Asked whether the Prime Minister thought that it was in the British taxpayer’s interest to bail out Ireland, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) told the assembled press that it was his understanding that there wasn’t a request being made.
The PMS added that he would not get into any speculation about Ireland.
When asked what the UK’s responsibilities were in the event of another member of the European Union getting into difficulties, the PMS said that there was something called the European Financial Stabilisation Mechanism which was agreed by the previous Government. This provided a fixed sum of 60 billion euros and allowed guarantees to be made to the EU countries facing difficulties and we were part of that mechanism.
Asked what the UK contribution was to that fund, the PMS said it was around 12%. The PMS said that the guarantees were put in place and if a country defaulted, money was drawn down from the countries that were part of the mechanism.
Put that there was a second bail-out mechanism, the PMS replied that there was. The PMS said that this was the European Financial Stabilisation Facility, but we were not part of that facility.
Asked if the Prime Minister thought that the health of the Irish economy was important to the health of the British economy, the PMS replied that we had a very open economy and therefore the situation of other countries had an impact on the UK.
Asked if the Prime Minister was planning any talks with his Irish counterpart, the PMS said that there were of course ongoing discussions on the EU budget and the Prime Minister had been talking to a number of European colleagues in that context.
On whether the Prime Minister was concerned that a number of the measures introduced by the Chancellor here had first been put in place in Ireland, the PMS said that it would be wrong to draw a comparison between this country and Ireland. The PMS added that the Irish had taken some very difficult decisions and they would set out more detail on budget plans in the coming days. We supported them in the decisions they had taken.
Asked whether the report in the Guardian was correct, the PMS replied that there was a statement in the Budget on the issue of wellbeing. This had said there was a lot of work being done on the measurement of wellbeing. The Prime Minister had also made reference to wellbeing in his speech to the CBI, where he had said the Government would set out in the coming weeks ‘how we will bring in a new emphasis on wellbeing in our national life.’
Asked if the Government was going to ask the ONS to draw up a list of questions to measure wellbeing and happiness, the PMS replied that there was a huge amount of literature on this; it was something the Prime Minister had spoken about in Opposition and it was something that this Government had said that it was going to look at.
Asked if the Prime Minister had agreed to relaxing the Immigration cap so that the UK could attract ‘foreign talent’, the PMS said the Government’s position was that we had not made any final decisions on the policy as yet. The Prime Minister had said in PMQs that he thought that it was possible to achieve much better immigration control without disadvantaging business.
Asked if that would mean a rise in the total number, or a manipulation of the different categories so that more businessmen and entrepreneurs could come in, the PMS said that he would not want to go much beyond what the Prime Minister had said in PMQs.
DPM In Holland
On whether the Deputy Prime Minister’s trip to the Netherlands was partly down to the fact that he was Dutch, the PMS replied that he didn’t believe that was the reason for the trip.
Civil Service Posts
On whether the Cabinet Secretary had finished his review into the hiring of staff on short-term contracts, the PMS replied that there was a system in place in Government departments which enabled appointments to be made on fixed-term contracts. The PMS added that this had long been the case and was an established procedure.
The PMS said that in regard to various appointments that had been made and were now subject to press scrutiny, we had been very clear that appointments had been made in line with established procedures and with the explicit approval of the Permanent Secretary.
The PMS said that the Government had been scrupulous about ensuring the respective roles of civil servants and Special Advisors were clearly understood and respected.
Asked if there were any new rules in regard to background checks on future hiring of staff on fixed-term contracts, the PMS said that there were no new rules.
Asked whether Andrew Parsons was ‘pulled’ from the trip to China because of the row, the PMS said Andrew Parsons had a cross-Government role and we would not be providing a running commentary on what he did on a day-to-day basis.
Put that Francis Maude had said during an interview last week that he had not authorised any of these appointments and what was the process for this, the PMS said that these were Cabinet Office employees and this was a Cabinet Office process, so people should speak to the Cabinet Office.
Asked if the Prime Minister had expressed a view on bankers’ bonuses, the PMS replied that the Government’s position on pay was that we believed that pay should reflect and reward long-term value creation and not short-term risk taking. There were FSA rules in place to that effect.
Put that the Prime Minister would not be bothered by the size of bonuses, as long as they rewarded long-term value creation, the PMS said it was not for Government to set pay for individual bankers and the pay policies of individual institutions were a matter for those institutions and their boards. The PMS added that the Government’s position was that pay policy should reward long-term value creation and the FSA rules were designed to ensure that this was the case.