» Tuesday, May 18, 2004


Asked if it was Government policy that UK re-enforcements should remain confined to British-controlled areas in Iraq, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that the details of any announcement regarding deployments would be made at the appropriate time. No decision had been taken at this stage. As we had been underlining over the last few days, the principle which would govern such an announcement was how it would contribute to the strategy of the Iraqi-isation of the security structures which we had set out. Asked by the Daily Express if the Prime Minister believed that Donald Rumsfeld should resign if that would help calm the situation on the ground in Iraq, the PMOS said he was surprised that the Daily Express, which defended Britain's national identity so strongly, was inviting him to interfere in the internal affairs of another Government. Surely the paper would disapprove of anything so outrageous. Put to him that the US was a Coalition partner, the PMOS said the fact still remained that it was an internal matter for another Administration. He doubted that the Daily Express would approve of American opinions being expressed about members of the British Government. Put to him that the Prime Minister consistently spoke up for President Bush, the PMOS said that the President was someone with whom the Prime Minister had done business in terms of Iraq and would continue to do so. It was for the President to decide who he wanted to include in his Administration.

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

European Constitution

Asked if the Prime Minister believed it was important to agree the EU Constitution by June, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister's view had not changed since first expressing it at the Brussels Council last December. As he had said at the time, he would like to see an EU Constitution because he believed that it was in this country's interest for Europe to move forward under arrangements which made an EU at twenty-five operate more effectively. That said, he also believed that a Constitution could only move forward if it respected and reflected our national interests. We were currently in a negotiation and people should let it continue. As he had said this morning, we acknowledged that negotiations tended to go through different phases. That was the whole point of them. Pressed as to whether the Prime Minister would like to see the negotiations concluded by the end of June, the PMOS said that we had indicated to the Irish Presidency that we wanted to agree an EU Constitution as soon as possible. However, as we had underlined at the time, we would only agree to it if it respected our position.

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

NHS Modernisation Board

The Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) advised journalists that the Prime Minister and John Reid had hosted a breakfast for the NHS Modernisation Board this morning at which the Board had presented their annual report. The Prime Minister had said that real change was taking place within the NHS which showed, as the Modernisation Board had underlined, significant and stable improvement. Both had stressed, however, that there was still much more to do. The gap between the treatment people received and their overall perception of the NHS was clearly significant. This was backed up by the Chairman of the Council of the British Medical Association, James Johnson, who had said, "There seems to be a mismatch between people's experiences. They are surprised, while the general public's view is that not much has changed. Perception of the NHS is changing among people who have regular contact with it".

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


Asked if the deployment of additional British troops should be seen as part of an exit strategy from Iraq, the PMOS said that he had dealt with this issue at length yesterday, but he was happy to do so again. He pointed out that no decision had yet been made regarding further deployments. Moreover, as the Prime Minister had said yesterday, we had a clear strategy for our objectives in Iraq - namely, the creation of a stable democracy with the means to defend itself. That meant achieving a real transfer of authority on 1 July, leading to elections in January, but also creating the security apparatus which, in time, would be able to take full responsibility for Iraq's security. It was within that context that any decision about troops would be made. It was a strategy which would allow us to achieve our objective: to give Iraqis both the authority and control over their own future.

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

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