Briefing by the Prime Minister's Spokesman on: Bank Reform, European Council and BP.
Asked whether the Prime Minister thought the Chancellor’s announcement in the Commons today on banking regulation would have any impact on ordinary people, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) told the assembled press that he did.
When asked to clarify, he responded that there had been a failure in banking regulation in many countries, and as a result governments had stepped in to protect people’s savings and to support the banking system. Clearly this meant that all people in the UK had an interest, as taxpayers’ money has been used to prop up the banking system. It would therefore be in their interests for the country to have a decent regulatory system.
Asked if the European Council would look at a Europe-wide budget, the PMS said that discussions would look at the work carried out by Van Rompuy and that he would be providing an update on that work. These would be the first discussions European leaders would have had on these issues.
The PMS said there would be broader discussions on the economic issues facing the European Union, and that the fiscal challenges faced by the UK were also being faced by other countries. He said that there were issues around growth in the Eurozone, which were also important to this country.
Questioned if decisions would be made on budgets, the PMS replied that these discussions constituted an update from Van Rompuy on the work carried out so far, and was the first discussion leaders would have had.
Asked if the Council would have made any decisions by the close of discussions, the PMS said that the European Council would make Council conclusions and that we should wait to see what these said. There were unlikely to be specific proposals on governance agreed at the Council; this was a first discussion.
It was queried whether the Prime Minister was still in favour of pre-screening national budgets bilaterally, and the PMS said he was if required. He said that the Government’s position had been very clear on this.
When it was suggested that this might interfere with the budget, the PMS said the Government had stated its position: Parliament had to see the budget first.
Asked if, even though it was not bound by the European Growth Pact, the Prime Minister thought the UK ought to observe its fiscal discipline, the PMS replied that the Government had been clear on fiscal discipline in the UK. The Chancellor would be setting out plans next week in the context of the budget, but he had been clear that the reduction of the debt could be accelerated. The PMS said it was in the UK’s interest that other countries did the same: other countries faced similar issues on fiscal policy and the UK wanted to see them dealing with these issues too.
On it being suggested that the UK would have to observe a Europe-wide pact, the PMS said that there was clearly a difference between countries that were in the Eurozone and countries that were not in the way that the growth pact applied. If Eurozone counties wanted to have a discussion about how they could strengthen arrangements, to improve the conduct of fiscal policy across the Eurozone, that was a good thing.
Asked if there had been any further contact between the Government and BP, the PMS said DECC was in regular contact and had been receiving updates.
Suggested that the Prime Minister may be concerned that President Obama might ask BP to make financial commitments that could damage the company, the PMS referred to an interview the Prime Minister had given earlier in the day where he was quoted as saying “where there are cases of liability they need to be dealt with”.
When it was questioned who the Prime Minister had spoken to at BP, the PMS said he had spoken with the Chairman.
Asked if the Prime Minister had spoken to the US about the fact that he thought there should be distinctions made about compensation so that BP could be clear and so could stay stable, the PMS said that he would have to check the point and respond at a later stage. However, he said it was clearly in everyone’s interest that there was as much certainty as possible for the company. The Prime Minister and the President had agreed in their telephone call that it was not in anyone’s interest to undermine the value of the company.