Asked whether the Prime Minister had meant when he had said during Prime Minister's Questions that he would "not negotiate away the rebate" that there was some scope between zero and the current rebate, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said the position was actually very simple and the Prime Minister had set out the case many times. Others may raise the rebate as a subject. That was their prerogative. But we believed that, given the balance of payments in Europe, it was wholly justified and we would argue our case. We had a veto and if necessary we were prepared to use it. Asked if, when thinking back to the Berlin summit that agreed people could not benefit from any further windfall, whether we were saying that any capping or limits were totally out of the question, the PMOS said that others may come up with arguments. We would deal with those arguments as and when they arose. The basis of our position was that we believed that in the interest of fairness in terms of overall contribution on balance of payments the rebate was fully justified. It was up to others if they wanted to put forward arguments but we would argue our case for basic fairness.
Asked if Mrs Blair had warned ITN about possible legal consequences if they showed the TV footage of her Washington lecture, the PMOS said that he was not aware of that. Asked if there was any response to Claire Short's comments about Mrs Blair crossing the line, the PMOS said no.
The Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) began the briefing by setting out what the Government believed had been achieved during the Prime Minister's trip to Washington DC. From our perspective yesterday had been about getting on the road to Gleneagles and that we believed we did, both in terms of Africa and on Climate Change.
Asked what we would be asking for in Europe since we were no longer saying that the rebate was non-negotiable, the PMOS said that the premise was wrong. We had consistently said that we believed the rebate was wholly justified because of the balance of payments within Europe. That remained our position. We would not be afraid to argue our case and we would do so. Asked if it was still non-negotiable, the PMOS said that we had played these word games before. Our position was the same as it was a month ago, as it was before that. Put to him that it was a question of sticking by the words we had used, the PMOS said we stuck by the words that the rebate was wholly justified and we would continue to argue that case. Asked if we would consider a freeze on the level of payments, the PMOS said that we had not seen any proposal that was acceptable to us. Asked if that was saying we would reject such a proposal out of hand, the PMOS said there was no such proposal and he would not get into a hypothetical discussion on the matter. When pressed the PMOS said it was a case of putting an entirely hypothetical proposal to him and asking him to reject it. The fact of the matter was that we had not had any proposal which altered our position. We believed the rebate to be wholly justified and therefore we would continue to argue that case in Europe and that we continued to have a veto on any proposal that wasn't acceptable to us. Put to him that refusing to say the rebate was non-negotiable was a change of position, the PMOS said no, we were continuing to reflect the position which we had set out.
Asked about the ECHR report on control orders, the PMOS said that he was not sure that the report had yet been published. To state the general position, as we had said at the time control orders were introduced, there was a balance to be struck between the human rights of individuals and the human rights of citizens to be protected against the terrorist threat. That was a difficult balance but we believed the legislation achieved that. It was always difficult to achieve that balance in these circumstances, but we had to bear in mind both sets of human rights. Put to him that perhaps we might have stepped over that line, the PMOS said that Commission would have its view but the Government would very firmly have its view too.
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