» Thursday, October 15, 2009


Asked about Harriet Harman s comments at Business Questions earlier today, the Prime Minister s Spokesman (PMS) told the assembled press that the Prime Minister had made it absolutely clear that he thought that the right thing to do was once MPs had received their letters from Sir Thomas Legg, they should put any questions they had to him within a three week period.

The Prime Minister had decided that he would pay the sum he had been asked to pay and both he and the Leader of the House were clear that it was right for MPs within the three week period, to make representations to Sir Thomas Legg. That was built into the process.

Put that there was a difference in tone between what Harriet Harman had said and what the Prime Minister had said, the PMS said they were both fully behind the terms of reference agreed with Sir Thomas Legg and that was the mot important point. Those terms of reference were drawn up with the Members Estimates Committee and it was for them to set and monitor the terms of the report once it had been made. This was an important review and a vital part of the work to restore public trust.

Put that Harriet Harman disapproved of the retrospective nature of the review and the Prime Minister did not, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister took the view that this was not a perfect system, but both the Leader of the House and the Prime Minister thought it was important that we got this process over and done with as quickly as possible. Both of them were completely committed to seeing the back of the old discredited system and the introduction of the new system.

Asked whether the Prime Minister thought creating limits retrospectively was right, the PMS said that the Prime Minister thought that the Legg Review was the right thing to do at this moment and had said consistently that he would encourage MPs to take the same approach that he had.

Asked what the Prime Minister s message would be to Labour MPs, the PMS said that the Prime Minister had spoken earlier today on television and had said if anyone thought that we would go slow on reforming Parliament, then they could make their own judgement. Parliament had had its chance to regulate itself and it had failed. We must urgently clean up the discredited system and that s what we were doing.

Asked whether the Prime Minister thought he had that term of reference now, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister took the view that the whole system had been discredited. He was looking forward to a properly enforced form of regulatory system.

Asked if the Prime Minister would acknowledge that some of the tests and benchmarks of Legg s were arbitrary, the PMS said that the Prime Minister accepted the terms of reference of the Legg Review and that was the starting point. Sir Thomas Legg had had his remit set out and he would be reporting to the appropriate committee.

Asked what kind of sanctions the Prime Minister thought should be imposed on MPs that did not pay up, the PMS replied that it was for Parliament at the right time to decide what if any sanctions should be taken. It was for the NEC to receive the report and then for Parliament to decide.

Asked why the Prime Minister didn t take the same view as David Cameron, the PMS advised journalists to put that question to his political colleagues. It was for Parliament to do what needed to be done and the next step was to look at the party political process.

Put that certain MPs would suffer severe financial problems especially if they lost their seats and did the Prime Minister think that people in that situation should be given more leeway, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister accepted that there would be individual MPs in different circumstances, but every MP was part of the same system that had been in existence for some time. This applied to the House of Commons as a whole.

Asked who the Prime Minister thought was the worst offender so far, given that he had had to pay the most back so far, the PMS replied that he would not characterise it as being the worst offender, that was a different point. We had not seen all the letters published. The Prime Minister had said that he would do what was asked of him by Sir Thomas Legg and that was exactly what he had done.

Put that it was becoming a common criticism that people who were perceived to be much worse offenders than the Prime Minister for example, were getting away with it, the PMS said that the Prime Minister accepted that this was not a perfect process but still believed it was important to see it through as quickly as possible.

Asked how quickly the process could be got through, the PMS said that Sir Thomas Legg had given MPs three weeks to respond and the PMS understood that the Kelly Report would be out in the next few months. Asked what the Prime Minister thought about the suggestion of having a general election now to solve the problem, the PMS said that the Prime Minister was completely committed to seeing through the Government s programme, which he had set out over the summer months. A decision on a general election would be taken at the right moment.

Asked about a report that the Prime Minister might consider calling a general election the PMS said the Prime Minister was completely focussed on restoring the economy, getting people back to work and improving standards in public services.

original source.

Briefing took place at 16:45 | Search for related news

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