The Prime Minister's Spokesperson answered questions on the work programme, NHS, Ian Livingstone, free schools, Chinese lanterns and Mayor of London.
Asked what was discussed at Cabinet, the Prime Minister’s Spokesperson (PMS) said the agenda included the usual update on Parliamentary business by the leader of the House, an update on the Work Programme from the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, an update on the NHS mandate by the Secretary of State for Health, and the Prime Minister gave an update on the recent European Council and his overseas visit.
Asked about the discussion on the NHS mandate, the PMS reminded lobby that we published the mandate late last year and there is an annual process where we can refresh it if need be. The Health Secretary gave an overview of the current process, and emphasised that he wanted to keep pushing up standards across the NHS.
Asked about the Work Programme, the PMS said the latest job statistics were published last Thursday. These showed an improvement in the programme, with 60% of people who entered it coming off benefits and more than 130,000 getting into sustainable long term employment.
Asked if there were any concerns about the Work Programme, especially in the hardest to reach groups, the PMS said there was discussion and agreement that clear progress had been made and that the Work Programme is continuing to help more people from a variety of groups. There was acknowledgement that there had been a continued improvement, and amongst some of the hardest to help the PMS made the point that these were the people who had typically been on incapacity benefits for 5 or 10 years but and had never been engaged by the state before.
Asked if the Prime Minister had consulted his independent advisor on ministerial interests about Ian Livingston’s reported conflict of interest over his BT shares, the PMS said the Cabinet Office had issued a statement on this matter confirming that the correct processes had been followed.
Asked if the Prime Minister thought free schools should be allowed to make a profit, the PMS said there are no plans for this to happen. The Prime Minister’s view is that it is important to push up standards in schools across the country. There is programme of genuine, radical reform put in place by the Education Secretary to bring rigour back into the curriculum and exam system, and end the culture of coasting schools.
Asked if there should be a ban on Chinese lanterns, the PMS said that it is important there is proportionate response to an event like this, but that safety is our overriding concern. The PMS pointed to figures from DCLG showing the number of fires caused by Chinese lanterns is low.
Mayor of London
Asked if the Prime Minister is happy to hear Boris Johnson is considering a third term as Mayor, the PMS said the PM thinks Boris Johnson is doing an excellent job and long may he continue. Asked if that means the Prime Minister thinks he should run for office a third time, the PMS said that is a decision for the mayor, but Boris has been hugely successful during his tenure.