Asked if the Prime Minister was delaying a reshuffle because he wanted to keep junior Ministers in line over education reforms, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) replied that it was much obvious a question for him to answer. He did not answer reshuffle questions.
Asked what were the objectives for the talks involving Dr. Rice and others about Iran, the PMOS said that the primary reason people were in London was for the conference on Afghanistan. There would be 60 delegations at the conference, so it was a major conference, and a chance for the international community, Afghanistan and the UN to look ahead and take a strategic overview of where Afghanistan was going. They also needed to review progress since 2001 and to then plan what happened next in terms of developing Afghanistan economically, developing its infrastructure, and also politically, with part of that being what we had announced in terms of security and reconstruction last week.
Asked if the Prime Minister was going to raise the issue of extraordinary rendition with Dr. Rice during their meeting, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister had set out the position on rendition, therefore it did not take tonight's dinner for the American administration to be aware of our position.
Select Committee response
Asked if there might be a formal response to the Select Committee about the education reforms, the PMOS replied that we were in a process where people were contributing to the debate. As the PMOS had said last week, we welcomed the fact that the Select Committee supported the ideas of independent trust schools as a way of moving forward on education and a strategic role for the LEAs. There were other issues which we would reflect on, but we were at the stage where we had not yet published the Bill. We would do so in accordance with the timetable we had set out for publication sometime this month, and the Second Reading would be in the middle of next month. The PMOS said we would take it step by step.
Asked what the feelings were about Hamas, the PMOS said the onus was on Hamas to make its position clear. Was it a political force, or was it committed to violence? It had to make its choice. The key facts remained that the solution remained as a two-state solution, and that was the common view of the international community, and that remained the position of the Government.
Asked if the Prime Minister was flattered or embarrassed that David Cameron had praised the Prime Minister in his speech, the PMOS replied that the Prime Minister would get on with his job, but would leave it to others to express their views, whatever they may be.
Asked if David Blunkett was right to say that there was a new understanding between the Chancellor and the Prime Minister, the PMOS replied that he had nothing to add to what the Prime Minister did not say this morning live on air.
Asked if the Prime Minister was happy with the huge profits that QinetiQ had made, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister would agree with John Reid, who had set out the case on Thursday. The Government had only sold a minority share, and therefore the tax payer had benefited by the eight-times increase in the value of the company, as much as any other shareholder. Therefore, it had turned out to be a good deal for the tax payer.
Asked to comment on the IMC report, the PMOS said that the IMC were due to deliver a report today.
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