» Tuesday, July 25, 2006

PM’s Speech

Asked about the Prime Minister’s speech tomorrow, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that the Prime Minister was still working on it, but theme of the speech would be that the government had invested a lot in the National Health Service in terms of investment and reform, as the Prime Minister had talked about before – the flip side of that coin was public health and improving lifestyles, which in turn reduced the demand on the health service. If you took an issue such as obesity, the question was where was the dividing line between the state’s responsibility and the responsibility of the citizen. The Prime Minister would talk about more than obesity, but it was an issue that highlighted that particular dividing line. Asked whether we were suggesting individuals did not take care of themselves, the PMOS said that individuals had to take on their share of responsibility in improving their own health. Informing the individual on choices that could lead to healthier lifestyle was the sort of thing that government could help address.

Put that some doctors refused to help individuals that refused to lose weight so how did that marry with state versus individual, the PMOS said that people would be able to read the Prime Minister’s argument on individual and the state tomorrow, but the example cited was a precise illustration of the point. There were difficult choices as to how far the state could go in enforcing healthy lifestyles and how much should be left to the individual.

Asked whether the Prime Minister would essentially say we have done our bit now you do yours, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister would say that the government needed to be clear with this sort of issue and how it helped the individual make the right choices. Everyone needed to recognise that the debate on lifestyle had moved quite substantially in the last few years. For example the debate on smoking had moved significantly during the period the bill was being considered. There was now a growing momentum on other issues as well where we needed to work out what was the responsibility of the state and what was the responsibility of the individual citizen.

Put that because dentists appointments were so difficult to secure people were no longer getting regular check ups, the PMOS said that on the other hand the conventional view on check ups had changed. The Prime Minister had also acknowledged frequently that there were considerable difficulties in the dentistry area, which he would argue was a result of under investment in the past.

Asked whether this was a precursor to any new policy, the PMOS said that the point of this lecture series, which came under the banner headline of "Our Nations Future", was not to announce new policy but to encourage a debate on issues that the Prime Minister saw as central to the nation’s future. This was why the Prime Minister had already encouraged debates on issues such as migration, immigration, how we dealt with Muslim extremism and the respect agenda. The other part of this was for the Prime Minister to engage with local communities on these issues, as he was in Nottingham today on lifestyle, following which he would put forward his views on where the balance needed to be struck.

Asked whether there should be tax relief for people who took care of their own health as a result of government encouragement, the PMOS said that tax was a matter for the Chancellor and despite encouragement to the contrary he would not comment. It may have been the final lobby briefing before recess, but the normal rules still applied.

Briefing took place at 17:00 | Search for related news

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