Asked when the Prime Minister (PM) last held a press conference, the PMS said the PM engaged with the press on a regular basis and was asked a range of questions on a range of topics. The PM had last held a press conference when the Italian PM Letta had visited Number 10 less than a fortnight ago.
Asked for information on the NHS 111 service, the PMS said that NHS England had issued a response. NHS Direct was running a high performing service but would not be taking it forward for specific contractual reasons. The contract with NHS Direct would continue running for 2 years and there would be a transition to another provider. The PM wanted to see the best provision for NHS patients, and while there had been initial issues that were addressed, patients now rated the service highly with 90% of all calls being answered in less than a minute. The PM was confident that NHS England would continue to drive up standards of patient care across the country.
Cost of politics
Questioned on the PM’s views on the cost of politics and House of Lords appointments, the PMS referred the journalist to the PM’s words on cutting the cost of politics - the PM had made it clear that he wanted the overall cost of politics to come down. Details of special adviser costs would be published shortly.
Asked whether the PM agreed with the Business Secretary over a recent Home Office pilot targeting illegal immigrants, the PMS said that the Business Secretary was expressing a view but the PM did not agree. The pilot was about targeting people in the country illegally and giving them the opportunity to leave the country voluntarily, rather than be arrested and removed. Voluntary returns were the most cost effective way of dealing with the issue.
Asked whether the scheme would be extended, the PMS said that the PM wanted to look at the results of the pilot and the Home Office could provide more detail on the specifics of the operation. Questioned over who signed the pilot off, the PMS said it was a Home Office pilot. There was a commitment in the Coalition Agreement to tackle the issue of immigration, the government was clear that immigration could bring benefits and wanted to see the brightest and best coming to the UK to help the country compete in the global race. However, the country could not have uncontrolled immigration.
Asked whether the PM was pleased with the way the immigration statistics were collected, the PMS said that the PM agreed with the Immigration Minister’s point, that the independent ONS were confident that the method produced robust and accurate data.
Questioned on the events at the border to Gibraltar, the PMS said that the government was concerned about reports of extensive security checks from the border and the Foreign Secretary had called his counterpart to see a speedy resolution the issue. Border crossings had returned to normal but the government would continue to monitor the situation closely.
Asked whether the PM was pleased about plans for a 15 minute grace period for people parking on double yellow lines, the PMS said that the PM wanted to ensure councils had an approach to parking which was sensible and supported towns and cities.
Asked whether the PM was worried about unregistered private investigators breaking the law, the PMS said that the PM expected the law enforcement agencies to take tough action on illegal activity. Ministers would be legislating private investigators shortly.