Asked if Jack Straw had been getting unduly involved in the French referendum on the EU constitution by expressing his wish that the French people voted yes, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS), said that as a government we hoped that people across Europe supported the constitution because we supported it as well. That certainly did not constitute interference.
Machinery of Government
G8 Security Costs
Put to him that the costs of the G8 conference in Gleneagles might not be value for money, the PMOS said that the details of costs were down to the local authorities and responsible departments. No one was pretending that the inevitable security involved could be done cheaply, it couldn't. Equally however it was a showcase to the world and therefore people would recognise the value of that. Asked what the precise value was, the PMOS said that the value was that people from all over the world would be focussed on Gleneagles and Scotland as a whole. There was a clear value in terms of international prestige to hosting such a major international event. The PMOS told journalists that if they spoke to the devolved government in Scotland they would agree. In terms of security of course we all wished that we could return to the days of less security, but given the threat of international terrorism we couldn't do that.
Asked what the Government had to say about the strike by BBC staff today, the PMOS said that it was a matter for the BBC. Put to him that it was matter for the Government because of the BBC's role as a public service broadcaster, the PMOS said it was the responsibility of the BBC management to deal with personnel issues within the BBC as set out in the charter. Put to him that the had Government commented on all sorts of strikes in the past, the PMOS said that he had nothing further to say on the matter.
The Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) outlined details of the Prime Minister's schedule ahead of the G8 Summit. On Friday he would travel to Rome for talks with Prime Minister Berlusconi. This would cover the EU agenda but the primary focus of this, and the other visits in the next few weeks would be intensifying the efforts to secure progress on Africa and Climate Change at the Summit in Gleneagles. Between now and Gleneagles the Prime Minister would also visit President Putin in Moscow, President Bush in Washington DC and he would also meet with President Chirac and Chancellor Schroeder during the first half of June, if possible. There were not exact timings at the stage. He would also speak via videoconference to Prime Minister Koizumi, of Japan and Prime Minister Martin, of Canada. We had deliberately set out an ambitious agenda for the G8 and now was the time for real negotiations. We were in detailed discussions which we would not provide a running commentary of, but the important point was that no one in the G8 disputed that Africa and Climate Change must be the priorities. We believed at this stage we were making progress and that we could fulfil our ambitions but we still had some way to go. We would start that process in Rome on Friday.
Asked if there were any thoughts on the Government's response to the French referendum the PMOS said yes, we should let it happen first and then respond. Then we would respond in the appropriate way. Asked what the British position was on the abatement the PMOS said that it had already been set out by himself, and more importantly by the Chancellor and the Foreign Secretary. We believed that the abatement was fully justified. We had set out the arguments why and that was the important thing that people needed to engage with. Those arguments remained as we had set out. Asked if we had any objections to the calculations or amount being changed in anyway the PMOS said that we believed that it was wholly justified and that remained our position. Others would put a counter case, but in the end we had to agree and we believed it was wholly justified. Asked if the current value was a red line the PMOS reiterated that we believed it was wholly justified, others would put forward whatever arguments they wanted but they had to address the basics of our argument. It was not a macho stance. It was an argument based on economics and that remained the case.
Director of Communications
Asked if the Prime Minister was inviting someone new to be the Director of Communications at Downing Street the PMOS said that we had announced last week that David Hill was staying in his present position as Director of Communications and that remained the case. If there were any future announcements about other posts to be made they would be made in the future.
Asked whether the Prime Minister thought it was a good time to put taxpayers money into the property market the PMOS said that the Prime Minister was many thing but he was not a mortgage adviser. The Prime Minister believed, as he had said many times, that it was right that we did everything we could to encourage people to get their first homes. For details of what the Chancellor said people should speak to the Treasury.
Asked what were the Prime Minister's views on Lord Stevens comments yesterday the PMOS said that where we agreed totally was that there was an agenda there to be addressed which was why the Prime Minister had addressed the issue in his way since the General Election. We were already doing a lot and a lot of things that Lord Stevens mentioned were already covered by ASBOs for instance. Therefore it was a question of continuing the dialogue. As the Prime Minister had said this was not an issue which the Government alone could resolve, but the Government could and would give a strong lead.
Asked what was on the agenda for the meeting with the Czech PM the PMOS said the talks would go wherever the discussion went, but clearly and obviously it would include the current state of the EU and other European issues.
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