From the Prime Minister's spokesperson on: Cyberspace conference, Liam Fox, Prince of Wales consent, Daylight Savings Bill, the economy, OECD forecast, growth, PASC report on ministers, trespass law and G20.
Asked if the Cyberspace Conference taking place the following day would just focus on cyber crime and espionage, the Prime Minister’s Spokesperson (PMS) explained that the conference would be broader than that. It would also look at how governments, business and NGOs can maintain the economic and social benefits of the internet, as well as guarding against criminal and security threats.
Asked whether the Prime Minister looked forward to the return of Liam Fox to the front bench, the PMS pointed out that he had resigned only a few days ago. Asked if Fox was therefore getting his hopes up unnecessarily, the PMS said that it was unsurprising that he has aspirations to return to the front bench. She referred to the good work he had done while he was defence secretary but again pointed out that he had only resigned a few days ago. Asked if the Prime Minister would rule out a return to the front bench, the PMS referred the lobby to the Prime Ministers comments at the time of Liam Fox’s resignation.
Prince of Wales consent
Asked if the Prime Minister was content for the Prince of Wales to have power of veto over some bills, the PMS explained that it was established protocol as set out in Erskine May, 24th edition 2011 page 663. She quoted the relevant section: “the Prince’s consent is required for a bill which affects the rights of the principality of Wales and the earldom of Chester or which makes specific reference to or makes special provision for the Duchy of Cornwall. The Prince’s consent may, depending on circumstances, be required for a bill which amends an act which does any of these things. The need for consent arises from the sovereign’s reversionary interest in the Duchy of Cornwall.” Asked if the Prince had withheld his consent for any bills, the PMS explained that we wouldn’t comment on individual representations made but that the Cabinet Office had a list of the Bills on which the Prince of Wales had been consulted on its website. Asked if the list included Bills which hadn’t made it onto the statute book, the PMS directed the Lobby to the Cabinet Office list. Asked if there are similar arrangements in place for any other member of the Royal family, the PMS referred the Lobby to Erskine May as the authority on the issue. Asked if the Prime Minister was content with this situation, the PMS explained that the nature of the process by which a Bill goes through Parliament is by virtue a consultation so with any legislation people would be consulted at various stages during the passage of that bill from Green Paper through to Act. Asked if the Prime Minister had any plans to update the arrangement, the PMS said she did not know of any plans to look into it.
Daylight Savings Bill
Asked whether Number 10 no longer supported the Daylight Savings Time Bill following comments by the Prime Minister in the Financial Times that Britain boasts the most favourable time zone in the world, the PMS reminded Lobby that the Prime Minister had said there should be consensus across the United Kingdom on Daylight Savings time. Asked if that meant that a small minority could block the wishes of the majority, the PMS repeated that any change should be by consensus. Asked how consensus would be established, the PMS directed the Lobby to BIS for details on the process.
Asked to comment on ONS statistics which claim the poorest fifth of Britons are paying more VAT than the richest fifth, the PMS said that it was clear that we need to tackle the deficit in the country and deal with debts in order to get the economy back on track and as a result of this difficult decisions have been taken. The PMS directed the Lobby to the Prime Minister’s comments from the weekend, that he sympathises with people who are having to make difficult decisions in the home, that’s why we have taken measures including cutting fuel duty, helping pensioners and removing the lowest earners from paying income tax to help people who are earning the least. We are trying to get the economy back on track, get people into work and get growth into the economy because these are the things that will lead to our economic prosperity in the future. Asked if this report confirms that VAT is a regressive tax which hits the poorest hardest, the PMS reminded the Lobby that the Chancellor is responsible for tax and will be looking forward to the forthcoming Autumn statement and the budget next year.
Asked for the Prime Minister’s reaction to the OECD downgrading its growth forecast for Europe to 0.3%, the PMS said the Treasury would be responding to this but that it reflects the ongoing uncertainty in the global economy and the crisis in the Eurozone. She referred to the Prime Minister’s comments from the weekend that good progress has been made to address the problems in the Eurozone and that as the OECD states, it is important that momentum is maintained and we look forward to seeing more detail on the Eurozone’s plans. Asked about the suggestion by Wolfgang Schauble of a Eurozone financial transaction tax, the PMS said we wanted to see global agreement on this, but if the Eurozone wanted to do something specifically for the Eurozone we would see what those proposals were.
