» Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Top up Fees

Asked if there were any considerations to lift the cap on top up fees, given the recent allegations given by Oxford University "pleading poverty", the PMOS replied that the situation remained unchanged. Oxford University had denied it was doing so for reasons of budgets.

Briefing took place at 15:45 | Read whole briefing | Comments (4)


Asked if the Prime Minister was concerned that the Government had appeared not to bring violent crime under control, the PMOS said that in the interests of perspective, people should also acknowledge that overall crime by both sets of figures (BCS and recorded crime) had both gone down. One had gone down by 11 per cent and the other by 6 per cent. He also wanted to point out that half of what was recorded as violent crime involved no physical injury. Part of the explanation of why the figures had increased was because lower level crime, for example pushing and shoving, had now been put into the violent crime category. However, as the PMOS had pointed out in the morning, the Government was in no way trying to diminish the significance of violent crime of whatever sort for those who were victims of crime. Therefore, the Prime Minister was determined to continue to take action to reduce it, by way of action against gun crime, and the action now through the Licensing Act by tackling drunkenness. The Government did recognise that there were concerns, but it was also important that it was put in perspective.

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

Parliamentary Hours

Asked if the Prime Minister thought the current Parliamentary hours were working well, or did he wish to return to later sittings, the PMOS replied that the Prime Minister's view would be that it was a matter for Parliament. It was right and proper that Parliament made decisions on these matters, rather than Downing Street be seen trying to lead the debate.

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

Question Time

Asked if there was any consideration to putting "Question Time" back to twice a week, the PMOS said he had not heard the suggestion before. He said the Prime Minister's view was that "Question Time" worked at the moment and allowed a whole range of questions to be asked.

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


Asked for further information behind the recent public servant Peerage honours, the PMOS briefed journalists on the list:

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


Asked to shed any light on what appeared to be conflicting report on a "points system" for economic migrants, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said he could not, as there would be a Five Year Plan published on the subject in a matter of weeks. He stressed that the announcement of the Five Year Plan had been in the system for a while, as the Government had been prefiguring for some time.

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

Immigration/1951 Convention

Asked about the merits of upholding the 1951 UN convention on asylum and immigration, the PMOS set out the context for our attitude towards asylum in Europe. The 1951 convention had come into force in EU law last year. It was one of the overall interlocking directives on asylum - the "pull factor". The priority for the United Kingdom was to stop the process of "asylum shopping". To do that we had to reduce the attraction for asylum to come to the UK over and above other European countries. That could only be achieved through a combination of factors. For instance getting places like Sangatte closed down could only have been done with the cooperation with the French Government. Another factor was improving security and detection at ports in France, partially through the use of equipment and partially from having immigration officials in French ports. Another key factor was to establish new rules in which asylum seekers would be processed in the first EU country in which they landed. In other words stop the ability of asylum seekers to go through other parts of Europe and arrive in this country to be processed here. That could only be done through agreement with other EU countries. It was now easier to regulate asylum applications using the EU database to check people arriving this country who had gone through the system. That was what the directives had given us. Those directives were interlocking. If we were to opt out of one then the whole process would cease and the ability to prevent asylum shopping, which we had achieved in the last year, would also go. That was why it was so important that we had these EU agreements. Put to him that immigration was supposed to be a "red-line" issue, the PMOS said that we had retained the ability to say no to anything that we did not agree with. The actual fact was that cooperation on asylum has worked precisely to our advantage, rather than to our disadvantage because it had reduced the "pull factor" and it has stopped the ability of asylum seekers to all arrive at our doorstep. If we got to a situation in which every country in the EU was effectively only looking after its own interests, then we would go back to the situation where all cooperation stopped.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (3)

Violent Crime

Asked if the Government was concerned by the 6% rise in violent crime, the PMOS said that first of all whether you looked at the overall recorded crime figures or the BCS they both showed a fall. 11% in the BCS and 6% in recorded crime. The Government recognised that there was more to do in particular areas. One reason why the figures might have risen was that lower level crime was now included in the figures, but the Government did not in any way try to discount the fact that more action needed to be taken. Asked to explain the lower level crime, the PMOS said that, for instance, pushing and shoving was now included in the violent crime statistics. In other words the threshold for which figures were included had gone down. The Government was not complaining about that. The Government was not trying to demean the seriousness of such activity but it did offer an explanation. Questioned further the PMOS said that those lower level crimes were still crimes and should be treated as such. Half of what was recorded as violent crime involved no physical injury. That did not however lessen the impact on those who were victims of such crime and therefore it was important that they were treated with due seriousness.

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


Asked about Human Rights standards in Iraqi prisons, the PMOS said that as he understood it the Iraqi minister for human rights had dealt with the issue. It was important that people took more account of what he had to say rather then what we had to say. In saying that the PMOS pointed out that our ambassador Edward Chaplain made it clear on the Today programme this morning that he had raised the issue of conditions in Iraqi detention facilities with the Iraqi government. The Human rights minister had said that he was taking action on this but that was a matter for the Iraqi authorities. For information the UK had provided training for prison officers in Basra, so the UK was actively trying to ensure that people operated to the right standards.

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

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