Asked what was happening "over the water" this afternoon regarding decommissioning, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that we had to wait for General John de Chastelain's report this afternoon. The PMOS said that if this turned out to be complete decommissioning, it could only be seen as a truly significant event. Following the events of last year, people would of course be sceptical, but what we were seeing was a process of implementing the IRA's statement of July, and this was the first of three stages. The PMOS said that there would be two other reports by the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC), the first being in October that we hoped would show that the IRA had stopped all paramilitary activity, including criminal activity, with a further report in January 2006.
Asked if Downing Street had any reaction to the election result and its implications for the economy, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that there was not really a result for us to react to yet so people would have to wait for that to be resolved first.
Asked in relation to the UN meeting about the Americans having ruled out military action against Iran over the weekend, the PMOS said that what the Americans had done was to say, as we had, that all their energy and effort must go into the diplomatic route. This was what we would continue to do. We would be putting our energy into the diplomatic route, working with our EU partners and the US. As you could imagine there was a continuing conversation with all sides about where we went. The Foreign Secretary had made it clear that he was disappointed in what the Iranian President had said. The Foreign Secretary had not said anything he had not said before and therefore to suggest otherwise was to misrepresent the case.
Asked to explain why the Cabinet Secretary had asked for sections of Lance Price's memoirs to be changed, the PMOS said that these matters were dealt with by the Cabinet Office and therefore it was a matter for them. Asked if the Prime Minister had asked the Cabinet Secretary to intervene, the PMOS said that the Cabinet Secretary fulfilled his official function. These matters were not commented on by the PMOS as they were a matter for the Cabinet Secretary and the Cabinet Office. The Prime Minister, like himself, did not give book reviews.
Asked if the Prime Minister was concerned with the continuing adverse publicity surrounding David Blunkett following the Lord Stevens comments and allegations from when he was Education Secretary, the PMOS said that if you actually looked at the Lord Stevens interview from the Today Programme in full he also paid tribute to David Blunkett, in particular how well they worked during the later period when they were Home Secretary and Commissioner. Also if you looked at the QCA issue that had been dealt with both by David Blunkett and by the then head of the QCA. Those voices had been on the record whereas those making the allegations had not.
Asked about the shooting in Nottinghamshire by a tagged offender, the PMOS said that he had no doubt the Home Office would be looking into the case to see if there were any further implications and therefore it would be wrong for him to comment
The BBC and Hurricane Katrina
Asked if the Prime Minister had any comment to make about the BBC's coverage of Hurricane Katrina, the PMOS said he did not.
Asked if, as Estelle Morris had said, the City Academies programme was going too fast, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that the Prime Minister would address the issue head on his speech this afternoon. The Prime Minister had made no secret of his view that if we were going to meet the challenges of the modern economy, challenges we had seen in detail during the Prime Minister's recent visit to China and India, we had to upgrade our teaching skills and equip all our students better. Specialist schools fitted very firmly into that picture. We were responding to the needs of the modern economy in the modern world. Put to him that ultimately there was a risk that it would only be children of wealthy parents who would be able to choose a city academy, the PMOS said that was why it was very important that we expanded the number of city academies, and that was what we were doing. There would be 10 new academies opening this month, by next September there would be forty more. The Prime Minister himself had set out an even more ambitious timetable than that.
Put to him that given the likelihood that judges would reject it, the Memoranda of Understanding between the UK and Jordan wasn't worth the paper it was written on, the PMOS said that we should wait for the judges to make their decision rather than commenting in advance. The Memoranda of Understanding were based on very clear agreements and were taken very seriously by both sides.
Asked if the Government was making preparations for possible fuel protests on Wednesday, the PMOS said that the Treasury had made it clear that the appropriate contingency plans were in place. Asked if the Prime Minister has sympathy for the protestors, the PMOS said that we fully understood why people were concerned. The Chancellor had set out the position in terms of the global economy and the effects on oil prices.
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