Asked if the Prime Minister would be doing anything on growth the following day, the PMS referred the Lobby to the growth announcements made that day. Asked if the Prime Minister had seen the growth figures due to be published the next day, the PMS explained that the normal arrangements for official statistics were in place. Asked for the Prime Minister’s opinion on the announcements that morning on the Regional Growth Fund and plans to get growth into, the PMS said that they were an important part of helping the economy to get into growth. The Regional Growth Fund is important to help leverage private investment into small- and medium-sized businesses and the Deputy Prime Minister had been setting out the second round announcement that day. Furthermore the announcements the Prime Minister had made that day demonstrated the fact that we are trying to unblock some of the decisions which are still waiting to be made on things like large infrastructure projects and that more announcements could be expected in the coming weeks. Asked what action the Prime Minster had taken to unblock progress with two power plants in Yorkshire which were part of the announcement, the PMS clarified that we had looked at decisions still waiting to be made and prioritised those that will help the economy. She explained that those two power plants would bring a number of jobs to the region. Asked what sort of blockages these could be, the PMS said this could be issues like planning permission but directed the Lobby to individual Departments for details of projects.
PASC report on ministers
Asked why there were no plans to cut the number of ministers given the general bearing-down on the cost of MPs, the PMS said that we would give the report full consideration and respond in due course. She reminded the Lobby that we are already working on this agenda, Government has acted decisively to reduce the cost of minsters by bringing a 5% cut to the pay of all ministers and we have agreed to reform ministerial pensions. We have also said we will keep under the review the size of Government so we will consider carefully the report’s recommendations. Asked if there were any plans to cut the size of the ministerial payroll, the PMS reminded the Lobby that we have already cut pay but we will keep this under review. Asked why it has taken so long to look at this issue when there are already detailed plans to cut the number of MPs, the PMS highlighted that we have acted quickly to reduce the public expenditure on ministers and are keeping it under review. She also pointed to the fact that in the report the committee rightly acknowledges that there are a vast number of demands on ministers’ time, and a range of expectations of how they spend it mean they are constantly juggling how they use their time including dealing with constituents, their Department and Parliament. The basic principle is that the number of ministers should be dictated by need and this is carefully considered when we make ministerial appointments. Asked to respond to suggestions that maintaining the number of minister is driven by motives of patronage, the PMS referred to her pervious comments that this remains under review, we will carefully consider the report, we have reduced the public expenditure on ministers - not only their pay but also indirectly through the use of ministerial cars and travel - but the number of ministers should be dictated by need. Asked if the 5% cut on MP pay was temporary or permanent, the PMS said she did not know future plans for MP pay.
Asked what changes are planned to laws on trespass following comments by Nick Herbert that the Government is looking at this in light of recent events at St Paul’s, the PMS referred the Lobby to the Home Office. Asked if the fact the Prime Minister had spoken about the issue the previous week meant that he had a strong view on it, the PMS referred the Lobby to the Prime Ministers words.
Asked what the Prime Minister hoped to achieve a the forthcoming G20 meeting in Cannes, the PMS directed the Lobby to the Prime Ministers words from the weekend, particularly an interview with the FT, where he had set out his plans. The key thing would be to see further detail on the Eurozone, but we have made good progress on that and it would not necessarily be the focus of the meeting. The Prime Minister wanted to discuss imbalances in the global economy, keeping up the fight against protectionism and promoting global trade and making sure pressure was put on countries that weren’t dealing with their deficits or debts in order to move towards global growth.
Asked how much the Prime Minister had paid for his poppy that morning, the PMS said he had paid £10.
Asked about suggestions that the PM had missed a breakfast for the Glasgow 2014 games while at CHOGM, the PMS said she couldn’t confirm this.
Asked about suggestions that the Prime Minister had a preference for having female MPs sit behind him in the House, the PMS said that she would not comment on seating arrangements in the House.