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No. 10 Afternoon Press Briefing From 3 July 2008

Afternoon press briefing from 3 July 2008

Briefing from the Prime Minister's Spokesman on: MPs' pay, fuel/oil and miscellaneous...

MPs' Pay

Asked why the Prime Minister thought it was important that MPs voted for a 2.25% pay rise, the Prime Minister's Spokesman (PMS) replied that we had released a Written Ministerial Statement about this on 17th June which made clear that it was important that MPs set an example at a time of wider public sector pay restraint.

Asked what the Prime Minister had to say about the argument that there was no point having independent reviews if the conclusions of those reviews were then overruled, the PMS said that the Prime Minister would say that there was another consideration, which was the example that MPs set in relation to public sector pay more generally.

Put that the Government brushed aside reviews, the PMS said that in relation to MPs' pay it was important to remember that Sir John Baker did propose an alternative mechanism, which was the mechanism that the Government supported; linking MPs' pay to settlements for a basket was something that was considered by and, from memory, commented positively on by Mr Baker, as well as his central recommendation.

Fuel/Oil

Put that the Prime Minister had mentioned future arrangements for fuel supplies during the Liaison Committee, the PMS said that the Prime Minister had been talking about the wholesale gas market more generally and that it was best to speak to Berr for the details.

Put that the Prime Minister had said that fuel duty would be considered carefully in the next few weeks, the PMS said that it would be considered in the next few weeks, and may also be considered in the few weeks after that, and the few weeks after that. However, the timing of the decision was a matter for the Chancellor.

Put that the Prime Minister and the Chancellor had both said that they would look at the issue of fuel duty again and asked what the Prime Minister saw as the problem, the PMS said that the Prime Minister and the Chancellor had both said that they would consider, at the appropriate time, whether or not to go ahead with the increase in fuel duty, which was due to take place on 1 October. There were quite a few precedents now for the Government not going ahead with pre-announced increases in fuel duties, but there were also precedents for the Government going ahead with pre-announced increases in fuel duty. The PMS said that it was not for him to get into a discussion about the pros and cons at this point, as that was a matter for the Chancellor and the Treasury. However, the Prime Minister had been discussing these and other relevant factors this morning.

Asked if something was going to be announced ahead of the Glasgow East by-election, the PMS repeated that the timing was entirely a matter for the Chancellor. The PMS went on to say that he would have to check the precedents, but his understanding was that there was no particular reason why this would have to happen while Parliament was sitting.

Put that if the Government was to announce that it would not go ahead with the increase due on 1 October it would not have to do so via a Parliamentary statement, the PMS said that, from memory, that was his understanding.

Asked if a Parliamentary instrument was needed to stop it happening, the PMS said that from memory, it was possible to make an announcement of this kind when Parliament was not sitting.

Put that the PMS might be trying to guide journalists, the PMS said he was not guiding journalist towards anything.

Asked about the Prime Minister's comments about oil prices at the Liaison Committee, the PMS said that the Prime Minister had made his view clear many times that the reason why the oil price had gone up by so much was because of the expectation that oil demand would outstrip oil supply indefinitely. These issues were looked at very comprehensively in the paper that the Treasury published a few weeks ago and that had been the main conclusion that they had reached. If there were other factors that needed to be looked, then the relevant authorities (Treasury, Bank of England and Financial Services Authority) would look at them.

Miscellaneous

Asked what was discussed at the Prime Minister's meeting with the Aga Khan, the PMS said that they had discussed the cooperation between the Government and the Aga Khan Development Network, which supported projects in health, education, poverty alleviation, peace and stability. The Prime Minister had also congratulated the Aga Khan on his golden jubilee.

Asked when the Prime Minister would make his statement about Iraq, the PMS said it could be expected before recess.

Put that the Lord Chief Justice was giving a speech tonight and asked for a reminder as to what the Prime Minister's thoughts on the Archbishop of Canterbury's comments on Sharia Law had been, the PMS said that he was slightly reluctant to wade into a Lord Chief Justice story without knowing the contents of the speech he was giving. On the general issue of Sharia Law, we had made our position very clear at the time, which was that British law should be based on British values and determined by the British Parliament.

ENDS

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