» Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Tsunami Figures

The Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) told journalists the latest casualty figures for the Tsunami in South East Asia. So far 274 UK citizens were presumed to be victims, 53 of which had been confirmed dead. 360 are unaccounted for in the region, both figures are down from yesterday. Asked why these figures were being revised the PMOS said that the process of identification was inevitably slow after a certain point. We had passed that point some time ago. It did take time for the relevant tests to be done, which was why casualties were gradually being confirmed. Overall however, whilst the figures were still horrific, they were still going down and that was worth noting.

Briefing took place at 15:45 | Read whole briefing | Comments (2)


Asked to explain the Prime Minister's statement at PMQs that British troops would remain in Iraq until Iraq could look after its own security, the PMOS said that as he had said this morning and has the Government had been saying since April of last year, it depended on the process of Iraqisation and how that developed. That was proceeding at a good pace, there was increased capability as well as numbers, but it was a case of making the right judgements at the right time. Primarily that would not be a judgment for the UK government but for the new democratic Iraqi Government.

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

Alleged Abuse

Asked if the Army might not take a pro-active approach in discovering cases of abuse by its troops, or a further investigation of events at Camp "Breadbasket" the PMOS said that there was a danger in getting drawn into a reply on that since there could be an implicit assumption about the outcome of this particular case. That said whenever these allegations had emerged last year the army had specifically asked anyone with any knowledge of abuse to come forward and said that any allegations would be investigated. So the army had been pro-active in that regard. It had not just sat back and waited for newspapers or other third parties to publish pictures or allegations. It had actively encouraged people to come forward with allegations and there were now seven cases being investigated including the incident at Camp Breadbasket, which was not to prejudge the outcome of those investigations in any way. Asked when the Prime Minister first knew about the photographs and their content, the PMOS said that he was not aware that the Prime Minister saw the pictures before the rest of the world, and it would have been wrong for him to have done so since they were evidence before a court. Put to him that it had been alleged that this had been one of the things which had made the Prime Minister depressed in the autumn, the PMOS said that Downing Street had contacted the journalist who had made that allegation and made it clear that it was wrong.

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


The Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) briefed journalists on the latest update for the victims involved in the tsunami disaster. The figures were 274 in Category 1 (down from 299), with 53 confirmed dead, and 360 people were unaccounted for (down from 413 yesterday). Asked why people were still being briefed each day on the figures, when they were on the FCO website, the PMOS said he thought it was important as the figures were constantly changing, and it was vital to underline where the figures were each day.

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

24 Hour Licensing

Asked if there was definitely going to be a levy imposed with regards to 24 hour licensing, as Charles Clarke had said this morning, the PMOS said discussions were continuing with ACPO, the industry, the DCMS and the Home Office. A decision had not yet been reached, but it was coming to a close.

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

Abuse Photographs

Asked what the Prime Minister's view was on the release of photographs, the PMOS replied that like Sir General Mike Jackson, he could not risk an ongoing judicial process by commenting on the cases in any way. What he could say, however, and as he had said in the past where his view was very clear, was any kind of abuse was unacceptable and would not be tolerated. What was important was the activities of all those who had served in Iraq should not judged by allegation against a few. It was the activity of the majority of soldiers that should be recognised, while at the same time, making it clear not only within the Army, the country and more widely that abuse of any kind would not be tolerated.

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


Asked what the timetable was after the elections to withdraw British troops from Iraq, the PMOS said as people knew already, UK troops, like all coalition troops were stationed in Iraq at the request of the interim Government. The position after the elections would be the same. What had always been made clear was that we would not stay any longer than the Iraqi Government wanted us to. Equally, for that to happen, the Iraqi Government needed to be in a position where it could defend itself against terrorism. He added that 14.3 million people were registered to vote in the upcoming elections which said something about the opportunity for the Iraqi people to not only have a say in their own affairs, but also a say in the Iraqi Government, who in turn, would be able to determine how long the troops would stay in their country.

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

Racial Equality

Asked if the strategy launched today was another example of public servants being displaced from front line carers to "bureaucratic form fillers" instead, the PMOS said it was important to recognise the importance of racial equality issues, and not to regard them as an add-on. Enormous progress had been made over the past 7 years to open up opportunities for all, but even more must be done so everyone had an equal chance of promotion.

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

African Detainees

Asked if there was any further information on the North African detainees currently in Belmarsh prison being returned to their countries, the PMOS said discussions were ongoing, but he was not going to provide a running commentary on it.

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

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