From the Prime Minister's spokesperson on: Government transparency, eurozone, tougher sentences and St Paul's.
Asked what timeframe the data published that morning on GPC card spending covered, the Prime Minister’s Spokesperson (PMS) explained that it covered April to August 2011. Asked to clarify who the Performance Related Pay figures covered, the PMS said that it covered all PRP for civil servants from all Departments for the last performance year, that is 2010/11. Asked about the timing of the data releases during the day, the PMS clarified that PRP figures had already been published but as each Department was publishing its own GPC card data this would be coming out during the course of the day, she also confirmed that this would include data from the MoD. Asked why data was only being published from April onwards, the PMS explained that this was just the first data being published and confirmed that there would be regular publications in the future. She also reminded the Lobby that this was a step forward for transparency as this data had not been published previously.
Asked about the general feeling on progress overnight in Brussels, the PMS repeated the Chancellor and Foreign Secretary’s messages that good progress has been made on the key issues that we’ve been pressing on, the three main issues being recapitalisation of banks, reinforcing the firewall, and resolving the Greek situation. We have reached a good agreement and now we want to see the detail and see that momentum is maintained. We are pleased that the pressure has paid off but are under no illusions, there is a difficult road ahead. It is the Prime Minister’s view that it is right that he was there while the conversation is ongoing because there are elements like the recapitalising of banks that do affect all 27 countries. Asked if the recapitalising would affect UK banks, the PMS said that we would need to see the detail but we have already recapitalised our banks.
Asked to comment on the prospect of a Eurozone President, the PMS said that as the Chancellor had said this morning, the Eurozone needs to resolve its issues and there are some issues which the Eurozone have to deal with themselves. The important thing is that where issues affect the 27 countries all 27 countries are involved. Asked if we had a view on who the Eurozone President should be or what background they should come from, the PMS said it was too early to comment.
Asked if the Prime Minister is concerned that if there is a development the UK will be left behind, the PMS explained that the Chancellor would be addressing these issues in his statement, but it is clear that there are issues that the Eurozone alone needs to resolve like greater fiscal union. It is important for the UK to maintain a voice and influence as part of the 27 and that the 27 act as a 27 and we still have a strong European Union. The PMS reminded the Lobby that there are still great benefits to the European Union single market, we want to see a strengthened and reformed single market and that is something we will discuss as a 27. Asked if this was the start of a two-tier Europe, the PMS repeated that there are countries that are in the Eurozone and countries that aren’t, that has not changed; we are still part of the European Union, she said.
Asked about the potential for China to be involved in the bail out the PMS reiterated that we need to see the detail but she made the point that the fact remains that we were in a better position now than we were the previous day. Asked to comment on suggestions that by 2020 Greek debt will still be 120 per cent of GDP, necessitating another bail out, the PMS repeated that we would need to see more detail of the deal in the coming days and weeks. Asked if the Prime Minister expected to see significant treaty change and if this would require a referendum, the PMS said that we expected only limited treaty change but we need to see the detail.
Asked if the Prime Minister had confidence in Ken Clarke following his U-turn on jailing juveniles for knife crime, the PMS reminded the Lobby of the Prime Minister’s position as set out in June - that we want to see a new sentencing regime which will be better understood by the public and command greater confidence. On juvenile knife crime specifically we need to send out a clear message about the seriousness of this and that is what is behind the proposals. Asked if it is the Prime Minister’s view that it should be made more difficult for those currently serving indeterminate sentences to have their sentences reduced, the PMS clarified that as proposals are not retrospective changes would only affect those who are going through the court when the Bill receives Royal Assent. It is up to the Parole Board to decide when prisoners currently on indeterminate sentences should be released, the key factor being that they don’t present a risk to the public. Asked why the Justice Secretary had changed his mind on the issue of knife crime, the PMS said that this was something the Government had been looking at, it is Government policy that we want to review sentences and send a clear message that people who commit crimes will be punished. We have published our amendments and these will go forward and be debated in the House.
Asked if the Prime Minister has a view on whether protestors should leave St Paul’s, the PMS said that the Prime Minister had not expressed a particular view. People have a right to peaceful protest but this is a matter for the Mayor and the authorities of St Paul’s.