Tuesday 2 March 2010

Afternoon press briefing from 2 March 2010

Briefing by the Prime Minister’s spokesman on: Budget, Greener homes initiative, Lord Ashcroft and Scottish Referendum


Asked about the timing of the Budget and the Easter recess, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) told the assembled press that the timing of any Budget was a matter for the Chancellor and the Easter recess was a matter for the House authorities.

Greener Homes Initiative

Asked if the Government had the support of the Scottish Government to introduce legislation on linking any loans to the home rather than the individual, the PMS said he would check. The PMS said that we were at the trial stage at the moment; any legislative requirement would be taken into account if the scheme was rolled out nationally.

Asked where the figure of 65,000 jobs came from, the PMS said that this was an estimate. There was obviously scope for new jobs in this area as people would need to be trained to carry out this kind of work.

Asked whether the Government was confident of convincing people to take up the scheme as it would take 15 years for people to pay the loans off, the PMS replied that this initiative was primarily about long-term measures such as solar panels or insulation that could make a real difference to peoples heating bills.

Put that the amount of time it would take to pay off the initial expenditure would put people off, the PMS said that some of these initiatives had a big upfront capital cost; this proposal was designed to smooth out the initial cost, so people could start paying it off straight away.

Lord Ashcroft

Put that Lord Mandelson had said that the records concerning Lord Ashcroft’s appointment must be in the Cabinet Office and what was being done to make the records public, the PMS said he was not aware of any pressure to make papers public.

Lord Mandelson had made a political comment earlier today and the PMS would not make a comment on that. The PMS said that there were FOI requests that had been tabled and they would be dealt with in the usual way.

Asked who appointed the people who sat on the Political Appointments Committee and was it the Prime Minister, the PMS said that that committee had been superseded and he would need to check.

Put that the Appointments Commission was a creature of the Prime Minister, the PMS said he wouldn’t characterise it as that. Asked if the Prime Minister made the appointments, the PMS said he would need to check on whether they were direct Prime Ministerial appointments. The new Appointments Committee was established to give it a degree of independence that it did not have previously.

Asked why the Prime Minister recommended Lord Paul to the Privy Council, the PMS replied that the process of recommending someone to the Privy Council was in the gift of the Prime Minister. Lord Paul was the first member of an ethnic minority to become a Deputy Speaker in the House of Lords.

Put that Keith Vaz had to wait seven years after he became Britain’s first Asian Minister, the PMS said that there was no particular timetable around the Privy Council.

Scottish Referendum

Asked about what Jim Murphy had spoken about at Cabinet, the PMS said that there had been some suggestion that there should be a referendum on independence in Scotland. The discussion in Cabinet could be summarised by the Government’s view on this, which was that it would be an unwelcome distraction.

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