Speech

Pakistan visit: press briefing by the Prime Minister

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Prime Minister gave a press briefing in Islamabad, Pakistan on 30 June 2013.

The Rt Hon David Cameron

Prime Minister

It’s nice to be here in Pakistan. I will be the first Prime Minister to meet Nawaz Sharif since he was elected, which I think is important: key relationship for Britain. Lots of things to talk about: prosperity, security, trade and obviously the Afghan situation and relationship, although that’s not the prism through which we see these things. And then the next leg of the trip is also interesting, and I’m sure we’ll have an opportunity to talk about that at some stage. But anyway, I’m here to answer any questions.

Question

Can I just ask you about that, just first of all, I mean do you think that Sharif is somebody who could put pressure on the Taliban side to actually come to the negotiating table and sort out all the various differences there are to actually get talks underway?

Prime Minister

Well, I think that – I mean, first of all, I think he’s in a strong position, because Pakistan has – is having, and has had effectively, this democratic transition, which is a huge bonus for Pakistan and I think will raise its profile in a thoroughly good way in the eyes of the world. And he won a decisive election victory, and I’ll congratulate him on that. And I think it puts him in a strong position.

And I think that, increasingly, Pakistan knows that it’s in its best interest to have a stable Afghanistan as its neighbour, and it supports the peace process. And that’s what the trilateral meetings I’ve held have been all about. And, from everything I’ve heard, although I haven’t – and I’ve spoken to him on the telephone a couple of times; from everything I’ve heard, he fully supports that and will have a very constructive view.

So I think this, you know – as I was saying yesterday, I think this is – our approach is to have this very clear boost to Afghan security by funding their armed forces and the police. But the peace process then is additional to that. But I think there are some difficulties, but there are some good prospects, and I think that Pakistan will want to help that.

Question

But it’s just that he’s somebody who’s been seen, whilst he’s been quite close to the Taliban, I mean, do you think he’s somebody who could help put pressure on that side of things?

Prime Minister

Well I think he has, you know, the credibility of having just been elected with a full term ahead of him, with Pakistan’s long-term interests in mind. So I think that gives him a certain power of influence.

Speaker

Anybody got some questions about tomorrow?

Question

Yes, Kazakhstan. I – we saw that letter from Human Rights Watch on Friday. There are some deep concerns, of course, then about human rights. I’m just wondering whether you plan to raise that with them – with the government tomorrow. And also, on a different note, I’m wondering if – to a lot of people in Britain, you think of Kazakhstan, you think of the film Borat, and I was wondering if you’d seen it and whether you enjoyed it, and how you think the country will be different?

Prime Minister

First of all, on human rights, I mean in all the relationships we have, there’s never anything off the table, and we raise and discuss all these issues. And that will be the case in Kazakhstan as well. I think it is important to make this visit. It was very much something I chose and wanted to do. Kazakhstan is one of the rising economic powers of the world.

I think it’s very important that British business, British investment, British firms get a proper chance in Kazakhstan. They’re doing that; I want to help them do that. Other European leaders have been; I think it’s high time a British prime minister went, and I’ll be the first British – serving British prime minister to visit Kazakhstan, and so I was keen to do this.

We are in a global race; I want Britain to compete and succeed in that global race. And you can’t do that unless you help British business in all the key markets, and this is a very key market.

As for the film, I did see it. It was a long time ago. I think I will rest on the words of the Foreign Minister, who I gather you had a telephone conference with, who pointed out that his country had survived Stalin and would probably survive anything else. So I think that was his remark.

Question

Can I ask you Prime Minister, is there anything more that the government can do to give confidence to the family of Stephen Lawrence that you really are, in an independent way, going to get to the bottom of these latest allegations about the police?

Prime Minister

Well I haven’t spoken again to the Home Secretary since her latest conversation, but it seems to me what she said and what I said in the House of Commons are absolutely the same, which is we need to think very carefully about how best to get to the bottom of this.

And as I said, anything that – we’ll do whatever needs to be done. So I will discuss with her when I get back on Monday, you know, whether we think what we have is enough, or whether we need to do more. But, you know, they are very disturbing allegations; there’s no doubt about that.

We have these two inquiries under way, they’ve effectively been sort of widened, but we need to answer the question: is that enough? Will that work? Will that get to the bottom of things? Are there are other powers? Are there further inquiries that are necessary? You know, we need to ask and answer these questions, but there’s no sense in – when you’ve already got two inquiries under way, you need to think carefully about how to add to them. So I’ll do that with the Home Secretary when I return.

