» Tuesday, March 15, 2005


Asked if the Prime Minister felt there was no need to either change the law or to debate the current 24-week time limit on abortion, the PMOS reiterated the position he set out this morning. On 7th July 2004, the Prime Minister was asked a question during PMQs, and he said then that abortion had always been a matter for the individual conscience, and for a free vote in the House. The Prime Minister recognised that there would be a debate, including the issue mentioned, but he believed that debate should be carried out in a calm, rational and non-partisan way. This was why the Prime Minister believed it would be a pity if this matter did become a party political or general election issue. The Prime Minster felt that this country in the past had debated the matter in a mature and rational manner, and if people wanted a debate, then it would of course happen. It should not, however, happen in a party political or partisan way.

Asked again whether the Prime Minister felt the law should be changed, the PMOS said that because it was an individual matter, it was therefore up to others to decide whether they thought there was a case for change. As the Prime Minister said in the "Cosmopolitan" magazine article carried out 7 or 8 weeks ago, there was a time beyond which someone could not have an abortion, and we had no plans to change that, although the debate would continue.

Asked if the Prime Minister was "having a go" at the Cardinal, the PMOS replied: no. As the PMOS had said this morning, we recognised that the Catholic Church had a position on this, and they were perfectly entitled to reiterate that view as and when they felt it was right to do so. In terms of the Archbishop’s comments in general in his letter, they covered a multitude of subjects, not just the single issue of abortion.

Put to him that the "multitude of subjects" seemed to say that the Labour Party could no longer claim to represent the poorest people in society, and that was why the Cardinal thought that those people might not vote for Labour, the PMOS said he could not get involved in the party political aspect of it. In terms of the Government’s policies, however, whether people were discussing pension credit, or the minimum wage, for example, the Government had done a lot for poverty. People should look at the poverty reduction figures to see the improvement. The Cardinal was entitled to express his feelings, and we were not saying that he should not. However, on the particular issue of abortion, the Prime Minster’s view was that because there were different views across Parliament, it would be unwise and a pity if that became a party political and partisan issue.

Asked if the Prime Minister was "giving up" on the Euro, or did he except annual assessments to be made, the PMOS said that in terms of the Euro, the Prime Minister had not given up. However, as the Prime Minister had always said, the economic conditions had to be right and therefore, the position had not changed.

Briefing took place at 15:45 | Search for related news

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