» Monday, March 13, 2006

Barroso

Asked what had been discussed at the meeting, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that it had primarily been a preparatory meeting ahead of next week's European Council. Asked what would be on the agenda at the Council, the PMOS said that energy would be one issue. It was the spring economic council so it would no doubt focus on economic matters, but it was for the Austrian presidency to decide.

Briefing took place at 15:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

Donations

Asked if the link between donations, loans and peerages was sheer coincidence, the PMOS replied that there was a Party element to the question. What the PMOS could say, however, was that this Government had introduced more transparency into Party donations in general than any other. It established the Electoral Commission which was independent from Government and which published regular details about donations. It also established the independent Lords Appointments Commission to make recommendations and appointments to the Lords. 

Briefing took place at 15:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

Party funding

Put to the PMOS that Jack Straw had seemed receptive to possible changes of disclosure rules for party funding and had he been reflecting government views, the PMOS said, as they knew, that there was some difficulty for him to discuss these matters because largely they were in the party domain. What he could say was what the Prime Minister's approach was. The Prime Minister was open minded on these issues but equally and importantly he believed that there had to be a consensus across the parties. It was much easier to move on such matters if there was a genuine consensus. Asked if the Prime Minister was prepared to sit down with opposition parties to discuss it, the PMOS said that this was party territory, but he believed there had been comments from the Labour party over the weekend. The Prime Minister believed there should be a consensus among the parties. Likewise in regard to state funding he believed there was an issue, but that you could only move forward if there was a genuine consensus amongst the parties. Asked how you could get that consensus, the PMOS said that there were usually ways through the normal channels to get such things going. The Prime Minister recognised there were genuine issues here. If you were going to move to a system of state funding then you needed genuine consensus. On the other hand if you had a situation where political donors to any party immediately became subject to a level of media scrutiny that deterred anyone from contributing to political parties then you had an issue there too. It was in the public's interest to have properly funded political parties.  These issues should be a matter for open debate and a genuine consensus. Put that the Prime Minister was not taking this forward, the PMOS referred journalists to statements made by the Labour party over the weekend.

Asked if the Prime Minister had a view on Dr Chai Patel, the PMOS said that the normal process was that these matters remained private until published, a reason that did not need spelt out at the moment, so he would not comment specifically. We did not think that it was right or proper that individuals were put under the spotlight in this way during the process of deciding peers. Asked if there was a fear within Downing Street that the system could break down because of that deterrent, the PMOS said that it was a legitimate question to ask whether people wanted to put themselves at risk of facing this sort of scrutiny simply through making a political donation.

Briefing took place at 15:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

Israel/Iran

Asked why we were trying to sanction Iran, but not Israel as it too was developing nuclear weapons, the PMOS said that the approach to Iran was one that was spearheaded by the UN and it was in defiance of the UN. The question was whether Iran abided by its obligations under the UN. In terms of the President of Iran, he had put a new perspective on the issue by threatening to wipe out Israel. The PMOS said that again, it gave added cause for concern, so rather than addressing it through the perspective of Israel, people should address it through the perspective of the UN and ask the question: did a country have to abide by its UN obligations?

Briefing took place at 15:00 | Read whole briefing | Comment (1)

Education Bill

Asked whether the Prime Minister was still seeing groups of MPs, the PMOS said that he would continue to see whomever he needed to see. The government did not take anything for granted on this at all. Asked if it was still a "labour bill", the PMOS said that it seemed like a very party way of putting it, but he had heard that expression being used.

Briefing took place at 15:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

Trident

Asked about Jack Straw's comments about Trident today in an interview, the PMOS said that his understanding was that we were in the process of starting a process of thinking about it. The PMOS said he did not think the results of that process would be this month. Or the next.

Briefing took place at 15:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

Super Casinos

Asked in the light of reports suggesting over 20 casinos if there would be an assurance that there would only be one super casino, the PMOS replied that this report pre-dated the announcement of the upper limit regarding the numbers of casinos, and therefore it was out of date. That was the polite version!

Briefing took place at 15:00 | Read whole briefing | Comment (1)

Sir Ian Blair

Asked whether the Sir Ian Blair issue was now closed, the PMOS said, as he had this morning, the Attorney General and the Metropolitan Police Commissioner had spoken this morning and Sir Ian Blair had explained the circumstances. The Attorney General had said that he now regarded the matter as closed. Therefore the government regarded the matter as closed. Asked who appointed the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, the PMOS said that it was the Home Secretary.

Briefing took place at 15:00 | Read whole briefing | Comment (1)

Vote

Asked whether the Prime Minister was planning to vote on the ID cards bill tonight, the PMOS said that he did not usually preview the Prime Minister's voting intentions, though journalists could no doubt imagine that he would make the effort.

Briefing took place at 15:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

Sex Offenders sentencing

Asked if the Prime Minister thought that sex offenders sentences should be cut, the PMOS said that in terms of sentence guidelines, as the PMOS understood it, they had not yet been published, therefore he did not want to comment on something that was still only in draft form. The PMOS said, however, that Government policy was to ensure that everything was done to encourage people to report sexual offences, rather than discourage them, and that was the criteria which we would apply. The PMOS also pointed out that we had introduced the ability to allow for offenders convicted of specific sexual offences, including rape, to remain in prison indefinitely until the level of risk to the public had been assessed as manageable.

Briefing took place at 15:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (3)

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