» Monday, January 24, 2005


Asked if the Prime Minister now took the position that it was not racist for people to be concerned about immigration levels given the recent announcements by the Conservative party, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that for obvious reasons he would not comment on what other people had been saying. The Prime Minister had always believed that other people were perfectly entitled to voice concerns about this issue. What was important was that the government took action, as it had been doing. The Government's measures on asylum had resulted in a 67% reduction in asylum applications since the peak in October 2002. The measures had also led to considerably tighter controls. For instance juxtaposed controls in Paris Gare du Monde, Calais, Boulogne, Dunkirk, Lille etc. New detection technology had been introduced in Calais checking freight and so on. In terms of migration we had also seen the introduction of much tighter work permits. There was further action that the Government believed it would be right to consider, and take, and that would be announced in its five-year plan which should be published in the next few weeks. Equally the Government believed that we had to maintain migration into the UK because migration worked to the benefit of the economy as a whole. There were some 600, 000 job vacancies in this country.

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

Jack Straw

Asked about Jack Straw's meeting with Condoleeza Rice in Washington, and whether it would be concentrating mainly on the relationship with Iran, the PMOS said the Foreign Secretary was not travelling to Washington to deliver a specific message about Iran, contrary to common belief. We expected the talks to cover a wide agenda, especially regarding Israel and Palestine, the upcoming Iraq elections, and our G8 priorities. Our position on Iran was well known to the US, and vice versa.

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

Global Warming paper

Asked what status Stephen Byers' paper on global warming had, the PMOS replied that what was important was that there was a debate going on, and we welcomed the report as a contribution towards the debate. It would be discussed with our G8 partners and others. The important thing was that by using events, such as the Science Seminar in February, we develop a world-wide consensus as to the status of the problem, the likely solutions and the way to implement them.

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

Northern Ireland

Asked what line the Prime Minister was going to take regarding Gerry Adams, the PMOS repeated his words of last week when he said there could be no deal with Republicans unless all criminal and paramilitary activities stopped. In terms of the way forward with Taoiseach, he was going to have a meeting with the Prime Minister and with Sinn Fein, and therefore the two Prime Minister's could compare notes and talk about the positions of the others parties as well. What the people of both North and South wanted was to move forward. He stressed again that we could only move forward with the Republicans if there was a genuine end to all activity.

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

EU Constitution Bill

Asked to comment about an article in today's FT that said that the Government was thinking about not pursuing the EU Constitution Bill during our Presidency of the EU but rather leave it until next year instead, the PMOS said he thought the speculation was "fairly old hat". He recommended people waited until the announcement on Wednesday.

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

Ruth Kelly

Asked if the Prime Minister was relaxed that his Education Secretary sought "spiritual support" from Opus Dei, the PMOS repeated the Education Secretary's words, which were that she had her private religious beliefs and she was entitled to them, like anyone else. Therefore, what was important was her role as a Cabinet Minister, and as Education Minister in particular, and what yesterday showed was that she was very focussed on delivering that task.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (27)

Guantanamo Prisoners

Asked for any further information regarding the release of the Guantanamo prisoners, the PMOS said he had no information at the moment to give to people. It would be briefed as and when it happened.

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


Asked if the Prime Minister was against the idea of a quota for immigration numbers, the PMOS said he was not going to get involved in party political matters, but rather, would discuss the subject matter. The Prime Minister had not changed his view, and felt what was important regarding asylum was to recognise the two thirds drop since October 2002 and to recognise the measures that had been taken. In terms of managed migration, it was important to recognise the tough control measures that had been brought in, for example, work permits, and also to recognise the need of the economy for a flexible supply of migrant labour. That was what business leaders and The Treasury said the British economy needed, especially when there were 600,000 job vacancies throughout the country, and in particular in London and the South East. At the same time, we recognised it was an issue on which we needed to be making progress, therefore when the Five Year Plan was announced shortly regarding immigration and asylum, it would show clearly not just the work being done, but a series of further controls. The key to managed migration was flexibility and control.

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

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