Flood Defence Funding
Asked if the Prime Minister would be correcting his statement to House on floods, given that there had been a cut in the amount of funding, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) told the assembled press that it wasn’t the Government’s practice to correct accurate statements.
Put that there had been an 11% cut in funding, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister had said that flood defence funding had been protected in the Spending Review, which it had been.
Asked what his definition of ‘protected’ was, the PMS said that spending on flood defences had been rising in the previous period. The amount of money being spent now was broadly the same, despite the fact that the Government was having to cut spending in other areas by up to a third.
Asked about a migration report that suggested that visa numbers should go up to between 37,000 and 43,000, considerably higher than the current 24,000 cap, the PMS said that he would not comment beyond what had already been said by Damian Green. We would announce details of our policy shortly and we would look at the report in that context.
On whether the Prime Minister was happy that the recommendation for the cap was higher than it was currently, the PMS replied that we had a policy objective to bring down net migration to a sustainable level, which we had set out as being in the tens of thousands. We would announce shortly our policy on the issue.
Asked if the Prime Minister had discussions with Chinese Ministers or officials on the subject while he was visiting the country, the PMS said he could not recall any discussions.
Asked if the Prime Minister saw a request for assistance from the Irish Government in a different way to requests from any other Eurozone country, the PMS replied that he did not have anything to add to what the Chancellor had said on this yesterday. The PMS said that the Chancellor had made the point that it was in Britain’s national interest that the Irish economy was successful because of the links between our own economy and theirs.
Put that it might not be in the national interest to stabilise the Portuguese or Greek economies, the PMS referred people back to the Chancellor’s statement.
Asked if the Prime Minister thought that Chancellor Merkel and others were in danger of talking the Irish economy into deeper trouble, the PMS said that there was a lot of speculation about the Irish situation at the present time. The Irish Government had had to take some difficult decisions to deal with their public finances and they would make some more announcements on that shortly.
When asked if the Prime Minister had had any talks with Brian Cowen or Irish officials over the last couple of days, the PMS said that he didn’t believe there been. This was an issue that the Treasury was leading on and the PMS said that there had been a discussion over lunch at the Ecofin meeting yesterday.
Asked if help would come from bilateral aid or loans rather than an EU wide bailout, the PMS said that he would not speculate on the matter.
Asked if the Prime Minister was happy to devolve this matter to the Treasury, the PMS replied that this was a Cabinet Government.
Asked for an idea of what the Prime Minister would be discussing at the NATO Summit tomorrow, the PMS said that the Prime Minister’s priorities for the summit would be NATO reform, including driving efficiencies through that organisation, taking some decisions on missile defence and securing a strong message of solidarity from allies on Afghanistan.
Asked if the Prime Minister would be discussing Ireland with other leaders in the margins of the summit, the PMS said that when the Prime Minister saw other heads of state at meetings, he talked to them about a range of issues and was obviously focussed on things that were related to Britain’s national interest in those discussions.
Put that Labour had asked for an apology over the Prime Minister’s comments on Ruth Mackenzie in yesterday’s PMQs, the PMS replied that he would need to check the records, but what he thought the Prime Minister had done was to quote from a newspaper.
Asked if the Prime Minister was concerned that a senior official at the MOD thought that the SDSR process had badly damaged morale at the department, the PMS said that this was in reference to a story in the Telegraph and the Defence Secretary had responded to that.
The PMS added that the Defence Secretary had made clear that a junior official had drafted the document and not a senior one. The document had not been authorised or requested and it had not been seen by any MOD Minister. The Defence Secretary had also made the point that he did not agree with the document’s conclusions.
Asked if the Prime Minister agreed with the Defence Secretary, the PMS said that he did.