Asked the Prime Minister's reaction to the news that DJ John Peel had died, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that the Prime Minister was genuinely saddened by the news. He believed that John Peel was a genuine one-off. Whether on Radio 1 or Radio 4, he was a unique voice in British broadcasting who had used that voice to unearth new talent and different subjects and make them accessible to a much wider audience. The Prime Minister knew that he would be missed by everyone.
Asked to comment on Peers' apparent readiness to consider a compromise on the issue of hunting, the PMOS said that the Hunting Bill was being debated in the House of Lords today. We would wait and see what the outcome would be. As he had told journalists this morning, the Prime Minister thought that the compromise option proposed by Alun Michael had been a way forward. However, he recognised that the issue would be put to a free vote and that the House of Lords was entitled to come to its own conclusions. Asked to explain how a compromise could be agreed when the issue was about whether to ban hunting with dogs or not, the PMOS said that the compromise approach put forward by Mr Michael involved licensing the sport. We had seen what the reaction of the House of Commons had been. We were now awaiting the outcome of discussions in the House of Lords. We would take the issue one stage at a time. Asked if the Prime Minister would be prepared to vote this time for the Alun Michael compromise if it returned to the House, the PMOS said that he did not think it would be helpful to speculate about what might or might not happen. He had simply been reminding journalists what the Prime Minister's position was on the this issue. Put to him that the Prime Minister's position was clear inasmuch as he hadn't bothered to vote on the issue in the past, the PMOS repeated that we would wait and see how things panned out. There was no point engaging in speculation at this stage.
Asked if the Prime Minister supported the right of MEPs to block the appointment of a member of the new European Commission, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that the Prime Minister, together with other European leaders, supported European Commission President-elect Barroso whom the European Council had appointed unanimously to the post in July. The Prime Minister had obviously been in contact with Mr Barroso to discuss recent developments and fully supported his efforts to achieve a resolution. Ultimately, however, this was a matter primarily for the European Commission and European Parliament to sort out. Asked if the Prime Minister supported the appointment of Rocco Buttiglione of Italy as a European Commissioner, the PMOS said that this was a matter for Mr Barroso and the European Parliament. He had nothing further to say about the matter.
Asked if the Prime Minister had any plans next week to promote the Middle East peace process in the light of the Knesset vote today on the Israeli Prime Minister's disengagement plan and the forthcoming US presidential elections, the PMOS said that it was important to allow the Knesset vote and US elections to take place on their own terms. However, as the Prime Minister had been emphasising for some time, he remained committed personally to regaining momentum in the Middle East peace process and to trying to push it forward. As he had underlined many times, it was important to move forward in a way which both reassured Israel about its security and recognised the legitimate aspiration of the Palestinians.
Asked what the Prime Minister's reaction would be if Peers voted to adopt the so-called 'middle way' option on hunting, the PMOS said that the Hunting Bill was going through its committee stage in the House of Lords today. We awaited the outcome with interest. The Prime Minister had never hidden his view that it would be better for a compromise to be agreed. As we had been underlining from the outset, however, it was a matter for a free vote and that remained the position. Asked if it remained the Government's intention to invoke the Parliament Act were the Lords to defy the view of the Commons, the PMOS repeated that the House of Lords was debating the matter today and it would not be helpful to pre-empt what the outcome of those discussions might be.
Asked if the Prime Minister had been indicating yesterday that forty was the cap on the number of new casinos which would be allowed under the measures contained in the Gambling Act, the PMOS said that a combination of the licensing system, planning applications which would have to be granted and an estimate from the industry itself suggested to us that there would be a maximum of forty new casinos as a result of the Bill. That was the figure on which we were basing our proposals. Asked if the Government would act were the figure to exceed forty, the PMOS reminded journalists that it wasn't his policy to respond to hypothetical questions. That said, it was important for people to recognise that the figure had emerged from the industry itself. Taking that into account, together with the licensing system and planning applications which would have to be granted, it was also one with which we agreed.
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