Jack Straw speech
Put to the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) that Jack Straw had said in his speech that in order to get an increase in the EU budget, there would be big changes that would affect Britain as well, could that therefore be taken as a reference to the UK's rebate, the PMOS said that he was not going to give a running commentary on the budget negotiations, as he had said before. He referred journalists back to the answer he gave several weeks ago when the same question was asked. The PMOS also said that it was simply a point of fact that we did not accept the Luxembourg proposals and we did not accept them for good reasons which we spelt out at the time. Therefore, the implications of that were fairly obvious.
Asked if the British Government was concerned that US troops had used white phosphorous in combat in Fallujah and what was the British military's policy on the use of white phosphorous, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that use of white phosphorous by the US was a matter for the US Government. British forces did possess white phosphorous but it was used for producing smoke. This was how it was being used in Iraq. We had also signed the third protocol to the Convention on Conventional Weapons, which covered incendiary weapons.
Child Support Agency
Asked what the Prime Minister had meant when he said at PMQs today that the Child Support Agency (CSA) was not properly suited to its task, the PMOS replied that as people knew, there was a new Chief Executive of the CSA who had launched a review into the operation structure and performance of the CSA. Therefore, all the Prime Minister was doing was spelling out some of the issues that the review had to address. The review would report either at the end of this year, or next.
Asked what was it that the Prime Minister apparently regretted, as referred to in the Times today, on the public sector pensions deal, the PMOS said that we had set out at the time of the pension agreement why we believed it had delivered the savings that we said it would. It would save £13bn between now and 2050. In terms of future pensions the Turner report would be coming out on the 30 November. As such it was better to speak in that broad context when it came out. Asked whether the Prime Minister regretted that he was accused of caving to the unions, that he wasn't consulted or that it happened, the PMOS said that Alan Johnson had made the agreement within the terms agreed by the Cabinet. In terms of the publicity at the time it was for journalists to judge for themselves. Put to him that the Times article was quite specific in saying that he regretted not just the publicity but also the deal, the PMOS referred journalists to what he had said at the time which was that we believed the deal had delivered the saving that we had required within the overall envelope of the agreement. Asked whether anything had changed since the Prime Minister was asked about it at his monthly press conference, the PMOS said there had been no developments. Asked where the Times got their story, the PMOS said that was a matter for the Times.
Mrs. Blair’s speeches/declarations
Asked why the Prime Minister had declared Mrs Blair's speeches that she had made in Washington, Australia and New Zealand, the PMOS said that in terms of precedent, the Prime Minister did not have to declare them. If people looked at the previous Administration, Mr. Major did not register royalties received by his wife when she wrote a book on Chequers, for example. The Prime Minister decided to register these benefits in July so that everyone knew that they were "on the books" and to err on the side of caution. The Prime Minister felt it was best to be open and transparent.
Asked why David Blunkett was being allowed to hold onto his grace and favour residence, the PMOS said that the premise of the question was mistaken. David Blunkett had made it clear to the Prime Minister when he resigned that he would be moving out of his residence, but as with all former Home Secretaries there were security considerations which other people did not have. These meant the process took a little longer as it took time to get those security considerations in place. In answer to further questions the PMOS said that it had only been a matter of weeks since David Blunkett's resignation and the security considerations had been as such for previous Home Secretaries as well. Being a former Home Secretary did put you in a different category.
Asked if the Prime Minister regretted not acting in some way in relation to the retirement age of 60 for civil servants, and was the Prime Minister planning to leave it as it stood, or would there be some reforms, the PMOS said he was not aware of any plans to revisit the issue. As he had said earlier today, the savings which the agreement would deliver amounted to £13 billion between now and 2050. Therefore, that was why the Government believed that this was a good deal. That remained the position as we stated at the time, and it remained our position.
Alcohol Related Crime
Asked if the Prime Minister agreed with Tessa Jowell said about a rise in crime once the Licensing Act started, the PMOS said as misquoted remarks went, it was a classic. What the Secretary of State actually said was that because the police were concentrating on a particular area, it was likely that more convictions would occur.
Original PMOS briefings are © Crown Copyright. Crown Copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland. Click-use licence number C02W0004089. Material is reproduced from the original 10 Downing Street source, but may not be the most up-to-date version of the briefings, which might be revised at the original source. Users should check with the original source in case of revisions. Comments are © Copyright contributors. Everything else is © Copyright Downing Street Says.
Contact Sam Smith.