» Tuesday, October 26, 2004


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.

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


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.

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

» Monday, October 25, 2004

Prime Minister’s press conference

[This is the transcript of one of the Prime Minister's occasional press conferences; these are the words of the Prime Minister giving a statement and answering the questions of journalists. Unlike the PMOS's briefings, this is a more-or-less verbatim transcript of the Prime Minister's words. Such press conferences happen about once a month, and occasionally more often.]

Briefing took place at 17:45 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

ID Cards

Asked if the Prime Minister had been indicating in his press conference this morning that legislation on ID cards would be speeded up, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said he was not aware that the timetable had changed. Asked why the Prime Minister was so keen to introduce ID cards when, as he had noted this morning, it was much easier to forge them these days, the PMOS pointed out that one of the reasons why we were taking great care in terms of investigating the production of ID cards was because we wanted to develop the technology which would make it very difficult to forge them. The Prime Minister had been making the point this morning that it was relatively easy at present to forge identity using a variety of means. That was why we believed it was important to follow through on the ID issue following careful investigation.

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

Asylum and Immigration/Europe

Put to him that, despite what the Prime Minister had said in his press conference this morning, the shift to QMV would effectively mean that we would be giving up our power of veto, the PMOS said we wanted to ensure that Europe could not force any policy on us with which we did not agree. Under measures contained in the Treaty of Amsterdam, we were able to opt in to any European policy we were in favour of, whether it was asylum shopping or dealing with the problem of child pornography. In such cases, co-operation with our European partners clearly made sense. Conversely, we would not opt in to any policies which we believed were not beneficial, such as border police. Pressed as to whether the Prime Minister had been telling the truth this morning when he had stated that we were not giving up our power of veto, the PMOS said yes. As the Prime Minister had underlined, we were not giving up the veto over what affected us in this country. Asked if that meant we were willing to see a two-speed Europe in certain areas, the PMOS pointed out that this was already happening, for example with the Schengen Agreement. What mattered in the end was that we co-operated where it made sense to do so. Questioned as to whether Britain retained the ability to prevent the EU bringing forward policies on immigration and asylum, the PMOS said that if the EU decided to introduce an EU border police force for example, we had the right to decide not to be part of it. Asked if Britain could stop the policy being made in the first place because of the power of veto, the PMOS agreed that we could stop an all-EU border police policy. Asked if we would still be able to do so after April 2005, the PMOS said that we could refuse to be part of any such policy - in which case it would not be called - or be - an all-EU border police service. In answer to further questions, the PMOS said that it was important for people to understand that we did not have to agree to any EU policy with which we did not want to agree. On the other hand, where it made sense to co-operate with our EU partners, we would do so. For example, we had reached an agreement with France to bring forward joint measures which had resulted in the closure of Sangatte.

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

Black Watch

Asked to clarify the Prime Minister's remarks about the restructuring of the Scottish regiments, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister had been anxious not to spark another round of speculation in the Scottish press about this issue until the results of the review were known. In that vein, he had simply been asking journalists to exercise a little patience.

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


Asked if the Prime Minister was personally chairing meetings about the Gambling Bill, the PMOS said that he was not aware of any such meetings taking place. If he was being asked about reports at the weekend regarding Cabinet splits on this issue, he would simply refer journalists to individual Departments for full denials. Today the Prime Minister had been trying to convey the importance of maintaining a sense of perspective in this matter. He wanted people to understand that the Gambling Bill was predominantly about regulating the industry more tightly and closing down gaming machines located in places such as chip shops and taxi ranks. In addition, it was about recognising the reality that this was an industry which already existed in the UK and was a fact of life. In our view, rather than banning it, it was better to introduce more modern regulation. Indeed, one of the primary tasks of the Gambling Commission was to ensure the protection of the vulnerable. Questioned about the possible proliferation of casinos, the PMOS said the industry had estimated that there would only be a maximum increase of between 20-40 casinos where local authorities gave their permission. Put to him that the Gambling Bill would increase the incidence of problem gambling, the PMOS said that an assessment had been made, backed up by Gamcare, suggesting that there was no reason why there should be any significant increase in gambling-related problems as a result of a better regulated industry of the kind we were proposing.

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

» Friday, October 22, 2004


Asked if additional British forces would be deployed once Black Watch's tour of duty was over, the Prime Minister's Spokesman (PMS) said that the Chief-of-the-Defence Staff, General Sir Michael Walker, had made the position clear during his interview on the Today Programme this morning. Put to her that both the Prime Minister and the Defence Secretary had underlined that the deployment of Black Watch would be a specific time-limited operation, the PMS again drew journalists' attention to General Sir Michael Walker's interview this morning in which he had said, "The activities may not have ceased but we can certainly be certain to remove the Black Watch from the task". Asked if the General had been indicating that other British troops would be sent to the area to replace Black Watch, the PMS said no. The General had been trying to be helpful by answering a hypothetical question and had simply been making the point that such a scenario could occur if it was considered necessary. Asked from where the additional troops would come, the PMS cautioned journalists against getting too ahead of themselves. The past few days had seen endless rounds of questions about Black Watch. Now that we had an answer, journalists wanted more. It was important to take things one step at a time. Put to her that General Walker had said that the resources would be found if there was a need to replace troops, the PMS pointed out that the General had also gone on to say that they would be found within the Multi-National Force. She advised journalists to look at his words carefully, as well as the comments of the Prime Minister and the Defence Secretary from this week. In answer to further questions, the PMS pointed out that Black Watch hadn't even been deployed yet. We were straying into hypothetical territory which wasn't at all helpful to anyone. Asked if it was reasonable for MPs to assume that they had been given the impression that Black Watch had been deployed for a specific time-limited operation, the PMS said that she was unable to comment on what MPs might or might not think about this issue.

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

Clare Short

Asked if Clare Short was telling the truth in today's Independent, the PMS said that as she had told journalists last week, she wasn't going to comment on Ms Short's book as it wasn't her job to get involved in any publicity drive on her behalf. Put to her that Ms Short had made a serious claim, the PMS repeated that she had no intention of commenting on her book, or any other book for that matter. Asked if that meant that she would pass comment if Ms Short made the claim in another forum, the PMS said no. Ms Short had also made her claim in a television interview last week and we had declined to comment then as well.

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


Asked for a reaction to a report in today's Times which claimed that Thomas Baker, the chairman of International Game Technology (IGT), the world's largest slot-machine manufacturer, had met with officials in Downing Street earlier this year prior to the publication of the Gambling Bill, the PMS said that it wasn't our policy to comment on individual meetings. That said, it was fair to say that officials would have obviously met people from all sides of the argument, which was a perfectly normal state of affairs. Those meetings would have included representatives from gambling companies, charities and any other interested parties. Asked whom Mr Baker had met in Downing Street, the PMS repeated that it wasn't our policy to brief on every single meeting that took place. Suffice it to say that Mr Baker had not met the Prime Minister.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (2)

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