London explosions / legislation
The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) gave journalists a rundown of events as they stood at the time regarding the bombing in London earlier today. He apologised in advance because like the Prime Minister, he was not going to get into operational details, as we would always be one step behind, and it would confuse matters. The Prime Minister was in his office with the Australian Prime Minister, John Howard when he was first informed of the explosions. He received as full an update at that point as was possible, and then went onto his lunch with Mr. Howard where he was updated regularly throughout, coming out at least once for further information. The Prime Minister then attended a COBRA meeting at 1430 where the Home Secretary, the Defence Secretary, the Foreign Secretary, the Transport Secretary and the Health Secretary were also all present, as well as Sir Ian Blair from the Met Police. The meeting lasted about 20 minutes. The Prime Minister then prepared for his press conference and also had a further conversation with Sir Ian Blair, who at that stage again told the Prime Minister that they were trying to reopen the stations as quickly as possible, and that he would be saying to people to go about their normal business.
Asked at this point if John Howard had attended COBRA, the PMOS said Mr. Howard left No10 to go to other meetings, and he kept to his schedule.
Asked if there would be any further statements in Parliament today, the PMOS said he was not aware of anything further. However, it was a subject that would be kept under review. He added that the pre-planned terrorism meeting with the police, intelligence services, Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary, Transport Secretary and Hazel Blears was going ahead on schedule, and the agenda had not changed.
Put to the PMOS that the Australian Prime Minister had made the point that most of the present laws were made in a different era, and there were now some urgent laws that were wanting to be brought in, why then was the House rising today for an 80 day break, the PMOS said that we had been guided throughout by the advice from the police and security services. That had been the guiding criteria since July 7th, and that remained the criteria today. That included not only content of the proposed legislation, but also the pace of legislation. Part of the meeting today was precisely to consult on those points.
Asked if it was not inappropriate for any country that was under, by any standards in a "crisis" that the House of Parliament sat for 133 days per year, the PMOS said that what was appropriate was that the country responded to the need as defined by those who were charged to look after out security. If the advice had to change, then we had to change. What we would respond to was the advice we received from the police and security services, rather that rushing into knee-jerk responses. It would be a proper, controlled response, and we had shown that since the July 7th bombings, and we had moved with the consensus which was what we intended to do.
Asked if the Prime Minister’s diary was back to normal, the PMOS confirmed that it was. At the same time, the Prime Minister recognised the genuine concern people had for these events. Once again we had seen the police and the emergency services respond with speed, efficiency and effectiveness, and as the Prime Minister had said, he praised the calm response of the people who were caught up in the events earlier.
Asked if the Prime Minister was going on holiday soon, the PMOS said he did not want to get into talking about specific plans, but there was no change in plans. Wherever the Prime Minister was, he would keep fully up to date on what as happening.
Asked if the meeting would get an update on current developments, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister got an update before he did the press conference from Sir Ian Blair. If there was further information that came in, then it would be sent to the meeting. Many who were attending the meeting were also involved in the COBRA meeting earlier. The normal business of the meeting would still go ahead.
Asked if it was that update mentioned that led the Prime Minister to understand that it was "all over" when in fact it was not, the PMOS said that events would always keep going forward and the Prime Minister depended on the information he was given at the time.
Asked if events today would effect the case the Prime Minister was going to make regarding phone taps, the PMOS said that the central discussion remained the balance between whether it was possible to use phone taps to mount successful prosecutions and to take action against people that otherwise would not be able to be prosecuted, at the same time as not wanting to jeopardise intelligence sources. That remained the central debate, and we had to be guided by the advice of those on whom we rely.
Asked about the timings of the case, the PMOS said that we would listen to the advice we received, but if people wanted to make comments on pace and content, it was available for them to do so.
Asked what argument had been used to say that the legislation should not be made more urgently, the PMOS replied that by its very nature, the measures that were taken at this stage were difficult as they were difficult to draw up to ensure they were legally watertight. That drafting process did take time. The PMOS said again that we would listen to the advice we got from the police and security services, but that was the reality.
Asked if it was possible to introduce new restrictions to the existing legislation, the PMOS said that as the Home Secretary had recently said, he would be tightening his powers of exclusions within the existing legislation.
Briefing took place at 16:45 | Search for related news
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