Progressive Governance Summit
Asked if the Prime Minister had made a speech at the Progressive Governance Summit in Budapest this afternoon, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that, as he had advised journalists this morning, the Prime Minister had made some remarks. Asked if the text was available, the PMOS said not as far as he was aware since the Prime Minister had not spoken from a script.
Asked if Cabinet had discussed the circumstances surrounding the murder of Ken Bigley this morning, the PMOS said no. As he had told journalists earlier in the week, the picture was still confused about the events leading up to Mr Bigley's murder. This morning Cabinet had taken the opportunity to express their respect for the way the Bigley family had handled the whole situation. Asked if an investigation into what had happened was taking place, the PMOS said it was a statement of the obvious that those who knew what had happened were not those who were likely to talk to us about it.
Asked about the report on gambling in today's Times, the PMOS said that the paper had managed to get the story the wrong way round. As he understood it, the new regime would result in gambling machines in six thousand fewer premises than at present because we were taking them out of shops, taxi ranks and the like where children were able to play on them. Instead, gambling machines would be concentrated in betting shops, casinos and a small number of other arcades which would be tightly licensed by local authorities. The PMOS referred journalists to DCMS for further detail about this issue.
Asked if the Prime Minister agreed with Peter Mandelson's comment that any future conflict should be legitimised by the international community, the PMOS reminded journalists that Mr Mandelson was no longer a member of the British Government and, in his new role as European Commissioner, spoke for himself. As we had made clear yesterday, we would of course have preferred to have obtained a second UN Resolution on Iraq and for the UN to have been part of the response to Saddam Hussein. Indeed, the reason why we had put so much effort into obtaining Resolution 1441 was precisely because we had wanted the UN to be involved in Iraq. As we had made clear at the time, we had wanted to see the UN involved in addressing the issue rather than avoiding it. It was therefore unfortunate, in our view, that we had been unable to obtain a second UN Resolution. Asked if we would take the same action in the future were the UN again to refuse to get involved in a similar issue, the PMOS said he did not think it would be helpful to get drawn into a hypothetical discussion about such matters. All he would point out was that the UN was now playing a role in Iraq, for example by assisting in the preparations for the elections next year, the process of which, according to a report which had been published today, was well under way. The role the UN had played in the Afghanistan elections had also been very important and should not be under-estimated.
Progressive Governance Summit
Asked about the Progressive Governance Summit in Budapest which the Prime Minister was attending today, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister was expected to make some short remarks rather than a speech. Contrary to reports this morning, he would not talk about Iraq and nor was Iraq on the Summit's agenda. The discussions that would take place would be informal and would be wide-ranging, covering issues such as globalisation, trade, the environment (for example climate change), peace and security and organised crime. It would also give those attending an opportunity to compare notes on approaches to domestic reform agendas, such as the reform of public services. From our point of view, the Summit was particularly useful as it would allow us to begin preparations for building a consensus for our priorities during our Presidencies of the EU and the G8 next year, with a particular emphasis on climate change and Africa regarding the latter.
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