» Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Asked if the Prime Minister had confidence in Communities Secretary Hazel Blears, the Prime Minister s Spokesman (PMS) said yes. Asked, when referring to the Prime Minister s comments on GMTV that it was difficult for Hazel Blears to be in Cabinet, whether that should prevent her being in Cabinet, the PMS remarked that the Prime Minister was saying that the whole situation was difficult and related to many MPs as a result of the revelations in recent weeks. He said Hazel Blears was the first to acknowledge that the issue was not about whether she had broken the law or the rules at the time. The PMS pointed out that the Prime Minister stressed yesterday and again this morning that Hazel Blears did not break the law or the rules and she had taken action to avoid any doubt about the matter. The PMS reiterated that we had said at the time it was the right decision to pay the money and the Prime Minister respected that.

Asked what it was that Hazel Blears had done which was totally unacceptable the PMS replied that the issue had been gone over many times and that the Prime Minister wasn t saying anything different in interviews today than he had done last week when the issue arose. The PMS pointed out Hazel Blears had acknowledged that paying the tax, which was more than she was required to do under the law, was the right thing to do because she wanted to avoid any doubt about the matter.

Asked if she would continue to serve in the Government, despite acting in a totally unacceptable way the PMS said she was already serving in the Government. The PMS said the Prime Minister had made clear last week, when the issue arose, that he believed paying the money back was the right thing to do and he respected that.

Asked why the Prime Minister was being tougher now on Hazel Blears than he had been last week, the PMS repeated that the decision she took to repay the money was the right decision, as the Prime Minister had said last week.

At the suggestion the Prime Minister s words had created a cloud over Hazel Blears and the appearance that she is not long for her job, and when invited to clarify that she would stay in the cabinet in a reshuffle, the PMS repeated that Hazel Blears had paid the money and the Prime Minister respected that, but that he would not comment on reshuffle speculation.

The PMS confirmed that in the Prime Minister s view, Hazel Blears is doing a good job as Communities Secretary.

Asked whether the choice of words doing a good job which had also been used in the case of the Speaker, were a deliberate choice, the PMS said no.

Asked whether the Prime Minister had received a report back from Sir Philip Mawer about Justice Minister Shahid Malik, the PMS said it had not been received yet.

Asked if the Prime Minister considered Tony McNulty s housing arrangements to be acceptable or unacceptable, the PMS said while individual cases could be raised from right across the House, there was a cross-party process established which the Speaker had announced yesterday to examine the receipts and payments made to every MP over the last four years and reassess them.

Asked to comment on a perception that the Prime Minister was willing to pass judgement on Hazel Blears, yet not to use such strong language in other cases, the PMS said this was not the case at all.

Asked in reference to the Prime Minister s comments on GMTV about the last thing the country needs was the chaos of a general election whether the Prime Minister accepted there was chaos right now which is why people were calling for an early general election, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister had already answered this question. He said the Prime Minister s key point was that there were issues relating to individual members of parliament and they would have to be held to account by the electorate at the time of a general election whenever that comes. He said that did not mean we should set aside some of the systemic issues that had been identified by the recent revelations and that s why it was important to press ahead with interim measures announced by the Speaker yesterday following cross-party talks and the wider reform of the House of Commons.

Asked if the Prime Minister believed Parliament had the moral authority to stay in power for another year, passing legislation, the PMS referred to the answer to the previous question, commenting that clearly the Parliament is having to reform itself, which it is doing and it was important to press ahead with reforms to restore public trust and confidence.

Asked repeatedly to interpret what was in the Prime Minister s mind when he used the word chaos in reference to a general election, the PMS commented that the Prime Minister s view was that we needed to take action now in an orderly way in order to reform the House of Commons, how it operates and the rules around pay and allowances, as well as some wider issues and that was the best way of restoring public trust and confidence. He commented that when the time came, individual MPs would of course be accountable to the voters.

The PMS said the Prime Minister thinks a general election would be about a whole range of issues, but he also thinks it is important that Parliament shows it can push forward with reforms and the general reaction to what was announced yesterday was that we are now seeing real and significant changes in the way Parliament manages its affairs, both in terms of the interim measures and the longer-term reforms.

Put to the PMS that new brooms should be driving through reforms the PMS reiterated that it was important that senior politicians such as the Prime Minister drive forward the reforms and show leadership in the reforms necessary for the political system.

Asked if the Prime Minister shared the view that Parliament needed to be strengthened in many other ways, the PMS said yes, that was very much what the Prime Minister had been doing since he came into the role in July 2007 and Parliament needed to be strengthened and better able to hold the executive to account, but Parliament itself needed reform to ensure it was more accountable to the people.

Asked if the Prime Minister had any other ideas on how this could be achieved, the PMS said the Prime Minister had spoken about some of this in the press conference yesterday, where he said he would be bringing forward further ideas on this in the next few weeks.

original source.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Search for related news

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