Question

Ed Miliband has said that after the next election the MPs’ pay rise should be limited to 1% and not the bumper pay out –

Prime Minister

He hasn’t actually said that, according to my Daily Mail app on my iPad, but I will… Maybe you’ve got information that I don’t have.

Question

He’s saying that – he’s indicated that after 2015 it should be limited to 1%, in line with public sector wages, rather than whatever is that Ipsa are meant to come up with, and then there’s talk of them opposing 15/20,000 on top of what MPs currently get. And, in the current climate, is that something that you’d be prepared to…?

Prime Minister

Well our views – you know, Ipsa asked, obviously asked our views, and we gave our views, which were very much reflecting the current pay restraint. But Ipsa is independent; it has to make its recommendation. I don’t see any sense in commenting on its recommendation until we know what it is. I have no idea what Ipsa is going to say.

I think the thing I would say is, whatever Ipsa recommend, we can’t see the cost of politics and the cost of Westminster go up; we should see the cost of Westminster go down. I famously had a plan for reducing the size of the House of Commons, which was nearly there. We’d – actually the House of Commons voted for it, and that’s the thing to remember. I’m the first Prime Minister who’d achieved this feat of getting Members of Parliament to vote to reduce their number.

But, for one reason or another, that fell at the final hurdle. So I think that anything would be unthinkable unless the cost of politics is frozen or cut. But I’ll wait and see what Ipsa have to say. But what I said to Ipsa, or what the government said to Ipsa, was that restraint was necessary.

Question

One of your backbenchers is to table an amendment seeking to enshrine your policy of marriage tax allowance into law. If that amendment’s taken, would you vote for it?

Prime Minister

Well I will – I mean, the point is we are going to put in place the married couples’ allowance proposal in law and, you know, we will be announcing plans for that in this – you know, we’ll be doing that in this parliament, quite shortly in fact. But I haven’t seen the actual amendment, but I don’t think the amendment is in line with the plans that we have, as it were.

Question

But if it were in line with the plans that you have, I mean if it was simply just seeking to enshrine a new law?

Prime Minister

Well, the government is going to do this itself, very shortly, so I think we should let the government get on and do this very shortly itself. But I – you probably – I think if it has been – what I was told is what was tabled is not actually what we are planning. So it doesn’t…

Question

He said it’s as wide as possible to enable you to frame or however pretty much how you like, it’s just adding confidence that it’s actually –

Prime Minister

Well, that’s new to me; that’s not what I’ve been told.

Question

Can I just ask about this report in the Sunday Times Prime Minister, that tens of thousands of TB riddled cattle are being sold into the human food chain by Defra itself. Are you disturbed to hear that?

Prime Minister

Well I haven’t, obviously, seen this report, but my understanding is all of these matters are very carefully regulated by the Food Standards Agency, as you would expect.

Question

Just on the NHS, what do you think the average middle class German or American would make of hospitals in the UK and the standard and condition of those hospitals? Secondly on the NHS, do you think that, as some people say, it’s inevitable that we will need some sort of top up payment for superior care?

Prime Minister

Well, first of all, I mean there are lots of middle class Germans and Americans who use the NHS. And I think, at its best, the NHS provides extremely good care, and I’ve seen that for – you know, the case with my own family. Look, clearly there are places where care isn’t up to standard, and that needs to be dealt with.

And that’s exactly what Jeremy Hunt’s agenda is all about; that’s what the friends and family test is about; that’s what the Chief Inspector of Hospitals is about; that’s what the improvements to nurse training are about. You know, so I think we’re very focused on the standards of care. But, at its best, we shouldn’t talk down our NHS; at its best, the NHS provides an extraordinary level of care and we should be proud of that.

What was the second half of the question? Oh no, I don’t – I mean, we actually spend, as a share of GDP, a fairly typical amount for a European country and I think we can – you know, we have to make sure the NHS is efficient, make sure that money is saved in appropriate areas so it can be spent elsewhere, that’s what the government’s been doing. And, if we do that, then we shouldn’t have to change – you know, I’m committed to an NHS free at the point of use, available on the basis of need, not ability to pay.

Question

Prime Minister, there’s been more grim news out of Syria, again over the weekend. Has this idea of Britain arming the rebels gone away? Or is it something we can expect to see action on?

Prime Minister

We’ve not – as I’ve said lots of times, we’ve not made a decision to arm the rebels. We’ve made a decision to support the official Syrian opposition, to give them advice and technical assistance and non-lethal support, together with our allies, and that’s what we’ll continue to do.

[Party political content]

Published 1 July 2013