Asked for a reaction to the latest 'revelations' by Peter Foster, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that we had nothing to add to what we had said about Mr Foster in the past. Asked if Downing Street continued to maintain that the Prime Minister had never met Peter Foster, the PMOS said that we stood by what had been said. If journalists needed reminding, they could look it up in previous press briefing notes. Today we had other things on our mind.
Spanish bomb attacks/Northern Ireland
Asked if any Britons were among the victims of the Spanish bomb attacks earlier today, the PMOS said we had been told this morning that there weren't any. Since then, however, the death toll had, unfortunately, risen. Consular officials had been to the scene and had set up emergency systems in Madrid. Asked to confirm that Al Qaida was not responsible for the attacks, the PMOS said that we had no reason to believe anything other than the Spanish Government's view that the attacks were ETA related.
Spanish bomb attacks
The Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that the Cabinet this morning had been deeply saddened and shocked by the news from Madrid today. The death toll as a result of the attacks was continuing to climb. The Cabinet had sent a collective message of condolence to the Spanish Government, and the Foreign Secretary had spoken to his Spanish counterpart. In a statement in Downing Street before Cabinet, Mr Straw had underlined that he regarded the attacks as an assault on the principle of democracy, coming, as they had, three days before the Spanish elections. The Prime Minister had said to Cabinet that, "This terrible attack underlines the threat that we all continue to face from terrorism in many countries, and why we all must work together internationally to safeguard our peoples against such attacks and defeat terrorism". We would remain in contact with the Spanish Government throughout the day.
Constitutional Reform Bill
Asked where we were on the next steps for the Constitutional Reform Bill, the PMOS said that discussions were continuing in the normal way about how to take the measures forward. Asked if an announcement was expected today, the PMOS said no.
Asked the Government's view on the issue of awarding compensation to the five detainees who had now returned to the UK and had been freed, the PMOS said that it was important for people to see this issue in the context of needing to strike the right balance between respecting people's rights on the one hand, and maintaining security across the world on the other. We understood the difficulties involved in getting that balance right. We welcomed, for instance, the responsible way in which representatives of the three individuals from Tipton had dealt with the issue so far. We hoped that would continue. Asked if the Government would apologise for the delay in taking up the cases of the former detainees while they had been held in Guantanamo Bay, the PMOS pointed out that there had been seven visits by officials to check on the detainees' welfare there. The first had been in January 2002. This had been followed by visits in February 2002, May 2002, November 2002, April 2003, September 2003 and March 2004. We had been the first country to see our nationals in Guantanamo Bay - and, as far as we were able to ascertain, our officials had visited more often than the representatives of any other Government. Asked about the physical condition of the five individuals who had been freed, the PMOS said he did not think it would appropriate for him to comment on that matter.
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