Asked if the Prime Mininster had made any plans to meet David Blunkett over the next 24 hours, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that he did not brief on ministerial meetings.
The Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that today's figures showed that unemployment was at a thirty year low. This meant the UK had the highest employment rate in the G7. Unemployment was approximately half that of Germany and France and long-term youth unemployment was virtually eradicated. One person had got a job every two minutes since may 1997.
Alan Budd Inquiry
Asked if there was any more information available about the Budd inquiry the PMOS said, as he had yesterday, that it was his hunch that the Budd inquiry would come next week, that remained his hunch, but the timing of the report remained a matter for the Budd Inquiry. Asked if there was any possibility of further guidance the PMOS said that we did not want to do anything that made things not look like the reality, which was that we did not want to pressurize Sir Alan in any way. We wanted Alan Budd to decide the timing, the content and his modus operandi as such it would be wrong for the Government to be doing anything that pre-empted that in a any way.
In response to the suggestion that there now seemed to be questions surrounding David Blunkett's state of mind following his singing at the PLP meeting the PMOS said that the Prime Minister still had absolute confidence in the Home Secretary and that if there were a ban on singing we would all be in trouble.
Mental Capacity Bill
Asked if the PMOS could explain what would happen next with the Mental Capacity Bill and the feeling about how it was handled the PMOS said he would like to make a more general point first. People recognised, as was reflected in some of yesterday's broadcast coverage, that this was a serious issue in which people did have a range of opinions. There was a need for clarification. The voices that we heard from yesterday, such as patients and leading charities, actually reflected the issues the Bill was trying to address. There were also concerns raised by the Catholic Church and others about the nature of this Bill and the Government felt it was right to address what we believed to be misconceptions about the Bill. This was what was going on yesterday, as encapsulated in the exchange of letters between the Lord Chancellor and the Archbishop of Cardiff. It was always difficult in circumstances where you had a fluid situation in a Parliamentary occasion that went for a set time and was not fluid. Therefore the Minister concerned was obviously operating in a difficult environment, one which when you were in this seat you had a certain sympathy for. As to what would happen next the assurances given by The Lord Chancellor would obviously be reflected in the amendments given in the House of Lords.
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