On European Council, Italian Prime Minister's salary and extradition.
Asked if it was the Government’s position that under the terms of the European Union Act there would be a referendum if there was a transfer of powers from London to Brussels, but not within Eurozone countries, the PMS said that was correct. Asked if the Works and Pensions Secretary was wrong yesterday when he said there could be a referendum if there was a transfer of powers within the 17 Eurozone countries, the PMS said the position was as set out in the Act.
Asked if there would not be a referendum after the discussions this week, the PMS said what was being talked about was a new set of rules for the Eurozone - how those countries that were members of the Euro should set fiscal policy. The PMS added there was no proposal on the table for a transfer of powers from the UK to Brussels. Asked if the PM has spoken to the Work and Pensions Secretary, the PMS said he thought they had shared the train to Cabinet in Ipswich.
Asked if there was a moral obligation to have a referendum if the 17 Eurozone countries rebalanced power, the PMS said that what was being discussed at the moment was about how the Eurozone and members of the Euro organise themselves. The PMS said the UK wanted to see an end to the Eurozone debt crisis. That meant the Eurozone putting in place sensible arrangements and convincing the markets that the institutions of the Euro were going to defend and protect the Euro. The PMS said that is in our interests.
Asked again if the Work and Pensions Secretary got it wrong, the PMS said the legislation makes it clear that when there is a transfer of power from London to Brussels that should trigger a referendum.
Asked if words used by the Prime Minister about the transfer of powers had given a misleading impression, the PMS said the position could not be clearer because it was set out in an Act of Parliament.
Asked again about the statements, prior to May 2010, the PMS said there was a Conservative Party policy on these issues, but we had a Coalition Government and a Coalition Government policy. The PMS said the Prime Minister was very clear about those things that were Conservative Party policy and those things that were Government policy in the House a few weeks ago. As PMS he would restrict his comments to Government policy.
Asked if the Act precluded a referendum if there was no transfer of power, the PMS said no; but that Government policy was set out in the Act.
Asked if there was any possibility that redrawing of Eurozone rules could lead to a transfer of power from London to Brussels, the PMS said we need to wait and see what was put on the table on Thursday and Friday. The PMS said that no-one was proposing a transfer of power from the UK to the EU. No-one had put that on the table. The PMS said he did not think it would likely be on the table.
Asked about possible moves on derivatives, the PMS said he was not going to get into lots and lots of possibilities, but added that whatever the issue the UK Government would want to ensure that it is consistent with preserving the integrity of the single market.
Asked if a veto could be used, the PMS said that we had a veto on certain issues but did not on others. What the EU was talking about at the present time was how the Stability and Growth Pact was replaced for the Eurozone.
Asked about the financial transaction tax for the Eurozone and could this not lead to a referendum, the PMS said he had not seen a proposal; if countries are operating in the UK then they were subject to UK tax law.
Asked if a Eurozone financial transaction tax would be an advantage to the UK, the PMS said there was a lot of talk about such a tax, but there was no proposal on the table. As the Chancellor had explained, there were lots of technical issues that would need to be worked through before you could design and implement a financial transaction tax.
Italian Prime Minister’s salary
Asked if the Prime Minister welcomed the Italian Prime Minister’s announcement that he would give up his salary, the PMS said the Prime Minister had always said that it was important for those at the top to lead by example. That is why the Prime Minister introduced very early on a five per cent salary cut for all ministers. The PMS said the PM had also given up his Prime Minister’s pension.
Asked if the Prime Minister intended to vote on a back bench debate on extradition, the PMS said he did not know if the Prime Minister would vote.
Asked the Government’s view of extradition laws, the PMS said there had been an independent review which was now being considered. Asked about the whipping arrangements for this evening, the PMS said he understood it was one line whip.
Asked if the Prime Minister thought it was appropriate for an American ambassador to write an article about extradition in the Daily Telegraph, the PMS said that was the kind of thing that ambassadors did.
Asked about David Blunkett’s proposal that Gary McKinnon could go on trial in the UK via videolink to a US court and if convicted he would then serve a sentence in the UK, the PMS said the Home Secretary was looking at that case; and that extradition could only be refused at this stage if it was found that it would breach Mr McKinnon’s human rights. The Home Secretary was considering the case and she would reach a decision as soon as she was able, but she had to consider all the points that had been raised by Mr McKinnon’s legal team.