» Thursday, January 20, 2005

Mr. Yuschenko

Asked if the Prime Minister haD spoken to Mr. Yuschenko today in order to congratulate him on the Supreme Court's ruling the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) replied: no. Pressed further on whether congratulations had been sent, the PMOS said thee would have been communication through the normal channels.

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

Court Martial

Asked if the Prime Minister felt he had been given wrong advice from the Speaker regarding the court martial, the PMOS said the judge's comments recognised that the Prime Minister had to respond to questions. What the Prime Minister did do was expressed his remarks in a general, rather than a particular way, having consulted the Speaker's office beforehand to ensure we all had the same legal understanding. Equally, we recognised that we had to be very careful about what was said, and hoped everyone who was involved took note of what the judge had said.

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

David Blunkett’s House

Asked if David Blunkett would be staying in his house indefinitely, due to security reasons, the PMOS said "indefinitely" was a very big word. It was no unusual in the past for a transition period to occur in similar cases. The situation had not changed since the last time he was asked the same question last week. As for timescales, given there were security issues, the PMOS said he would not go into any further details.

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

Northern Ireland

Asked if there were any plans for the Prime Minister to meet the Sinn Fein leadership in the coming weeks. The PMOS replied that as we had already indicated last week, they would meet at some point and the purpose of the meeting would be to deliver a very simple message: there could be no deal with Republicans, and no point in negotiating with Republicans unless there was an end to both criminal and paramilitary activity. That was the message that the Prime Minister had delivered for the past 2½ years and that was the message the Prime Minister believed. As the Prime Minister had said in the House of Commons yesterday, if that message was not going to be acted on, then it inevitably meant we needed to think about other ways. The Prime Minister believed it was better to deliver the message to Sinn Fein so there was no misunderstanding at all.

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

24 Licensing

Asked if there were going to be any further meetings on 24 hour Licensing, the PMOS said he thought it would be a short time before people knew what the outcome was, and would therefore not have long to wait. He did not want to pre-empt any announcements.

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

Injured Servicemen

Asked if the Prime Minister or any other Ministers had plans to visit servicemen injured in Iraq, the PMOS reminded journalists that Geoff Hoon had visited Selly Oak in the early stages of the Iraq operation. He had also visited the hospital at Shaibah in theatre, most recently in December. Senior military personnel had also made a number of visits. Asked if the Prime Minister thought it was acceptable for the Defence Secretary to defend his failure to visit more inured troops by minimalising the injuries as minor and commenting that some of the injuries were caused by road traffic accidents and sports, the PMOS said that he had not seen the precise comments by the Defence Secretary but while it was a fact that some of the injuries were fairly minor, there were 790 cases of UK personnel whose injuries had been caused by hostile action, accidents and other incidents. No one in any way was trying to downplay the numbers or the seriousness of many of those injuries, it was necessary however to set the facts out as clearly as possible.

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

Iraq Timetable

Asked about reports that the Government was urging the US to lay out a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, the PMOS said that he had set out the position yesterday, and more importantly so had the Prime Minister during PMQs. The position was that we were in Iraq and we would finish the job. We had set out last April that the policy was one of Iraqisation, of building up the capacity of the Iraqi forces in the round to deal with terrorism. We were there at the moment at the request of the Iraqi interim government. It would be a matter for the democratically elected Iraqi government to decide what its policy was after the election. What was important was that we did not create a situation where we abandoned the first ever democratically elected Government of Iraq. We would not cut and run as the Prime Minister had said in April and that remained our position. Put to him that that was different to setting up a timetable for gradually phasing out the allied presence in Iraq, the PMOS said that yes it was different. The PMOS said that he was sorry if that doesn't quite accrue with what the Daily Telegraph had said but having a timetable in place irrespective of the facts on the ground was not what was needed. What was required was a policy geared towards allowing the Iraqis to take control of their own destiny. That did mean creating a situation in which democratic elections, though difficult, were possible but also creating a situation where a new democratically elected Iraqi government was able to protect itself. That had been the policy since April and remained the policy.

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

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