Asked whether the rape anonymity announcement was a change in policy, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) told the assembled press that the WMS would set out the position.
Armed forces pensions
Put that a Vice Admiral had said that the Prime Minster’s claims that he supported the armed forces rang hollow, given that the Government would be taking away some of the pensions of war widows, the PMS referred people back to what the Defence Minister Andrew Robathan had said about that decision. He had said that given the economic wreckage left behind, tough decisions had been made to deal with the fiscal challenges the country was facing.
The PMS added that the changes in indexation that were announced as part of the emergency Budget had affected all public sector pensions and it would not be possible to treat the armed forces differently from other public servants in that regard.
The PMS drew people’s attention to the fact that the Prime Minister had made it clear that he was a very firm supporter of the Armed Forces and was proud of all that they did.
Under this Prime Minister, the operational allowance had been doubled and he now had an adviser as part of his team in Downing Street who was a member of the Armed Forces. The Prime Minister had also made it clear as part of the SDSR announcement that in a tough economic climate, he would try and protect the armed forces and deliver an Armed Forces that was fit for operations now and in the future.
Asked if it was worth looking again at arrangements surrounding widows pensions who had remarried, the PMS advised people to speak to the MOD about the detail. The PMS said that there could not be discrepancies between different public sector recipients of the pension.
Put that war widows were often widowed at a younger age and therefore should be treated differently, the PMS replied that there was an issue of cost here, which would be picked up by the taxpayer and a decision had been made. Put that the Prime Minister would not look at this again, the PMS said that it was an issue being looked at by the MOD, but a policy decision had been made.
Put that the Prime Minister did not mind that he was seen to be penalising war widows, the PMS said that the Prime Minister had the utmost regard for the Armed Forces and indeed their families, but tough decisions had to be made.
On where we stood on the EU Budget and whether the Prime Minister was confident that the stance he took would now prevail, the PMS said that the Prime Minister had had a meeting in Seoul with Prime Minister Berlusconi, President Sarkozy and Chancellor Merkel, where they discussed the EU Budget and they had all agreed that they wouldn’t be budging on the 2.9%.
Asked about proposals from the Poles that they would get further powers in the future if they agreed to the 2.9% rise, the PMS said discussions were ongoing regarding the 2.9%, but the Prime Minister’s view and the view of other European leaders was to ensure we got that deal.
Asked what the Prime Minister thought about the European Parliament being given more powers on tax issues, the PMS said that the Prime Minister’s view was that we did not want any further powers going to Brussels.
On what the Prime Minister thought about the European Parliament asking for further powers while refusing a deal on their budget, the PMS replied that there would be further discussions on this, but the Prime Minister’s view was clear; we needed to get the Budget issue sorted and as part of the Coalition Agreement, the Government agreed to give no further powers, including tax-raising powers, to Brussels without a referendum.