and support the construction industry.
Asked about the PM’s commitment to ring fencing the health budget, the PMS said that the PM had been clear on his commitment. The Department of Health would keep 0.1% real terms growth in its budget.
Asked whether the PM supported the Justice Secretary’s work on legal aid, the PMS said that the PM backed the important work done at the Ministry of Justice.
Asked whether the PM thought the police should focus on preventing crime or catching criminals, the PMS said the PM thought the police had done an excellent job after being set the challenge to reduce the crime rate and cut costs. The PM thought that Tom Windsor’s comments were an important contribution to the debate on policing.
United Arab Emirates (UAE) visit
Asked whether the PM would raise the allegations of torture in Dubai with the President of the UAE on his visit to Downing Street, the PMS said that he would not comment on the content of bilaterals, but the PM had been clear there were not any ‘no go’ areas for discussion. The visit was an opportunity to strengthen relations with the UAE.