EU & China trade negotiations
Asked about the Prime Minister's view of the current trade negotiations between the EU and China, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) pointed out that the European Commission was the sole negotiator in these circumstances, not the Presidency. That was the case for any trade issue. The role of the Presidency was to support the Commission and to be aware of the overall mood and overall position throughout the EU, and there would be a variety of different positions towards such a dispute within the EU as a whole. Our basic attitude to free trade and our support for it were well known. However we recognised that there were implications for particular countries and producers which meant that transitional arrangements had to be made. In terms of the negotiations themselves he would not give a running commentary. In saying that he would point out that this issue was a precise illustration of those problems the Prime Minister articulated in his speech in Brussels on Europe.
Law and order
Asked about the Prime Minister's concerns with respect to Law and Order given the spate of recent well publicised violent crime, the PMOS said that, as we had said many times, we had to keep the actual level of crime in perspective. It was going down. That did not diminish the concern towards individual outrages as we had seen and they will be investigated fully. The Prime Minister had put anti-social behaviour right at the centre of his agenda. That would continue to be the case and he would be addressing that later this week with an emphasis on the Government's respect agenda. He would not preview that now.
Prime Minister’s Holiday
Asked about the Prime Minister's whereabouts, the Prime Minister's Spokesman (PMS) said that the Prime Minister's Director of Communications had written to editors last night to explain that since the Prime Minister arrived at his holiday destination, the Barbados Legion had invited him to attend a commemoration service to mark the end of the Second World War and the contribution of Barbadians to the Second World War. The Prime Minister had accepted the invitation and as it was obviously a public event, we understood that journalists would want to report the event. The Director of Communications had continued his request to ask for restraint in publicising the exact location of the Prime Minister's holiday.
Sir Ian Blair/London Terror
Asked why the Government was only writing now to the ICC regarding future cricket matches in Zimbabwe, and had there been any response, the PMS said she was not aware of any response. A letter had been sent saying that Ministers considered the situation in Zimbabwe to be getting worse since the policy of demolishing people's homes had begun. The Ministers had decided to ask the ICC, as the appropriate body, to look at their planned policy of sending international cricket teams to that country. They were therefore asking the ICC if that was appropriate. We had made it clear last year that we would have preferred such fixtures as the England Tour not to have taken place, but it was not something the Government could stop from happening.
Asked if there was a response to the comments made by London Mayor, Ken Livingstone where he suggested that the anti-terror proposals were so loosely drawn up that Nelson Mandela and the founders of the United States of America would have all been banned from entering the UK because they could be considered extremists, the Prime Minister's Spokesman (PMS) said that there was a consultation process going on. This ended on Friday. A range of people had submitted their views on the Government's plans and with this in mind people should wait and see the results of that consultation exercise.
Asked what the Government's view was on the Gaza withdrawal, the PMS said people should wait and see how things developed over the next few days.
Asked if the Prime Minister might cut short his holiday to attend Robin Cook's funeral, the PMS so that at the moment we did not have any information on the nature of the funeral or when it might be. She was not aware that the Prime Minister had any plans to return from his holiday, but clearly if there were some sort of memorial service in the future he would attend. The Deputy Prime Minister was in charge whilst the Prime Minister was away and he would attend any funeral if it was appropriate.
Asked whether the charge of treason might be used against those charged with terror offences, the PMS said that obviously there were discussions going on about the appropriate measures to take against individuals. She was not going to get into a discussion about whether one charge was better than another. It was important that the right charge was brought. It was a question of people looking at the options they had available to them. The Prime Minister had set out his position at his press conference on Friday.
Put to her that Hazel Blears seemed to be easing off on her suggestion that ethnic minorities could be referred to in hyphenated form, such as 'Asian-British', the PMS said the she felt this story had been somewhat over-written. The idea had been suggested to Hazel Blears, it was not something she was suggesting. It was something which had been put to her and would be further discussed in meetings as she visited different parts of the country. There was no prescription here. This was something that had been raised with her and she had mentioned it in an interview. It was not something the Government was proposing or suggesting.
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