Put that there had been speculation on whether Peter Tatchell had been invited to the reception, the Prime Minster’s Spokesman (PMS) told the assembled press that the purpose of this evening’s reception was to mark the start of the Gay Pride festival. There would be lots of people attending from business, charities and elsewhere and precisely who was and wasn’t there was not the point of this evening.
Asked if Peter Tatchell would be attending, the PMS said he would not be attending. Asked if he was invited, the PMS said he believed he had not been invited. The PMS added that he would not go into detail about who was and was not attending.
On whether the Prime Minister thought that the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) was doing a good job, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister was very much in favour of the system and having an independent authority to deal with these issues. There had been some discussions about how that had been going and the Leader of the House had been dealing with those.
Asked if the Prime Minister was happy with how it was going at the moment, the PMS said that it was an issue for all MPs and an issue that the Leader of the House had been dealing with. The Leader of the House had been listening to the views of MPs and responding to those.
Put that some MPs had suggested that they should be given credit cards for their expenses, the PMS replied that he was unaware of those comments and he did not know the Prime Minister’s views on that issue.
When asked if the Prime Minister thought that MPs who were complaining publicly were forgetting the levels of public anger on this issue, the PMS said that there was a new system being put in place and this system had to be made to work properly. As with any new system, there were some issues with getting it working correctly and the Leader of the House had been listening to the concerns of MPs and responding to them.
Asked if the Prime Minister thought it was unacceptable to abuse members of staff, the PMS said that the abuse of members of staff was something we all thought was unacceptable.
Asked for the Prime Minister’s views on letting the EU vet countries Budgets and a proposed transaction tax, the PMS said that the government had been clear on the vetting of Budgets. There was a process of multi-lateral scrutiny of economic policy of different member states and that would continue, but it would not be the case that the EU would see budgets before Parliament did.
The PMS said that on proposals for a transaction tax, the coalition agreement had set out the government’s position on this; it was in favour of a bank levy, which was slightly different conceptually to a transaction tax. However, the government thought there was increasing international support for a bank levy.
Asked whether the Prime Minister agreed with the French government that any special measures to secure the Euro should be Eurozone measures, the PMS replied that issues around the Euro were issues for Eurozone members.
Put that there were proposals on the economic stability of the whole of the European Union rather than just the Eurozone, the PMS said that it was important to remember that there had been one discussion on this at Ecofin, This would be the first discussion on this by leaders. We were not in a position where there were definitive proposals or where there would be decisions taken tomorrow.
When asked about the possibility of Treaty changes in the light of comments made by President Sarkozy, the PMS said treaty changes were not on the table. The Ggovernment had been clear that it would not do anything that would see the transfer of powers from Westminster to Brussels.
Asked if he was suggesting that because there was no definitive proposal on the table, the government did not have a position, the PMS said that he was not saying that. The PMS added that matters about the Euro were for Eurozone members. There was a wider issue about fiscal policy, where there were shared challenges across the European Union and lots of countries were having to deal with similar issues to those in the UK.
Asked what the government’s view would be if Germany were to put proposals on the table, the PMS replied that anything that would involve any transfer of power from Westminster to Brussels was not something we would be prepared to consider.
On whether the Prime Minister was concerned about the rise in unemployment, the PMS said that we were concerned with the rise. Given that unemployment was over 2.5 million and given that there were record numbers of people of working age who were economically inactive, we needed to take action to get the private sector moving again and generate more sustainable private sector jobs in this country.
Asked whether it was a concern that wages had risen 4.2%, the PMS said that that was down on last month. In the past couple of years there had been a high degree of wage flexibility, with people taking pay cuts or reducing their hours.