Asked about the government’s business taskforce report, the PMS said that it would inform the UK agenda for the European Council the following week. The government had a long standing reform agenda for competitiveness in the EU and wanted immediate and on-going action to reduce the number of rules and regulations put on business.
Asked whether the Prime Minister (PM) thought benefit tourism was an issue, the PMS said that there was widespread concern in the country about benefit tourism and the government was working to reduce pull factors to the UK. The government had worked with other member states on the rules around habitual residency and was conducting an audit of the impact of tourism on the NHS. Access to the welfare system was about fairness as well as about cost and there were relevant concerns about both.
Asked whether the aim to get net migration below 100,000 was failing, the PMS said that it was not failing and net migration had fallen by a third.
Asked whether the PM agreed that ministers were powerless to do anything about energy price rises, the PMS said that there was a central issue around the wholesale price of gas. There were things the government could do to help, which included improving the competition in the market by helping to introduce new sources of energy. More widely, the government was also doing work to help with the cost of living.
Asked whether the PM supported repealing the fox hunting ban, the PMS said that the PM’s view had not changed and there was a Coalition agreement to hold a free vote on the issue. There were specific issues around pest control and the impact on farmers, which the PM had some sympathy with.