The banking inquiry, Ministerial tax returns and plastic bags were discussed at this press briefing.
Asked if the Prime Minister (PM) had watched Bob Diamond’s session at the Treasury Select Committee, the Prime Minister’s Spokesperson (PMS) said he had been in meetings.
Asked if the PM had given any consideration to Ed Miliband’s suggestion around a two stage public inquiry, the PMS replied that the PM had given his response at Prime Minister’s Questions on why a parliamentary inquiry was the best way forward. He added that this would be further debated at the Commons debate.
Asked if that meant the PM had rejected this option, the PMS said that there were a series of investigations ongoing by regulators. He added that as the PM had said, those investigations have been successful and as a result Barclays had had to pay a fine. He further added that Martin Wheatley was examining the issue around Libor and there was the proposal for a parliamentary inquiry which would consider the issues of transparency, conflicts of interest and culture and professionalism within the banking industry.
Asked on what evidence the PM’s comments that the activities exposed in the last week were ‘probably illegal’ were based on, the PMS said that ultimately those issues are for the relevant authorities and that the Serious Fraud Office were looking at these cases.
Asked when there would be confirmation that Andrew Tyrie MP would chair the parliamentary inquiry committee, the PMS reiterated that it was the government’s proposal that he should chair this joint committee.
Asked who else might sit on this committee, the PMS said there were established rules on membership.
Asked if this committee would be able to go ahead if the Opposition refused to join, the PMS replied that the government hoped that all sides of the House would be able to support it.
Asked if the PM had any plans for further discussions with Ed Miliband, the PMS said that it was a possibility.
Asked if this inquiry would look at the role played by Ministers in the previous government, the PMS said the focus would be on what had happened in the banking sector.
Asked who would be looking at the role played by the Bank of England, the PMS said the Treasury Select Committee had asked questions about these issues and he expected them to call further witnesses, including from the Bank of England.
Asked how quickly the proposed committee would start taking evidence and whether it could sit over the summer recess period, the PMS said there would have to be a motion in each House but depending on when those motions took place, it could be in a matter of days. On the point about summer recess, the PMS replied that this was a matter for the Committee.
Ministerial Tax Returns
Asked about contradictory comments from the PM on whether he supported Ministers publishing their tax returns, the PMS said the government’s position remained the same.
Asked who in government would be taking this work forward, the PMS said tax issues were a matter for the Treasury.
Asked about the PM’s pledge last year to reduce the number of plastic bags, the PMS said the government wanted to work with retailers to reduce the number of plastic bags they handed out and it was looking at the results of a scheme in Wales and the outcome of the Scottish consultation.