» Friday, February 6, 2004

Moscow Attack

The Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) advised journalists that the Prime Minister would be sending a message of sympathy to President Putin and the Russian people following the appalling terrorist atrocity on the Moscow Metro earlier today.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

Council Tax

Asked for a reaction to a survey by the Local Government Chronicle on planned council tax rises and how seriously the Government was taking the issue, the PMOS said it went without saying that the Government took the issue very seriously indeed. Given the significant extra investment in local government, and the scope for efficiency improvements, it was the Government's firm view that local authorities could - and should be able to - deliver council tax increases in low single figures. As he understood it, county councils had to set their budgets by 1 March, while district councils had to do so by 8 March. All councils had to submit their budgets by 11 March at the latest. The Government had indicated that it was prepared to use capping powers on any authority if it proved to be necessary. However, at this stage we were not prejudging the criteria to cap local authorities. We would wait to see the budget decisions which local authorities would reach. The PMOS also took the opportunity to point out that that central Government was investing an extra £3.7bn in support grants in 2004/5. In total, grants to local authorities had increased by 30% in real terms since 1997.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

Butler Inquiry

Asked if there was a timetable for when the Butler Inquiry Committee would be sitting, the PMOS pointed out that, as a result of the nature of the Inquiry, a large amount of evidence would inevitably be heard in private. Asked if the Committee would be meeting every week, the PMOS said that it was a matter for the Committee to decide. They had a fairly wide remit and had been requested to deliver their report by the summer recess. How they managed their work was entirely a matter for them. Asked if Downing Street would inform journalists that the Prime Minister had been called to give evidence if he was asked to do so, the PMOS said that a decision would have to be made in discussion with the Committee. Clearly, if it was confirmed that person x was attending, there was an issue about whether you should mention everyone else. That said, we had made it clear from the outset that the Government would co-operate with the Inquiry in full. He reminded journalists that the Prime Minister had obviously given evidence to the ISC on intelligence issues in the past.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)


Asked if the Prime Minister would be meeting the Libyan Foreign Minister, the PMOS said yes. He was due to meet him next Tuesday. Asked if the Prime Minister would announce plans to meet Colonel Gaddafi after the meeting, the PMOS said that he was not aware of any plans to do so, as things stood. Asked if any Downing Street officials were participating in talks today between Libyan and US officials, the PMOS said not as far as he was aware. The British Government and US Administration had worked extremely closely on this issue through a very large part of last year. As we moved on to a different stage, that work and level of co-operation would continue.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

WMD/45 Minutes

Asked if the Prime Minister would clarify the position on what he had known about WMD and the 45-minute claim, the PMOS said he thought that the British public were ready to nod-off within 45 seconds of a decision being taken to broadcast or write another story about this matter. He did not think we could have been any more fulsome in our explanation yesterday about the issue. The key point was the Prime Minister's belief that Saddam had had a capability - both long range and battlefield. Whilst the 45-minutes point clearly gave precision to the state of readiness, it was perhaps less important to people within range of those munitions to know how quickly they could be deployed than whether they could actually reach them. That was the central point in all this.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)


Asked if the issue of the EU Budget would be on the agenda at the Prime Minister's meeting in Berlin with Chancellor Schroeder and President Chirac the week after next, the PMOS said that as he understood it, the European Commission would be publishing some proposals on the future financing of the EU next week. No doubt the three leaders would discuss the full range of European issues which affected EU members states, financial and otherwise. Asked if the Government remained committed to keeping the lid on expenditure after the Accession countries joined the EU, the PMOS said that the position had not changed.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (10)

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