» Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Fox Hunting

Asked what the Prime Minister thought of the protesting outside Parliament, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that when the Prime Minister met representatives of the pro hunt organisations in his constituency last Friday, and again at Chequers, he had underlined that he recognised that there were strong emotions on all sides of this debate. He had also recognised there was a legitimate right to peaceful protest, but the emphasis had to be on peaceful protest. It was for others to judge whether that criteria has been met or not.

Briefing took place at 15:45 | Read whole briefing | Comments (18)

Prime Minister Allawi visit

The Prime Minister's official spokesperson (PMOS) announced that this would happen on Sunday morning at Downing Street.

Briefing took place at 15:45 | Read whole briefing | Comments (2)

Cabinet Meeting

The PMOS said that Peter Hain updated colleagues on the events of yesterday and the events in the House. He said it was fair to say that deep concern within the Cabinet had been expressed. It was obviously a matter for the House but it had been agreed that lessons must be learned.

Briefing took place at 15:45 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

Olympics

The PMOS made a number of points. Tessa Jowell made clear her view, which was underlined by Lord Sebastian Coe, that this bid was winnable and that today's Cabinet meeting had been designed to show the underlying support for the bid right across government. Lord Coe gave a very impressive presentation and underlined there would be a clear legacy for the UK as a whole if we won the bid. He (Lord Coe) reiterated that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity for the UK, and said he did not envisage this opportunity coming again for decades. The Prime Minister, responding to the presentation, praised the technical quality of the bid, which he believed was superior to that of others, but he underlined that the country, and London as a whole, had now to show it was passionately behind the bid in the coming weeks and months.

Briefing took place at 15:45 | Read whole briefing | Comments (3)

House Security

Asked if Cabinet had discussed what lessons needed to be learnt from yesterday and if there were plans to ban protesting from close proximity to the House, the PMOS said that members of the Cabinet had been very conscious of the fact that there was an enquiry under way and that that enquiry was first and foremost the responsibility of the House authorities. Clearly there would be input from the Government when asked by the House authorities, but that enquiry must be allowed to take place. In terms of demonstrations in Parliament Square, that was the responsibility of a mixture of authorities, Westminster Council and the Highway Agency included, and therefore any discussions should be with them.

Briefing took place at 15:45 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

Hunting vote

Asked if the Prime Minister had not voted because of security reasons, the PMOS said the Prime Minister had not voted because he had had other business to attend to. It was up to individual MPs in a free vote to vote whichever way they wished to.

Briefing took place at 15:45 | Read whole briefing | Comment (1)

Iraq

Asked about comments by the Secretary General of the UN, the PMOS made reference to the Attorney General's statement on July 14, where he said that "my view is that military action taken in Iraq was lawful. That was my independent view at the time and it is still my view. The Government has acted in accordance with my advice at all times." Prime Minister Allawi had said earlier in the week that the violence in Iraq had obviously been disturbing and it was obvious that if that was the only picture of Iraq as a whole, people would question whether things can go forward. Prime Minister Allawi said Iraq was not dominated by that violence and therefore what they were working for, against a tight time deadline, was to have elections in January and that they were determined to do so. What the terrorists wanted was to stop democracy in its tracks in Iraq. All evidence from Iraq showed there was a desire, a real hunger, for Iraqis, without intimidation, to choose their own representatives.

Briefing took place at 15:45 | Read whole briefing | Comment (1)

Fox Hunting

Asked how the Prime Minister would be voting on the issue of fox hunting later today, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said he thought it was important to put today's events into context. The Government had been trying for seven years to find a middle way to resolve this issue. However, it was clear that attempts to do so had not succeeded. Nevertheless, two manifesto commitments had been given to let Parliament resolve the issue and the Government was determined to live up to them. As we had underlined from the outset, it was up to individual MPs to exercise their free vote in the House. If the issue was raised during PMQs today, no doubt the Prime Minister, who was an MP just like any other, would take the opportunity to make his voting intentions clear. Asked if he was really suggesting that journalists were not entitled to know how the Prime Minister was planning on voting, the PMOS said he thought it was more appropriate for the House to be informed first. There wasn't long to wait. He added that the Prime Minister had not changed his view on fox hunting. Put to him that if the Prime Minister was committed to fulfilling his manifesto pledges, a ban on fox hunting would be brought in within three months rather than delayed for two years, the PMOS said the Prime Minister believed that the delay was important both to give those involved time to adjust to the new situation and also to give voters a chance to express their own views, should they want to, at a General Election. The Government had committed itself to resolving the issue of fox hunting within this Parliament. In the Prime Minister's view that commitment had to be respected, despite the fact that it hadn't been possible to find a way through. Asked if he was 'seriously suggesting' that the Prime Minister believed that fox hunting should become the main issue in a General Election, the PMOS pointed out that the purpose of General Elections was to allow voters to express their views on any matter.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (4)

PM/Lord Bragg

Asked if John Reid had been confirming in an interview this morning that the Prime Minister had been under a great deal of stress earlier this year, the PMOS observed that any Prime Minister experienced tough times while in office. That was a fact of political life. However, as he had made clear yesterday, he did not recognise the stories being reported and had nothing further to say about the matter. Asked why he didn't say that the stories were 'not true' as John Reid had underlined this morning, the PMOS referred journalists to the Prime Minister's words when asked about this matter in his July press conference. Had he considered moving on? Answer: no. End of story. Put to him that there was a difference between not recognising a story and saying it was untrue, the PMOS said he thought journalists were able to understand what he meant when he used that particular term. Moreover, one would think that the Prime Minister's words would carry more weight than his own.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (3)

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