Asked if the Prime Minister agreed with Ann Clwyd's view that it would have been better to try Saddam Hussein at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the Prime Minister's Spokesman (PMS) said that the Prime Minister was satisfied with the current arrangements. Saddam was being tried in Iraq by the Iraqi people. Put to her that the judicial process would have more legitimacy if the judge in Iraq had not been handpicked by the US, the PMS repeated that we were happy with the arrangements as they stood.
Asked for a reaction to Romano Prodi's comment that the UK's rebate belonged to a different period of European history, the PMS said that she hadn't seen Mr Prodi's remarks. That said, the position on Britain's EU rebate had not changed.
Stop and Search
Asked if the Prime Minister was concerned about the latest statistics which showed a rise in the number of Asians who had been targeted by police under the Government's stop-and-search policy, the PMS said that both Hazel Blears and Baroness Scotland had been expressing the views of the Prime Minister and the Government on this issue this morning. Our commitment to race equality was as strong as ever. The imbalance illustrated by the figures today was unacceptable. That was why the Home Office had decided to set up a new unit - the Stop and Search Action Team - which would look at how the powers were used. It would also work with police forces to address the concerns around this policy. Put to her that the police had pointed out that the increase was due to the fact that they had been instructed to do what they could to avoid terrorist actions in the UK, the PMS acknowledged that the powers under the Terrorism Act were linked in with today's figures. However, it was important to recognise that they were dealt with in a different way to stop-and-search powers. For example, section 44 of the Terrorism Act stated that permission had to be granted by a Chief Police Officer before an arrest was made in a specific operation that had been undertaken.
Asked if the Government perceived a renewed terror threat from Al Qaida to be credible and if so what extra measures would be taken to protect the UK, the PMS said that it wasn't our policy to discuss security issues. It went without saying that the terror threat was kept under review and we obviously took all the necessary measures to try to ensure that the country was protected.
Asked if we were any further forward on the return of our boats and navigation equipment which Iran had confiscated when the eight British servicemen had been detained, the PMS said that discussions about this issue were continuing at Diplomatic level.
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