The Prime Minister's Spokesperson answered questions on Edward Snowden, health tourism, HS2, immigration, food banks, Egypt and the press.
Asked if the UK Government had received any advice on what to do if Edward Snowden enters UK airspace, the Prime Minister’s Spokesperson (PMS) replied that he was not aware of any.
Asked if NHS migrant access reforms would stigmatize foreigners and put public health at risk, the PMS emphasised that the reforms are about being fair to British taxpayers, reminding the Lobby that we have a National Health Service not an international health service. Public health would not be compromised given, as the Heath Secretary had said, exemptions to charges could be made on public health grounds if needed.
Asked what the reforms would cost, given estimates of the problem costing the taxpayer up to £200 million, the PMS said the actual cost was unknown, which why the Government would be doing an full audit.
Asked if Diane Abbott’s use of word ‘xenophobic’ risked turning the reforms into a racial issue, the PMS again emphasised the reforms are about fairness.
Asked how these reforms will work in the devolved administrations, the PMS replied that it would be a matter for devolved governments with the exception of charges on entry to the UK which would apply nationwide.
Asked what the Prime Minister thinks of Lord Mandelson’s comments that HS2 is a ‘waste of money’, the PMS disagreed and said that high speed rail is an example of what the Government should be doing to equip the country to succeed in the global race, secure prosperity, rebalance our economy and invest in jobs.
Asked if HS2 is only achievable with cross party consensus the PMS replied that the PM thinks HS2 is right for this country and will continue to make that argument to all members of the House.
Asked if the Prime Minister was concerned by the increase in estimated costs of HS2, the PMS replied that the majority of the extra budget was for contingencies. The PMS said we have the tools as a country to deliver the project, citing the example of the Olympics and the new monitoring data from the Major Projects Authority.
Asked if it is realistic to expect landlords to be border agents, the Prime Minister’s Spokesperson (PMS) said that is not what was being asked of them and that the details on the consultation were yet to be set out by the Home Secretary. The PMS highlighted that landlords already check a number of documents on tenants and the consultation would set out how the government will support landlords in this process.
Asked why the Prime Minister thinks the use of food banks is going up, the PMS pointed out that this government had allowed Jobcentre Plus branches to refer people to food banks in emergencies. The PMS also said there was not a link between delays in benefits and food banks, as delays in benefits have gone down under this government.
Asked what the Prime Minister thought of Baroness Warsi’s speech on Egypt, the PMS re-iterated the Prime Minister’s view that the government condemns all violence and want to see a political resolution to the crisis. This government is committed to a democratic Egypt, and support the right of Egyptians to decide the country’s future.
Asked if the Prime Minister was concerned that the royal charter on press regulation was being postponed the PMS said that an alternative royal charter had been proposed by the press industry, but the charter needed full and thorough consideration which was currently underway.