» Friday, September 10, 2004


Asked if the Chancellor had been suggesting in his FT article today that the under performance of the Eurozone meant that British membership of the single currency was 'off the radar' for the foreseeable future, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said no. It was important to see the Chancellor's remarks in the right context. Both he, the Prime Minister and other Government Ministers had long made clear the case for reform in Europe. That was, in part, why we were so pleased that the new European Commission and Commission President had committed themselves to the Lisbon agenda since reform was very important for the future of Europe. To read anything more into the Chancellor's words would be a mistake. Asked to explain how the European Commission could be committed to reform when its budget was due to rise by 30% - something which the Chancellor had called 'unacceptable', the PMOS said that he had been referring to the incoming Commission and the attitude of Commission President-elect Barroso in terms of pushing the reform agenda forward. We had made it clear in the past that we did not believe that the proposed budget increase was right. In our view, Europe had to live within the appropriate budget constraints. However, that had to be achieved at the same time as pushing forward the reform agenda, which would involve changes in areas such as CAP.

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

Alan Milburn

Asked why the taxpayer would be footing the bill for Alan Milburn's salary, the PMOS said that as the Cabinet Secretary had underlined last night, "Alan Milburn's position as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster covers co-ordination of Government policy and oversight of the Strategy Unit and Policy Directorate in the Cabinet Office. He is a member of the Cabinet and will also sit on a number of Cabinet Committees. These are Government functions and therefore rightly paid for by the Government". The PMOS took the opportunity to remind journalists of the sort of work carried out by the Strategy Unit. For example, it had recently published reports on managing offenders, the alcohol harm reduction strategy and the London project. All were clearly Government matters. Consequently, the role of overseeing and supervising strategic reviews and the development of policy in such major areas was clearly a Government function.

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

Northern Ireland

Asked if the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach would discuss options for a Plan B at their meeting today in the event of a failure of the talks at Leeds Castle next week, the PMOS said that the first priority today was Plan A - to address the items that had been on the agenda for two years, namely a complete end to paramilitarism, decommissioning, a clear commitment to an inclusive Government and resolving issues such as policing. These were things that were not going to change. Consequently, we believed that the ingredients were there for a deal at Leeds Castle. The main emphasis of today's meeting would be on working towards achieving an agreement. At the same time, the Prime Minister believed it was right to signal to the parties and the people of Northern Ireland that these were issues which could not be put off indefinitely. They had to be resolved. Therefore if Leeds castle did not work we would need to look at what the alternative was to keep the process going because, as the Prime Minister had been emphasising constantly, of the evident dangers of a political vacuum.

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

Fox Hunting

Asked the Prime Minister's reaction to the pro-fox hunting demonstration which had taken place outside his home in his constituency earlier today, the PMOS pointed out that the Prime Minister had met a delegation from the protest to discuss the issue this morning. He understood perfectly that this was a subject about which many people - on both sides - felt strongly. At the same time, it was a matter for a free vote in the House. In his opinion, people had every right to demonstrate their views, as long as it was done in a peaceful manner. He had been pleased to meet the delegation this morning and they, in turn, had told him that they wanted the demonstration to remain peaceful.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (44)


Asked for a reaction to a report in today's Guardian suggesting that the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) was due to publish a report shortly in which they would conclude that no WMD had been found in Iraq, the PMOS said he thought it would be best to wait until the report was actually published before commenting on any speculation about it. The timing of publication and the contents were all matters for Mr Charles Duelfer, the head of the ISG. We would not be passing comment until we had seen a published text. Asked if he was implying that the Prime Minister had not yet seen a copy of the report, the PMOS said that as he understood it, the report was still being drafted.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (14)


Asked if it was the practice of the Prime Minister and Mrs Blair to make a private contribution when hosting private parties at Chequers, the PMOS said it went without saying that the normal procedures and rules were adhered to. He referred journalists to the Cabinet Office for further detail.

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

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