The Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) advised journalists that the Prime Minister would be hosting a breakfast in Downing Street tomorrow morning at which he would outline the Government's strategy to tackle Aids in developing countries. Hilary Benn, adults and young people affected by Aids and the heads of key international agencies, including the Chief Executive of UNAIDS, Peter Piot, would also attend. A message would also be transmitted from Nelson Mandela as co-chair of the International Aids Trust. The Prime Minister would spell out how £1.5bn announced in the CSR would be spent on Aids and he would make clear how political will and leadership had to be teamed with financial commitment to tackle this issue. Aids would, of course, be the centrepiece of the UK's presidency of the G8 next year and the focus of the Commission for Africa which was launched by the Prime Minister in February. He would also announce £150m for Aids orphans and children made vulnerable by Aids, doubling the UK's contribution to the UN's Global Fund to fight Aids, taking the total to over £150m over two years. He would also make clear that the strategy would have a clear emphasis on care and treatment, as well as prevention. The Prime Minister would say tomorrow that, "Ignoring the issue of Aids is simply not an option. This is a tragedy that spans personal and global scales and it is appalling that life expectancy is some of the worst affected areas is falling back to pre-1950s levels. But this is not just about the millions of personal and family tragedies, appalling though these are. Already fragile economies are seeing their working age populations destroyed. Quite simply, we cannot hope to tackle poverty on a global scale without addressing Aids. Today's strategy will place Britain at the forefront of this response". The PMOS took the opportunity to point out that tomorrow morning's event had been timed to co-incide with the international conference on Aids in Bangkok.
Asked if a reshuffle was imminent, the PMOS said that his answer to the same question this morning had not changed. Put to him that if a reshuffle did not happen before the summer recess, it would 'become a major industry' between Thursday 22 July when Parliament was due to rise, and 6 September when it was due to return, the PMOS said that he had nothing to add to what he hadn't said before about this issue.
Asked if the appointment of the UK's EU Commissioner was linked to a reshuffle in the sense of timing, the PMOS said that as he had advised journalists on a number of occasions in the past, the deadline for a decision on Britain's EU Commissioner was the end of this month. That remained the position.
The Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) advised journalists that the Prime Minister would be hosting a sports reception in Downing Street this evening to celebrate grassroots and young talent as the future of sport and to reaffirm the Government's commitment to the 2012 Olympics bid. The guest list would include Sir Roger Bannister, Lord Coe, Steve Cram, Andrew Flintoff, Steve Harmison and Sven Goran Eriksson. Asked if the purpose of tonight's reception was to underline the Prime Minister's support for the bid in the light of the stories at the weekend, the PMOS pointed out that the reception had been arranged some time ago and was therefore not a response to the weekend reports. The Prime Minister remained very closely involved in the thinking around the bid and in promoting it. That would become even more obvious over time.
In answer to questions about the report in today's Times about Crossrail and the possibility that it could be completed in time for the 2012 Olympics were London to win the bid, the PMOS said that Alistair Darling would be making an announcement tomorrow which he had no intention of pre-empting, other than to advise journalists to treat the Times story with caution.
Home Office Five-Year Plan/Crime
In answer to questions about the launch of the Home Office's Five-Year plan, the PMOS said that as David Blunkett, Lord Falconer and the Attorney General had all underlined at last week's Cabinet, they detected a new feeling of change within the criminal justice system. As the Prime Minister would say in his speech today, in 1997 the criminal justice system had been the public service that had been "most unfit for purpose". In his view that was now changing. The Home Office's Five-Year plan was designed to drive that change through in all aspects of the criminal justice system, whether it was policing, in the powers which communities held or in the way we tackled offenders.
Asked about reports at the weekend suggesting that the Government was thinking of widening the existing council tax bands so that people living in bigger houses would pay more council tax, the PMOS said that it was important be clear where this story was coming from. A paper on this issue was due to be published tomorrow. However, it was a report to Government, not by Government. That meant that it contained no Government proposals other than a statement of existing Government policy on this issue. Any suggestion that we had opted for any particular course was plain wrong. As we had pointed out, coverage in the media yesterday had treated a proposal by an outside body as if it was either being put forward by the Government or had been endorsed by the Government. Neither was right. All the paper included was a range of options which needed to be examined in more detail. We were only at the start of the process. There was obviously much more thinking to be done on the issue.
Asked to comment on reports that Downing Street had been given an early version of the Butler Report and had subsequently altered the text of it before publication last week, the PMOS said that as we had told journalists at the weekend, there was only one Butler Report - and the final version of that was what had been given to the Prime Minister last Tuesday by Lord Butler. Asked if Downing Street had seen the part of the Report referring to the Prime Minister before last Tuesday and had suggested any changes, the PMOS said that it was not for us to discuss the processes of the Butler Inquiry. The final Report had been sent to the Prime Minister last Tuesday. That was the one and only Butler Report there was.
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