Asked about HS2 discussions at cabinet and the attendance of Lord Deighton, the PMS said that Infrastructure Minister Lord Deighton attended cabinet meetings when the agenda covered his remit. HS2 was an important part of government business with legislation passing through the House. The Prime Minister had been clear about his support for the project and that the government needed to make a strong case for it. There was a need for a new rail line which could change the economic geography of the country, and the project had the support of city leaders from major northern cities in the UK.
Asked about the new Housing Minister, the PMS said that housing was clearly still an important issue. The Prime Minister had personally announced the start of the new Help to Buy scheme. There had been measures around affordable housing, helping people to buy their own home and improving the planning system, which showed the importance attached to the issue across government.
Asked about the Royal Charter for press regulation, the PMS said that the Culture Secretary would update the House later that afternoon.
Asked how appointments were made in the reshuffle, the PMS said that appointments were the responsibility of the respective party leaders. There was consultation between the leaders in the coalition, which had been the case since the start of the government. Questioned about the appointment of Crime Prevention Minister Norman Baker, the PMS said that he was an experienced minister who would be taking forward Home Office priorities.
Asked about President Karzai’s comments on the contribution made by UK forces in Afghanistan, the PMS said that UK forces had clearly made sacrifices in Afghanistan, but it had been in the national interest. There had been progress, but there was still more to be done. It was now increasingly important to put the emphasis on training and support of Afghan security forces, as well as seeking a lasting political settlement.