Asked for a reaction to the news that the Conservative Party had decided to withdraw from the Butler Inquiry, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that the letter from the Leader of the Opposition to the Prime Minister informing him of his decision had only arrived while he had been on his way over to the briefing. Consequently, he was unable to give a detailed response at this stage. That said, he would draw journalists' attention to the fact that the FAC, ISC and Lord Hutton had all dealt with claims that individuals had distorted the information contained in the dossier on WMD or had misled others over intelligence, clearing people of any such wrongdoing. After the Hutton report, we had said we hoped that other issues surrounding intelligence and any discrepancies between the intelligence before the war and what had transpired afterwards could be dealt with in a more rational way. That was why we had established the independent Butler Inquiry. It was up to Lord Butler and his inquiry team to decide how they should carry out their work. Asked if all this had been made clear to the Leader of the Opposition, the PMOS said that as we had told people at the time, the FAC, ISC and Lord Hutton had looked at claims that individuals had deliberately distorted intelligence material, and had concluded that there was no substance to them. We believed that the Butler Inquiry should look at the broader questions relating to intelligence in a more rational way.
Asked if there had been any further developments today on the issue of Clare Short and the Cabinet Secretary, the PMOS said no.
The Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) informed journalists that the Prime Minister warmly welcomed today's announcement that the transitional law had been agreed by the Iraq Governing Council (IGC) earlier this morning. The IGC was due to hold a press conference this afternoon and would release the text of the agreement later in the week following the conclusion of an important Shia festival and after some loose ends had been tidied up. What was important about the transitional law was that it would safeguard the fundamental rights of the Iraqi people until direct elections were held for a new representative government. As such, it was a significant foundation stone in building a new Iraq. The law enshrined basic rights for all Iraqis - freedom of religion, freedom of expression and a free and independent judiciary. It went without saying that these were rights and laws not enjoyed under Saddam Hussein.
Asked if any consideration was being given to removing Privy Counsellor status from Clare Short, the PMOS said that the latest position on this matter had been set out in the Cabinet Secretary's letter to Ms Short, which she had publicised yesterday. He had nothing further to add other than the fact that the letter had been initiated by the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Andrew Turnbull, himself, and that the Prime Minister had been aware of it and had approved of it being sent. Asked if Privy Counsellorship was a privilege which could be removed if required, the PMOS referred journalists to the Cabinet Office for a more detailed exposition about the position of Privy Counsellors. Asked if membership of the Privy Council was a matter for the Prime Minister, the PMOS said that he wasn't an expert on the processes of the Privy Council. He repeated that the position had been set out in the Cabinet Secretary's letter. Additional questions should be addressed to the Cabinet Office.
Asked the purpose of the Prime Minister's meeting with King Abdullah of Jordan tomorrow, the PMOS said that the two leaders met regularly to update each other on their perspectives of what was happening in the Middle East, both broadly and more narrowly in terms of the Israeli/Palestinian situation.
Asked to confirm reports at the weekend that the Prime Minister had slept on a bench in his gap year when he had first come to London, the PMOS said that the Press Office had been taking bets this morning as to which journalist would ask about this story today. We had confirmed yesterday that the Prime Minister had slept on a bench for one night. Which bench that might have been, whether it had been preserved for historical interest or whether a plaque would be attached to it, he didn't know. Nor did he know, before anybody asked, what the Prime Minister might have had to eat while inhabiting the bench.
Asked for a reaction to reports that Leo Blair had been given the MMR jab after the Prime Minister and Mrs Blair had come under pressure to say whether he had had it or not, the PMOS said that our position on this issue was well known. It had not changed.
Original PMOS briefings are © Crown Copyright. Crown Copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland. Click-use licence number C02W0004089. Material is reproduced from the original 10 Downing Street source, but may not be the most up-to-date version of the briefings, which might be revised at the original source. Users should check with the original source in case of revisions. Comments are © Copyright contributors. Everything else is © Copyright Downing Street Says.
Contact Sam Smith.