On Europe, the Information Commissioner's ruling on private emails, the expenses debate today and Olympic security.
Asked if the Prime Minister thought the UK’s credit rating would be downgraded, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) said that credit ratings were a matter for credit ratings agencies, but we had put in place a credible deficit reduction plan and that could be seen in bond yields for the UK.
Asked if it was right for comparisons between different countries to be made, the PMS said there was a lot of discussion about what was going on in the European economy at the present time, and lots of people were talking about the situation.
Asked if the Prime Minister thought that the Hungarian and Czech Prime Ministers were correct to express concern about the deal agreed at the European Council late last week, the PMS said that was an issue for those countries. Asked if the Prime Minister had discussed this with his Czech counterpart on Wednesday, the PMS said the purpose of those discussions was to engage in a constructive way with our European partners as we sought to support the process of finding an alternative solution to the Eurozone crisis.
Asked if there was a concerted diplomatic effort to see if other countries were unhappy about the agreement, the PMS said the UK wanted to see the Eurozone sort out its problems because what happened there had an impact on the UK economy. The PMS said the UK would be talking to a number of other countries in coming days and would engage constructively.
Asked if the UK was talking to Eurozone and non-Eurozone countries, the PMS said yes: the UK would continue to talk to a range of countries. Asked how the Prime Minister would characterise the current state of Anglo-French relations, the PMS said we worked together very closely on a whole range of issues.
Asked if the Prime Minister had been fomenting opposition to a deal, the PMS said that was not the case.
Asked about the forthcoming summit on growth and jobs, the PMS said there had been an announcement today that there would be an informal meeting of the European Council at the end of January or the start of February and the discussion would centre on growth and competitiveness. The PMS said that was the right agenda for Europe. Asked if the Deputy Prime Minister would go, the PMS said it was a European Council meeting for heads of state and leaders.
Asked what Eurozone leaders the Prime Minister had spoken to, the PMS said he had spoken to the Irish leader. Asked if the Prime Minister had spoken to other Eurozone leaders, the PMS said the Prime Minister had made four phone calls to European leaders since the European Council summit last week and there would be more.
Asked if the Prime Minister welcomed the Information Commissioner’s ruling that private emails were subject to freedom of information requests, the PMS said that we thanked the Information Commissioner for his report, adding that this was a complex issue and we would look carefully at it.
Asked for the Prime Minster’s view of the expenses debate, the PMS said our position was the same; that we were favour of an independent and transparent system for MPs’ expenses. He added that most of the issues were for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority to consider.
Asked if the Government was panicking over Olympics, given the rise in the Olympic security budget, the PMS said no; the Government was doing everything it needed to do to ensure we had a safe and secure Olympic Games. He added that you would expect us to develop those plans over time and in the run up to the Olympic Games.