Lord Mayor’s banquet speech
Asked if the Prime Minister would address comments by German Chancellor Angela Merkel about the need for unity in the Eurozone in his speech at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet that night, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) said the speech would cover a wide range of foreign policy issues.
Asked if the Archbishop of Canterbury was attending the banquet, and if there were plans for a meeting with the Prime Minister, the PMS said there were no plans. Asked when they last had a meeting, the PMS said he thought they had spoken in recent weeks.
Asked if the Prime Minister would be seeing Chancellor Merkel later that week, the PMS said no meetings had been confirmed. He added the Prime Minister would take the opportunity over the coming weeks to speak to and possibly see some of his opposite numbers in other European countries ahead of the European Council in December. Asked why the Prime Mister felt the need to have these conversations, the PMS said it was normal practice to speak to other nations ahead of a European Council.
Asked if the Prime Minister was neutral on an EU treaty change, the PMS said there was a change in the last year and we were able to use that change as a way of furthering our national interest. He said that there would be discussions in December which would look at eurozone economic governance and, as part of that, the possibility of limited treaty change. The PMS added that we had been clear about our priorities which were protecting the single market and financial services. Asked if a limited treaty change would include tighter financial surveillance of eurozone countries by the EU Commission, the PMS said we would need to wait and see the proposals.
Asked if the vote of fuel pricing would be whipped, the PMS said he was unaware of whipping arrangements. Asked if the Government was in favour of the motion, the PMS said the Government made our position clear in the Budget when we decided to cut fuel duty, but future decisions were a matter for the Chancellor. The PMS added that we recognised as a Government that motoring was an essential part of everyday life for many families, that lots of families relied on their cars and that fuel was a significant cost for those families. We took action at the time of the budget both to get rid of the fuel duty escalator and replace it with a fair fuel stabiliser, and to cut fuel duty by a penny.
Asked why a junior Treasury minister was representing the Government in the debate, the PMS said that a Treasury minister was an appropriate person to speak in a debate on a Treasury issue.
Sure Start Centres
Asked why the Department for Education has confirmed Sure Start closures when the Prime Minister had pledged to protect Sure Start centres before the election, the PMS said that of the figure of 124 fewer Sure Start centres quoted was misleading. Only six centres had closed. The remainder were due to reorganisation and mergers of existing centres, which had brought down the numbers. The PMS said the Early Intervention Grant remained in place and was increasing. Local authorities still had a statutory duty to provide these services and were required to consult with local communities before they made any significant changes.