Anti Terror Law
Asked why the Leader of the House was being very nice to the Liberal Democrats and nasty to the Conservatives about the terror law and whether it was because the Government was prepared to compromise about the judicial review the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that he could not get involved in party political matters. The situation remained as Charles Clarke had set out on Friday. There would be judicial involvement in this process but the important thing was to keep the ability to act quickly and flexibly and that we were consistent in the view that the use of intercept evidence just was not possible. There had been half a dozen reviews on whether intercept evidence should be used in court, but each time the conclusion was that this was just not possible without compromising sources. Asked why there were only two days for the debate given that there was a lot of concern in the chamber that only two days were being given over and the concern about a guillotine debate the PMOS said that it was a matter for business managers and the relevant department to consider. However, it was important that we recognised that because of the House of Lords ruling we needed to move quickly. We also recognised that this was a serious matter, but it was one that we could not keep deliberating on. We actually had to make decisions on it. The PMOS reminded journalists of the phrase Charles Clarke had used on Friday "the appropriate level of judicial involvement"; this reflected what we had originally set out. Asked to clarify that phrase the PMOS said people should wait for the Home Secretary's statement tomorrow.
Asked how helpful the Government thought it was for President Bush to come to build bridges with the EU and then to make threatening noises about Iran and Syria the PMOS said that he disagreed with that analysis. What the President had said was that Iran was not Iraq. We were still in the early stages of diplomacy. What he had said yesterday to German television was that he had heard these rumours about military action but they were not true. The important thing was that Iran should not divide Europe and the US in their determination that Iran should not develop their nuclear weapons capacity. We agreed with all of that. We also agreed with saying to Syria that it must stop its support for terrorist outrages in Israel. We also agreed, to reflect the positive side, with his emphasis on Palestine and Israel when he said a Palestinian State had to be viable, democratic and contiguous on the West Bank. As such we found much to agree with in President Bush's speech.
Foreign Doctors in NHS
Asked about reports running on the wires from Christian Aid saying that developing nations were spending millions training Doctors and nurses only to see them being poached by the NHS the PMOS said that he had not seen that report therefore it was not appropriate for him to respond directly about it. It was important that we helped developing countries train relevant personnel and that we helped provide facilities too. This was what we were doing with DfID. Asked if there was any evidence to suggest we were doing enough to make up those we were hiring the PMOS said he knew the Department of Health had already dealt with this therefore it was best if people spoke to them.
Asked if anything could be expected from the Attorney General this week on hunting prosecutions the PMOS said that as the Attorney General had himself said on Friday he would be meeting the Director of Public Prosecutions and we should let that meeting take place first. What the weekend had showed was that it was possible to have hunting without unnecessary cruelty. It also showed there were still very strong feelings on either side of the issue and there were difficult issues about drawing the line and so on, but the Prime Minister continued to believe that with common sense there was a sensible way through this. On the whole people did show common sense at the weekend. Asked what the Prime Minister meant by a sensible way through the PMOS said we all knew feeling on this remained raw and very strong but the Prime Minister continued to hope that with common sense people would find a sensible way through and people needed time to reflect to do so. Asked if the Prime Minister was happy with what happened on the weekend the PMOS said that what was good at the weekend was that the predictions of conflict did not on the whole happen and that was sensible. The Prime Minister continued to believe that with a common sense approach there was a sensible way through this as people reflected on it.
Asked if it came as a surprise to the Prime Minister that he had been negotiating in Northern Ireland with the leaders of the IRA Army Council the PMOS said that as we had always said all the way through we believed that Sein Fein and the IRA were inextricably linked and that had obvious implications at leadership level. However, what was important was that we had also always been working on the basis that we were in the transition from conflict to peace. As the Prime Minister has said the time had now come for the IRA, the republican movement and Sein Fein to make a simple choice. That choice was either you continued with the paramilitary activity and criminality of the past or you chose the politics of the future. What you could not do was have it both ways; you could not continue to ride two horses. With the exception of Sein Fein Ireland was now united in this view, and the moment had come for Sein Fein and the IRA to make a choice. Suggested that the facts of the matter showed that that moment had gone, the PMOS said that what the facts showed were matters of deep concern. Equally what we should not ignore, whilst recognising fully, starkly, clearly, not trying to hide those current matters of deep concern, was that we should not lose sight of the progress that had been made since The Good Friday Agreement. That was what allowed us to put the question. But there had to be an answer to that question otherwise, as the Prime Minister said very carefully in the House a few weeks ago, everybody had to think about the implications of that. Therefore it was right to put that question to Sein Fein.
President Bush Breakfast Meeting/Brussels trip
The Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) informed journalists about the Prime Minister's breakfast meeting tomorrow morning in Brussels with President Bush. We also expected him to hold bilateral meetings with Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey, Prime Minister Martin of Canada and also President Yuschenko of Ukraine (where they would meet for the first time).
President Barroso meeting
Asked for further information about the Prime Minister's meeting this morning with President Barroso, and also if they had discussed the low turnout for the Spanish referendum, the PMOS said he thought the question was highlighting two different issues. President Barroso and the Prime Minister would not comment on the turnout in another country, but both would obviously welcome the result. The meeting was very good, and the Prime Minister congratulated President Barroso on the Commissions strategy for its term and also on the Spring report on the Lisbon agenda.
Asked if Paul Murphy would comment any further tomorrow about putting sanctions on Sinn Fein, the PMOS said the IMC had said two things. One was that it recognised that when dealing with a robbery on such a scale as this was, financial sanctions etc seemed relatively paltry in comparison to the size of the robbery. However, it thought that sanctions did have a role in expressing disapproval. No doubt Paul Murphy would want to reflect that balance in his response to the IMC's report. At the same time as doing nothing to divert attention from the substance of where we were, which was saying to the IRA and Sinn Fein that the time had now come for a choice to be made: either be involved in politics or criminality and paramilitary activity. They could not do both.
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