Asked again if Parliament would be given an opportunity to vote on a decision to deploy British troops to the Sunni triangle, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that it was common practice to inform Parliament about operational matters. This was something which Parliament was well used to. As the Prime Minister had said today, it was important to allow the military to make its own assessment of the situation on the ground. Constantly debating operational decisions in public would only help the terrorists who were obviously studying our every move. In answer to further questions, the PMOS said that it was important to follow the proper procedures. A recce was taking place in Iraq this week. This would be followed by an examination of its conclusions in consultation with the view of the military commanders on the ground. Only after that would the MoD make its own assessment.
Asked about the Gambling Bill which had been published today, the PMOS said that the Bill would shut down gambling machines in some six thousand premises such as taxi ranks and shops. Restrictions would also be placed on internet and other forms of gambling. The Bill would create a situation whereby local councils could decide whether to expand the number of casinos. Even then, we did not envisage a huge increase. One hundred and thirty casinos existed at the moment. We estimated that there would only be twenty to forty more once the Bill had been passed. Asked if the Prime Minister was concerned about the deleterious effects that the Gambling Bill might have on people and certain areas of the country, the PMOS said the question was based on the premise that the Bill would result in a massive expansion in gambling. On the contrary. It would control gambling by making it more regulated. In our view, that was a responsible way forward. Asked if the Prime Minister was pleased with the delight with which large Las Vegas gambling organisations had greeted the proposals, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister had no intention of acting as a commentator on the views of others. He believed that gambling was part of the fabric of British society which people had accepted for some time. In his view, it should continue to take place, but in a regulated and licensed way. Asked if that meant the Prime Minister was unconcerned that the Bill might bring about a net expansion in the number of problem gamblers in the UK, the PMOS pointed out that similar predictions had been made when the National Lottery was first introduced - predictions which had clearly not been borne out.
In answer to questions about British troop deployments in Iraq, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) underlined the point that the request had come through the military net. It went without saying that it would have to be thoroughly investigated - hence the recce in Iraq today. Its purpose was to examine in detail the request that had been put forward and consider any implications which might stem from it. The conclusions of the recce team would then be considered and would determine our response. In the meantime, it was important for people to recognise that no decision had been taken at this point. That was why it would not be helpful to get drawn into a speculative discussion about what the outcome might be, when it might be discussed further and by whom. Put to him that the recce couldn't be all that detailed if it was aiming to report back by the end of the week, the PMOS cautioned journalists against pre-judging the outcome of the expedition. We would wait and see what the recce team's conclusions were and consider them carefully. Questioned further, the PMOS pointed out that the request had come though the military net and was therefore not something which had been sprung on the military as of twenty-four hours ago. We would await the outcome of the recce and then consider where we went from here. Asked to clarify how the request had been made and what the input of the US had been, the PMOS said that the usual discussions between the Coalition partners would have taken place, as would be expected. The Multi-National Force had also been working with the Iraqi Interim Government through the National Security Council in Baghdad on which we were represented at deputy level. Thus the normal procedures would have been followed.
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