Election date/Royal wedding
Asked if the Prime Minister would announce the date of the General Election on Thursday, the PMS said that the Prime Minister will decide when the election is going to be and make the announcement at a time of his choosing. Asked if the Prime Minister had an audience with the Queen this week the PMS said she wasn't aware of one. Asked if he would have one next week, the PMS said that she had not seen the Prime Minister's diary for next week. Asked if the Prime Minister would attend the Royal Wedding, the PMS said he would attend the blessing.
Silver wedding anniversary
Asked if the Prime Minister had any plans for his Silver Wedding Anniversary, the PMS said that the family had a private celebration last week to celebrate their wedding anniversary and Ewan's 21st birthday.
European Council meeting/UK Rebate
Asked if there was a Government response to President Chirac's comments about the British rebate, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that if anyone cared to type the words : President Chirac; rebate; a Summit into Google they would find that President Chirac had said similar things before at summits, but the British Government's position had not changed. If there had been a transcript of the proceedings from the European Council from the last 24 hours, it would show that it was not mentioned once, neither at dinner last night, nor at this morning's session.
Arms Embargo to China
Asked what the Government's position was on the arms embargo to China, the PMOS said we had always been supportive of the EU position, whilst at the same time recognising that the code that would replace the arms embargo (which was also applied to other countries such as Iran and Syria), would need to be strengthened. We had also, however, recognised that the EU itself was engaged in discussions with the United States and as Javier Solana's Spokesperson had said, those discussions were complex. The PMOS said those discussions should be allowed to take place, but there was nothing new in saying we were supportive of the EU position, whilst also waiting for the outcome of the discussions with the US.
Asked if in response to the WMS this morning, there would no more "sofa meetings" and meeting minutes would be taken from now on, as outlined in the Butler Report, the PMOS said we would implement the Butler recommendations, and we would do so, as we said at the time the Butler Report was published. Today's statement only confirmed what we had already said.
Asked if there was any comment on the Government's response to the Butler report the Prime Minister's Spokesman (PMS) said that journalists should look at the Foreign Secretary's Written Ministerial Statement. The Government had accepted all the recommendations from Lord Butler's report as the Prime Minister had said in his statement last July. The Foreign Secretary had said in November that he had asked Sir David Omand to take forward those recommendations. Today he was publishing how those recommendations had been taken forward. Asked if the report would explain how things were being taken forward the PMS said that journalists should look at the Written Ministerial Statement. We had set out last July that we had accepted the recommendations of Lord Butler and she did not think there would be any surprises in today's statement.
Defence Select Committee Report
Asked if the Government agreed with the Defence Select Committee report out tomorrow saying that troop levels in Iraq would have to stay at their current levels until at least next year and it's criticism of post conflict planning the PMS said that we had made it clear that our troop level would remain at its current level until the Iraqi security forces had the capacity to take over. That said we kept troop numbers under constant review. SHE said she had not seen the report and journalists should speak to the MOD about their response to it. In answer to further questions the PMS reiterated that we had always made it clear that troop levels were kept under constant review but the aim was to withdraw troops when it was felt that the Iraqi forces could cope with the situation and that security had improved.
Asked if the Prime Minister was concerned that he was breaking a manifesto commitment by publishing the draft Corporate Manslaughter Bill and whether this was now a priority, the PMS said the bill was an important piece of legislation. The most important thing was that people should look at the proposals being made. The Government was now bringing forward its proposals but it was not for her to get involved in manifesto commitments. Asked if there were any moves afoot with the opposition to ease the passage of the ID Cards Bill in the next few days the PMS said that no doubt discussions would take place through the usual channels about business in parliament but the Government was pressing ahead with it's legislative programme.
Asked whether the Prime Minister was effectively blaming single mothers for inner city crime when he had said they were "piling up problems for the future", the Prime Minister's Spokesman (PMS) said she had not seen the quote, but she was sure that the Prime Minister was not blaming any particular group for the problems within communities.
China Arms Embargo
Asked if the EU was considering dropping its proposal to lift the Arms ban on China, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said no. The EU position was that we were in discussions with the United States. As the spokesperson for Javier Solana had said yesterday: "This issue is now more difficult and more complex both in substance and as regards the timeline." That was indicative of an EU discussion rather than a UK led discussion. That was how it should be. We said the EU would have consultations with the United States about this and that was what we were doing. Asked what the UK's position was, the PMOS said that the position was that we wanted a consensus in the EU on this issue. We had never made a secret of the fact that we believed the EU code, provided it was strengthened, could meet US concerns. However that was a matter which was part of the discussion and therefore the EU would take the lead on this.
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