Asked for a reaction to suggestions that the British Government was ignoring a High Court ruling on Diego Garcia so that the US could continue to lease the island from the UK and perhaps turn it into another Guantanamo Bay, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) referred journalists to a statement from the Foreign Office on this issue on 16 June. He had nothing further to add.
Asked if it was fair to say that the Government did not support the introduction of Martial Law in Iraq in the light of the Prime Minister's comments today during PMQs, the PMOS said that as the Prime Minister had underlined during the NATO Summit in Istanbul, the new sovereign Iraqi Government would decide its own security policy. Prime Minister Alawi had made clear that if that meant taking tough decisions, then so be it. However, the key difference between the past regime in Iraq and the new Government was the fact that the latter would take tough security decisions to secure democracy, not because they were acting in a tyrannical way.
Asked if the Prime Minister had had any input into the decision by the Butler Inquiry to publish their report to him on 14 July, the PMOS said that it was up to the Inquiry team to announce the date. Asked if the decision had been made in consultation with Downing Street, the PMOS repeated that any date was for the Inquiry. Asked if it was fair to speculate that it would be 'less than helpful' to publish the report the day before two by-elections were due to be held, the PMOS said that as a Civil Servant he was unable to comment on party political matters. Suffice to say that we were relaxed about the date. End of story.
Asked when the Butler Report would be published, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that it was up to the Butler Inquiry to make that announcement. Asked if the Government would publish the Report after it was presented to them by the Inquiry team, the PMOS said yes.
Asked when the Government would announce the UK's new EU Commissioner, the PMOS said that no date had been set at this stage. We had until the end of July to make an announcement. He pointed out that the new European Commission President had only been confirmed last night. As the Prime Minister had said, we welcomed the appointment of Mr Barroso and we were delighted there had been a genuine consensus behind it. He was clearly the right man for the job and understood our position. Asked if a decision on Britain's new EU Commissioner had been made but not yet finalised, the PMOS said that our position on this issue had not changed. Asked if the Prime Minister had entered into discussion with European leaders about Commissioners' portfolios, the PMOS said he thought it was too early for any such discussions. In any event, those discussions would be had with the new Commission President in the normal way. However, that would not be done immediately, as Mr Barroso would obviously need a little time to settle into his new job.
Asked for a reaction to a statement by the new Iraqi Security Adviser suggesting that Saddam Hussein could face the death penalty, the PMOS said that as we had made clear to the Iraqi Government, and indeed other Governments, we were opposed to the use of the death penalty. That said, Iraq now had a sovereign Government and we had to respect that. It was encouraging to see that they were taking the job of governing the country seriously, as demonstrated by the CPA sites in Nazariah and other areas were being handed over to local government and the CPA site in Kut being handed over to the local police. Asked if the Prime Minister was concerned that using the death penalty on Saddam Hussein could make a martyr out of him, the PMOS said that we had repeatedly expressed our view on the death penalty. Ultimately, however, this was an issue for the Iraqi Government. It was encouraging that the Iraqi Prime Minister and other Iraqi Ministers had underlined that there would be a transparent judicial process. That was very different to the justice system under the previous regime. Asked if it was fair to say that despite his objections, the matter was out of the Prime Minister's hands, the PMOS said that we had made our position clear and the Iraqi Government was well aware of it. Asked to clarify the British Government's position, the PMOS said that we were opposed to the death penalty. However, its use was a matter for the sovereign Iraqi Government and the outcome of the judicial process. The important point, however, was the fact that a judicial process was actually taking place and that it would be transparent.
Asked the Prime Minister's view of today's tube strike, the PMOS said the Prime Minister believed that such strikes were unnecessary and should be resolved through proper talks between managers and the workforce. Asked if the Prime Minister was sympathetic to the idea of outlawing strike action on London Underground, the PMOS repeated that this was a matter which should be left to the management and workforce to sort out between themselves. It went without saying that strikes, such as the one today, served no purpose.
Asked for a reaction to reports suggesting that the Government was looking seriously at the possibility of banning smoking in public places, the PMOS said that a consultation on this issue was currently place and a White Paper was due out in the autumn. He had absolutely no intention of pre-empting the outcome of either.
Asked when the Butler Committee was due to report, the Prime Minister's Spokesman (PMS) said that the timing was a matter for the Committee, not for us. She referred journalists to the Cabinet Office for further detail.
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