Asked if bird flu had been discussed at this morning's Cabinet, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) replied that bird flu had not been discussed. However, since the news from Turkey had broken, DEFRA had given a briefing about it.
Asked if the issue of 90 day detention for terror suspects came up at Cabinet, the PMOS said no. At Cabinet Hilary Benn had updated his Cabinet colleagues on the Earthquake in Asia, and the brilliant work by staff from various departments in response to it. As the Prime Minister announced yesterday we would give £10million to the disaster appeal which, in addition to the £2million already contributed brought the total UK donation to £12million.
Mr Barosso meeting
Asked for information on the Prime Minister's meeting with Mr. Barroso, the PMOS said it was a preparation for the Hampton Court summit, and how we put forward the economic reform agenda which we had discussed with President Chirac, for example, last week in Paris.
Common Agricultural Policy
Asked if the Prime Minister still thought the CAP should be abolished, and did he agree with Peter Mandelson's comments that "things would look very different in six or seven years time", the PMOS said that the Prime Minister had set out his view after the last summit in June, and his view had not changed. What we had to have, however, was a managed process and we again set that out after the last council. Nothing had happened that changed his view.
Asked if the Prime Minister agreed with the Chancellor's comments on the EU economy, the PMOS said the Prime Minister had set out his view of the weaknesses of the European economy and what we had to do to respond to globalisation in the June speech to the EU Parliament. That analysis had been touched upon by what the Chancellor had said. What was important now was to address the issues.
Asked if anyone from the British Government was planning a visit to the areas affected by last week's earthquake, the PMOS said that DFID and the FCO were leading on this. The important point at this stage was that we sent a search and rescue team over to the area immediately, who were able to save nine lives so far. The next important thing was to send supplies of tents, tarpaulins and other equipment across swiftly. A visit would only happen if it was deemed appropriate.
Early release scheme
Asked what the Prime Minister's view was of the proposal being considered by the Home Office of extending the early release scheme, the PMOS said that Fiona MacTaggart today had stressed that no decision had been taken. She also said that we were not at the point where capacity was fully utilised, and agreed that there was a spike in numbers, but there were other places coming onstream. The PMOS said that this morning's report had taken us further than the actual situation was at the moment. As Fiona MacTaggart also stressed, community sentence orders did have their place, as did home curfews in a well managed criminal system. They should not be thought of a "soft touch" because they did use unpaid labour, for example. However, the PMOS said again that we were not yet at a point where capacity was fully utilised.
Iran-Dr Liam Fox letter
Put to the PMOS that Dr. Fox had sent the Prime Minister a letter regarding clarification of the position of British troops ability to persuade people to attach them in Iran, possibly form over the border in Iraq, the PMOS said he was not aware that the Prime Minister had received the letter, but when he did, he would consider it, and give a considered reply.
Harold Pinter Nobel Prize
Asked if the Prime Minister would congratulate Harold Pinter on his winning the Nobel Prize for Literature, the PMOS said of course we would congratulate Harold Pinter on the recognition he had received.
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