Asked whether the Prime Minister was comfortable with the deal being put forward, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) told the assembled press that we had set out our position at the last European Council on this. There had been a proposal from the European Parliament that there should be a 6% rise, which was supported by the Commission and countries that were net beneficiaries from the budget. However, the PMS said that we had built alliances to ensure that the rise should be limited to 2.9% and the PMS thought that was what would happen today.
Put that the Prime Minister had initially called for a freeze on the budget, and was he in any way disappointed with the expected outcome, the PMS replied that we were faced with the situation of there being a 6% rise and we had worked very hard to bring that down.
Asked why the budget wasn’t being frozen, the PMS said that in an ideal world, we would see the budget frozen next year, but this was a negotiation and we had to build support in other countries, which we had been doing effectively.
On what the Government’s approach was to the seven year budget, the PMS said that it was a long process. The next step in that process would be a proposal from the Commission on the next financial perspective, but this was not due until June or July next year.
The PMS said that following that it was then a two year negotiation, where our objective would be to push for the same restraint on the budget for the next financial perspective that we had been pushing for on the budget next year.
Asked if we had found many partners in that push for restraint, the PMS replied that the process had not really started. Until there was a proposal from the Commission, that process would not get underway.
We had been talking to other countries and the Prime Minister had put down a significant marker at the last European Council about our approach to that negotiation. Twelve countries had signed the letter on the budget for next year at the last European Council and we would be talking to those countries in the coming months.
Asked about the prospect of EU taxes, the PMS said that we had a very clear position on EU taxes which was that we were not in favour of them, and we had a number of allies on that issue.
The PMS said we were not thinking about new forms of funding for the EU. We were thinking about how we could ensure the necessary restraint on EU budgets for the forthcoming years. The PMS added that lots of countries recognised that that should be the approach, given the types of measures we had taken in our own countries.
Asked about the changes to the NHS being announced today and the fact that they were not included in any manifestos, the PMS said that they were not in a manifesto because we had a Coalition Government. The changes were aimed at ensuring the NHS worked for patients.
The PMS said that we were in a situation where we would not be able to throw money at the NHS in the coming years. When looking at international figures, the UK did fall behind on certain key measures, such as survival rates for cancer. So we needed to think about how we could improve on that.
The Government’s first priority was to ensure that patients were at the heart of the NHS and the second priority was that the clinicians were at the heart of making decisions. Put that GPs were not clinicians, so why were they being put in charge of decision-making, the PMS replied that we would have a Commissioning Board, run by clinicians. The PMS added that GPs were incredibly well-placed to make judgements about what was in the interests of their patients.
Asked why it made sense to take money out of the Health Service to spend on reform, the PMS replied that there would be some upfront costs to these reforms, but the objective was to drive efficiency through the NHS and reduce the levels of bureaucracy, which would reduce costs in the coming years.
Asked what input the Prime Minister had had on brokering a deal on control orders, the PMS said that he would clearly be involved in the decision on the policy.