Oil/Europe commission investigation
Asked about the PM’s view on the legal position around alleged manipulation of the energy markets, the Prime Minister’s Spokesperson (PMS) set out the government’s position on extending the criminal offence to this sector to make sure that those who manipulate benchmark prices feel the full force of the law. Asked what was meant by the ‘full force of the law’, the PMS said that the European Commission investigation has sanctions it can impose now, including fines of up to 10% of the annual turn over. Asked whether fines will be passed back to consumers, the PMS said the PM’s view was that the allegations were extremely concerning because they impact on the cost of living and this government has done a huge amount to improve the cost of living, through freezing council tax and addressing fuel duty, and will continue to tackle these issues.
Asked whether the PM had given the impression they could face prison, the PMS said that as the PM had said yesterday it is totally unacceptable for firms to fix prices and force consumers to pay more. Asked whether there will be a UK investigation, the PMS said that OFT would provide full assistance and support to the ongoing investigation. Asked whether this was another example of untouchables, the PMS said that the government will investigate any allegations and if changes to legislation are needed then that will happen, as with LIBOR. Asked whether the PM wants European law changed so that any fines imposed would be passed back to the consumer, the PMS said that the PM’s view was the most important thing is that the investigation gets to the bottom of all the allegations that have been raised.
Private Member’s Bill
Asked how the PM will support the PMB, the PMS said that the PM was very happy that James Wharton was taking forward the draft legislation and intended to give him the full support of the Conservative party. Asked whether James Wharton would have Coalition support and whether the PM was concerned that it would cause a rift in the Coalition, the PMS said that the PM and DPM acknowledged their differences of opinion on this issue.
Asked whether the PM felt his authority is enhanced by the vote, the PMS said the PM’s view was that there is a clear consensus amongst Conservative members in line with the position the PM set out in his speech in January. Asked whether the PM is confident the PMB will become law, the PMS said the PM would ensure that Conservative members gave it their full backing. Asked whether the PM has spoken to James Wharton, the PMS said that James Wharton had spoken to the whips. Asked whether the PM has spoken to DPM, the PMS said that the PM and DPM speak on a regular basis about all government business.
Asked what the PM is doing about tax avoidance, the PMS said that the PM is committed to creating the most competitive corporate tax system. The PM wants to encourage businesses to come here to invest and to create jobs and opportunities that will help grow our economy but that this commitment goes hand in hand with our call for strong international standards to make sure that global companies, like anyone else, pay the taxes they owe. The PMS said that the PM is also clear that we have to have strong international standards and that the PM had made it clear that it will be a leading discussion at G8.
Asked whether BP will receive help from PM, the PMS said that the PM has had no direct contact with the BP.
Asked what the government’s position was on equal marriage, the PMS said that it remains unchanged. Asked whether the PM feel it is worth spending two days of Parliamentary business on, the PMS said that as the PM had previously set out, his view is that there are a number of important issues being debated and it is important that government focus on all of them.
Asked whether there are any plans for communications to be shut down before G8, the PMS said that all security issues would be in place for G8.
Asked what the government’s position is on the register of lobbyists, the PMS said that it remained unchanged, and the government was committed to briefing it forward. Asked why the PM thinks it is important, the PMS said that the PM had previously set out the need for a clear and transparent process for lobbyists. Asked whether Lynton Crosby declare his clients, the PMS said that Lynton Crosby was an advisor to the Conservative party, providing political advice, rather than an advisor to government.