Press briefing: morning 6 February 2015
This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
The Prime Minister's Deputy Spokesperson answered questions about teaching, Ukraine, NHS, fracking, aid spending and intelligence sharing
When asked about the suitability of nuns as teachers, the Prime Minister’s Deputy Spokesperson said that the Prime Minister thought there were a range of people who were well qualified for the role and that it was for head teachers to make individual decisions. She said that what mattered most was that children were getting the best quality education
When asked about the situation in Ukraine, the Deputy Spokesperson said that the UK was pushing hard for a unanimous, united and strong message on the situation in Russia and Ukraine and leading the way for further work on sanctions.
She said that the UK was supportive of efforts to find a solution to the diplomatic crisis and had been working very closely with French and German partners and the US. She explained that the Normandy format was established with UK agreement and the UK had played a leading role in the process, for example in agreeing sanctions.
The Deputy Spokesperson also said that the focus was on finding a diplomatic solution and the UK had played an important role in putting economic pressure on Russia. She mentioned that there was an annual process of renewing sanctions and that the Foreign Affairs Council had last week signalled a clear direction from the EU that it was Russia that needed to change its behaviour for the sanctions to change.
She said there had also been discussion about ‘tier two’ sanctions such as travel bans and asset freezes given the deterioration in Eastern Ukraine.
When asked about Crimea, the Deputy Spokesperson said that the focus was currently on making progress in Eastern Ukraine. The government was also clear that the annexation of Crimea was illegal and the first sanctions, put in place in March last year, had related to Crimea.
In addition, she said that the UK was sending over 3,000 troops over the course of this year and that would make the UK one of the leading players.
When asked about fracking, the Deputy Spokesperson said that the Prime Minister had been absolutely clear that extracting domestic shale had the potential to create jobs and make the UK less reliant on imports from abroad, and that it was an important part of developing the UK’s energy mix. She said that the measures going through under the Deregulation Bill would mean there were areas of England where the government could continue to go ahead with shale gas exploration.
When asked about the emergence of new strains of flu and the need to develop new vaccines, the Deputy Spokesperson said that the government worked closely with the World Health Organisation on this. She said that concerns were raised last August in Australia and that the government was aware of those, but that it took several months to develop a vaccine. She said that the government wanted to do all it could to ensure the most vulnerable were protected and that it was important to note that the current vaccine was still protecting against two strains of flu and that there was still a benefit to being vaccinated.
Foreign aid spending
When asked about the Private Member’s Bill on 0.7% aid spend, the Deputy Spokesperson said that the Prime Minister felt that the aid spend was important in protecting the British public as well as people abroad.
Intelligence sharing judgement
When asked about a judgement on intelligence sharing, the Deputy Spokesperson said that the overall judgement was that UK interception was fully lawful and that this followed on from the court’s clear rejection of accusations of mass surveillance in its December judgement. She said that the government welcomed this. She said the Prime Minister had spoken many times about the vital work of the intelligence agencies and that due to the nature of the work the government was often not able to express direct gratitude. She said that the Prime Minister felt that the government should make sure the agencies had the powers needed to keep the country safe.
When asked about NHS reforms, the Deputy Spokesperson said that the government had focused on modernising the NHS and putting patients’ safety and care at the heart of the system. She said that satisfaction with the NHS was at its highest for years and that there were 9,500 more doctors.