» Wednesday, May 12, 2004


Asked for further details about discussions that were taking place regarding the possibility of Coalition troops leaving Iraq, as confirmed by the Prime Minister during PMQs today, the PMOS said that this was nothing new. We had always made clear that we wanted to hand over control and authority to the Iraqi people and leave as soon as possible. However, as we had also made clear, we would stay until the job of creating a new democracy in Iraq had been completed and a government was in place, as well as a system guaranteeing security for all. Asked why he was being so vague when the Prime Minister had seemed much more definite in PMQs, the PMOS said the Prime Minister had simply been making the point that he was discussing with our allies how we could speed up the process and follow through on the process of 'Iraqi-isation'. We would be able to leave once Iraqis had been trained and were able to take charge of their own security. Asked if there was a target date for a pullout towards which we were working, the PMOS said that there was a deadline of January 2005 for elections. We would withdraw once the Iraqi authorities and the Coalition had agreed that it was safe to do so. Setting an arbitrary deadline would be pointless because a pullout would depend on circumstances at the time. The process of democratisation, the transfer of authority and the Iraqi-isation of the security services would all help speed up the process of ultimate withdrawal. Asked if he was indicating that there was no possibility of withdrawal under an interim authority, the PMOS said that no one was envisaging such a scenario. However, it was clear that the process of Iraqi-isation would continue to pick up speed and eventually lead to withdrawal.

Briefing took place at 15:45 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)


Questioned about Jack Straw's speech on EU enlargement and reform this evening and whether he was indicating that we would be taking on board the Opposition's proposals to reduce bureaucracy or if a Gershon-type review would take place, the PMOS pointed out that the Prime Minister had spoken often about the need for reform in Europe. He said he was therefore astonished that anyone should find it surprising that the Foreign Secretary was speaking about the same subject.

Briefing took place at 15:45 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)


Asked if the Prime Minister was planning to attend the Olympic Games in Athens this summer in the light of the Daily Telegraph story this morning, the PMOS said that we never commented on the Prime Minister's diary or travel arrangements for obvious security reasons.

Briefing took place at 15:45 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)


The Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) drew journalists' attention to the latest employment figures which had been published this morning. They showed that there were more people in work today than ever before - up 300,000 in the last year alone. The Prime Minister had said, "The figures published today show that there are 1.95m more people in work than seven years ago. That means one more person in work every two minutes since this Government has been in power. But we are not complacent. The Government will continue to strengthen the New Deal as we move towards full employment". The PMOS added that the Chancellor had made a speech to the CBI this morning in which he had outlined a series of measures designed to strengthen the New Deal.

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


Asked the Prime Minister's reaction to the sanctions which the US had imposed on Syria, the PMOS said that we expected Syria to take seriously our concerns about WMD and their attitude towards terrorism and human rights. In particular, we expected Syria to take a constructive approach to the situation in Iraq and work with us to restore stability and aid Iraq reconstruction. In our policy towards Syria, we clearly had similar objectives and concerns to the US. However, we were pursuing these through a policy of critical and constructive engagement. We believed that this allowed us to encourage and support reform, while talking frankly and robustly about issues of concern. How the US addressed its relations with Syria was entirely a matter for the US. Asked if the UK was also considering imposing sanctions on Syria, the PMOS said that sanctions were a matter for the EU as a whole, not for individual Governments.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (2)

Civil Service cuts

Asked to comment on today's FT report suggesting that the Government was rowing back on its Budget pledge to cut the number of Civil Servants, the PMOS said that the Budget's contents remained unchanged. We would report on the issue in due course. Pressed as to whether the story was true in the light of Nick Raynsford's comments yesterday, the PMOS said that Mr Raynsford's words were on the record. We would be able to respond properly once we had reported on the issue. Asked if the Prime Minister would want to pay tribute to the 700,000 extra Civil Servants who had been employed by the Government, the PMOS said that Civil Servants were taken on to do necessary jobs. Put to him that the Chancellor had said in the Budget that 60,000 Civil Service posts were not necessary and should be cut, the PMOS said that obviously the issue would be addressed in areas where savings could be made through modernisation.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (3)

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