Asked where the Prime Minister was holidaying this summer, the Prime Minister' Spokesman (PMS) said that he was in Barbados, having arrived there last night. Asked if the Deputy Prime Minister was in charge while the Prime Minister was away, the PMS said that the Deputy Prime Minister would carry out his traditional role over the summer while the Prime Minister was out of the country. As she had been telling journalists for the last five summers, the Prime Minister continued to be the Prime Minister, even while he was abroad. The Deputy Prime Minister would look after things on a day-to-day basis in his absence. Asked for how long the Prime Minister would be away, the PMS said that it wasn't our policy to comment on the Prime Minister's travel schedule.
Asked if the Prime Minister had been involved in the sacking of John Morrison, the PMS said no. She underlined that it was important to be clear what this story was all about. John Morrison had been working as a contractor in the Cabinet Office for the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC). He had worked for the ISC for over five years on a part-time basis. His contract was due to end in October this year. Whilst continuing with its current work, the ISC did not plan to appoint a new investigator. Asked if she was indicating that Mr Morrison had not, in fact, been sacked, the PMS said she was simply pointing out that his contract was coming to an end. Asked to explain how the ISC was intending to operate without a replacement for Mr Morrison, the PMS said that operational matters were entirely a matter for the ISC. The Committee had decided not to replace Mr Morrison when his contract came to an end in October. Asked if she would agree that the treatment of Mr Morrison underlined the fact that the ISC was not really a Parliamentary Committee but a 'creature' of the Cabinet Office and the Prime Minister, the PMS said no. It was entirely up to the ISC to decide how to run its operations. Asked repeatedly on what grounds it had been decided that Mr Morrison should not be replaced, the PMS said that the ISC had decided they did not want to appoint a new investigator. It was up to them to decide how to carry out their work.
Prime Minister’s press conference
[This is the transcript of one of the Prime Minister's occasional press conferences; these are the words of the Prime Minister giving a statement and answering the questions of journalists. Unlike the PMOS's briefings, this is a more-or-less verbatim transcript of the Prime Minister's words. Such press conferences happen about once a month, and occasionally more often.]
Prime Minister’s Questions
[ Yesterday, the Prime Minister answered questions from MPs in the House of Commons. You can read and comment on his answers at TheyWorkForYou.com. ]
Asked if an announcement on Britain's new EU Commissioner would be made tomorrow, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that an announcement would be made when a final decision had been taken. He reminded journalists that we had until the end of the month to make the appointment. Pressed further on this issue, the PMOS said that it was important to abide by the usual conventions both in terms of the way we operated in Downing Street and in Europe. Asked if he was indicating that we would have to notify the European Parliament and they would have to give their consent, the PMOS pointed out that the new President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, had had to go through such a procedure today. Asked if it was right to say that that the European Parliament needed to accept or reject the entire European Commission rather than individual Commissioners, the PMOS said yes. Put to him that the UK didn't need the all-clear from Brussels to put forward its nominee, the PMOS said that there were normal courtesies to be observed by all EU member states in respect of the Commission President whom it was usual to inform about nominees. This was usually done through a discussion, which in this case had not yet taken place. Asked if the Prime Minister had spoken to Mr Barroso today, the PMOS said no. Nor was he aware of any plans for him to do so today at this stage. Asked if it was too late for a 'writ' for a by-election to be put down today, the PMOS said that he had no intention of getting drawn into a hypothetical discussion about this issue.
Asked if he could rule out a reshuffle today, the PMOS said that it wasn’t our policy to respond to reshuffle questions. That said, he thought journalists could relax for the rest of the day. Asked about the possibility of a reshuffle tomorrow, the PMOS said that tomorrow was another day. Put [...]
Asked if the Prime Minister had spoken to Kofi Annan today, the PMOS said that they were due to speak this evening. The Prime Minister had been talking to people about the situation in Darfur on a daily basis. As he had told journalists in his press conference this morning, the UK was taking a serious interest in what was going on there in the light of Hilary Benn's visit to the region in June and the fact that the UK was the biggest cash donor. The US was also heavily involved inasmuch as they were the biggest donors of food-aid. We were continuing to talk to our European partners about how the EU as a whole could help the situation, particularly in terms of assisting the African Union in the deployment of a ceasefire monitoring mechanism. As the Prime Minister had told journalists this morning, there was no doubt that this was a serious situation. However, it was important to take things stage by stage. We were doing all that we could. We wanted the rest of the world to follow our example.
Asked how he would reconcile the UK's position at the UN on Israel's barrier and the Prime Minister's comments about it today, the PMOS said that as we had made clear consistently, we believed the barrier should not be built on occupied land. Equally, however, we had made it plain that Israel had genuine security concerns which the Palestinians needed to address. We wanted to see a situation in which increased security on the Palestinian side would give the Israelis the reassurance they needed to allow them to take the appropriate action to move the barrier. This was clearly a complicated situation. Put to him that in that case the UK should not have voted in favour of the UN Resolution yesterday, the PMOS said that he would disagree. As he saw it, the Resolution was entirely compatible with our position on the barrier.
Asked if he would agree that the Deputy Prime Minister had misled the Government and the public in the light of his decision today to postpone referendums in two out of the three proposed areas for regional assemblies, the PMOS said no. The Deputy Prime Minister had informed Ministers about his decision and he had been fully supported by the Prime Minister and his colleagues who believed it was a sensible way forward in the light of the issues relating to postal voting which had been identified and which the Electoral Commission would address in its report on the all-postal pilots in August.
Asked if there might be a reshuffle later this evening, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) declined to comment on any reshuffle question other than to say that we could all be reasonably relaxed for the rest of the day. Asked if that meant that journalists could go off to parties and not worry, the PMOS said that answer to the first part of the question was yes, if they wanted. He was unable to answer the second part.
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