» Thursday, May 20, 2004

Senator John Kerry

Asked if the Prime Minister had ever met Senator John Kerry, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said he didn't know. He pointed out that the Prime Minister and Mr Kerry had hoped to have a meeting during the Prime Minister's recent visit to Washington, but unfortunately Mr Kerry had been out of town on the day.

Briefing took place at 15:45 | Read whole briefing | Comment (1)


Asked if the Prime Minister would agree with Robin Cook's suggestion last week that British troops were being placed under more risk as a result of the Prime Minister's reluctance to distance the UK's position on Iraq from that of the US, the PMOS said that as he had told journalists this morning, it was important to understand what it was we were in Iraq to do. We were not there for the sake of either UK or US diplomacy or to score points off each other. We were there to achieve a stable democracy. That meant having an agreed coherent strategy for the way forward. This was not a US strategy or a British strategy. It was a Coalition strategy which went with the grain of Iraqi opinion and reflected their concerns. The question was how best to achieve it. Was it through playing to the gallery, grandstanding or airing differences in public, which would give the Iraqis and our troops on the frontline conflicting messages? Or should it be done by focussing on reaching an agreed policy. In the Prime Minister's firm view, it was the latter course which would best achieve our shared objective - handing over power to the Iraqi people as quickly as possible and allowing them to develop a stable democracy. Asked if he was insinuating that he would not brief on any serious disagreements between the British Government and US Administration were there to be any, the PMOS said that as Sir Jeremy Greenstock had underlined in his Today Programme interview this morning, the US and the British systems were working more closely in Iraq than they had ever done before. Obviously different options would have to be debated from time to time both within and between the two countries' systems. That was a natural part of forming a coherent policy. The question was whether that was best done in the full glare of publicity or privately without the benefit of megaphone diplomacy.

Briefing took place at 15:45 | Read whole briefing | Comments (2)

Alcohol Abuse

The Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) advised journalists that the Prime Minister and Hazel Blears would attend an alcohol abuse event this afternoon. Alcohol abuse was an issue to which the Prime Minister attached great importance. As the recent Crime Survey had underlined, binge drinking had now become a major problem. The Survey showed that 44% of victims of crime thought that their assailant was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the attack. Other figures showed that around 70% of weekend night admissions to Casualty were due to alcohol. Binge drinking had now clearly become one of the significant causes of crime. That was why the Prime Minister would be attending today's industry-organised seminar where he would make a speech to discuss the National Alcohol Strategy. He would say, "Millions of people drink alcohol responsibly every day. No one wants to stop that pleasure. But there is a clear and growing problem on our town and city centre streets up and down the country on Friday and Saturday nights. At a time when overall crime is falling, alcohol related violent crime is rising. New powers are there. They need to be used. As a society we must make sure that binge drinking does not become the new British Disease".

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (25)


Asked if the Prime Minister continued to believe that it was best to discuss any differences he had with the US in private, the PMOS underlined that we would stay in Iraq because we wanted to see a stable democracy, which we believed would also have a beneficial effect on stability in the region as a whole. This was a goal which was shared by our Coalition partners, including the US. Despite all the difficulties, we would continue to work with them to achieve our objectives. Consequently, the question was what was the best way to do that. Was it by discussing what we should be doing in public by using megaphone diplomacy, shouting from the margins or scoring people's performances from the sidelines, or should we be discussing the way forward together and working out a common strategy. We believed the latter option was the best way to proceed, not least, as the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the Defence Secretary had all underlined at Cabinet today, because of the impact any apparent disagreements would have on the troops who were carrying out their jobs side by side on the ground.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (12)

Middle East

Asked what the Prime Minister was doing publicly to condemn the actions of the Israelis in Rafah, the PMOS said that the UK had voted in favour of the motion at the UN last night which had underlined that all violence must stop, and had also condemned the killing of Palestinian civilians in the Rafah area. It had also called on Israel to respect its obligations under international law, in particular in not undertaking the demolition of houses. It had also called on both parties immediately to implement their obligations under the terms of the roadmap. Asked if the Prime Minister had used his influence with President Bush to ask him to use his lever over the Israelis to call a halt to the violence, the PMOS said that the President was fully aware of our view, as were the Israelis.

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

Parliamentary Security

Asked the Prime Minister's view this morning about the state of Parliamentary security, the PMOS said the Prime Minister believed that this was a matter for the House. Cabinet had been updated this morning by the Leader of the House on the progress of the ongoing security review. He had said it was gathering pace as a result of yesterday's incident.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Read whole briefing | Comment (1)

Simon Stevens

Asked if the Prime Minister was disappointed that he was losing 'yet another' special adviser, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister valued Simon Stevens highly. The NHS Modernisation Board report had underlined the very real progress that had been made in the health service to deliver real improvements in care to people up and down the country. Many people had made a contribution to that, not least Simon Stevens, who had brought his knowledge of the NHS and his intellectual energy to his work in helping to shape those improvements. He would be replaced by Julian Le Grand.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Read whole briefing | Comment (1)

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