Asked if there was any insight into the Northern Ireland Talks, especially Reverend Paisley's comments about a fresh start the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said, as a quick reminder of where we were, that the two key principles were a complete end to all paramilitary and criminal activity by the IRA and then if that happened a commitment by Unionists to sharing power. Therefore, yes what we were looking for was a fresh start based on those two key principles. The key to that at the moment was the response of the IRA to Gerry Adam's comments at the start of the election campaign. This was what we were waiting for. Obviously what we would be asking Gerry Adams today was what was his assessment of where the republican movement was going.
Asked what the principle was behind the idea that we should have our referendum either last, or almost last, and whether there was any truth to the idea that the Government thought it was a good ploy to be able to wait and say 24 other countries had signed up so we ought to sign up now the PMOS said that in terms of the timing of the referendum that was in part dictated by the time it took to take the matter through the House and have a proper debate on that in the House. It was also a relevant issue that we would hold not only the G8 Presidency but also the EU Presidency and that would inevitably consume quite some time. The important thing was that there should be a proper debate in the country as a whole and that was what we would allow.
ID Cards Bill
Asked about when the ID Cards Bill might be published, the PMOS said it did take a few days to decide the order and timetable of publications. The PMOS said he believed the Government hoped to reintroduce the bill as soon as possible in the manifesto, but he thought it better to wait and see.
Asked if there were any circumstances with which the British Government would ratify the EU Constitution in any form except with a referendum for the British people, the PMOS said the Prime Minister had made it clear on several occasions that the British people would have their say and that remained the case. As for what happened if there were various different scenarios, following a French or a Dutch referendum, the PMOS said people would have to wait and see.
Asked what the Government's response was to the EU Commission's proposal to freeze the EU rebate, the PMOS replied that unless the journalist had heard something he hadn't, we had not yet received a proposal, so it was better to wait until one had been received.
Asked if there might be a Government change of policy on cannabis, the PMOS said the experts were having a preliminary meeting this week, but it would take some time to produce their opinion. Therefore, we would wait for their judgement and take that into account.
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