» Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Sir Ian Blair

Asked what was the Prime Minister's view about Sir Ian Blair taping a conversation he had had with the Attorney General, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that the Attorney General's office had put out a statement saying that the Commissioner and the Attorney General had spoken this morning and the Sir Ian had explained the circumstances. The Attorney General now considered the matter closed.

Briefing took place at 16:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

Israel/Palestine

Put to him that President Mahmoud Abbas had accused the US and the UK of being complicit in an Israeli raid on a Jericho prison which US and UK troops were supposed to be guarding, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that since the details were still coming in, the FCO would respond to this later.

Briefing took place at 16:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

Iraq

Asked about a leaked memo by John Sawers describing the administration of Iraq immediately after the war as an "unbelievable mess" and if the Prime Minister agreed with that description, the PMOS said that first of all he didn't comment on leaked memos. As some people will recall the Prime Minister had said quite openly that mistakes had been made in the early days in terms of issues such as Baathification so that was nothing new. But he had nothing to say about an alleged leaked memo.

Briefing took place at 16:00 | 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. Therefore, it had done more than ever before, and in terms of moving forward, as the PMOS had said before, the Prime Minister believed that if things moved forward, it had to do so on the basis of a consensus amongst Parties as a whole. The Prime Minister's approach therefore was "yes" to transparency, but people could not move unilaterally, but rather, there had to be consensus from other Parties.

Briefing took place at 16:00 | Read whole briefing | Comment (1)

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?

Put that Israel did not abide by its UN obligations, the PMOS replied that that was a separate issue, and not one to be confused.

Briefing took place at 16:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

Education Bill

Asked if the Prime Minister believed he had enough Labour MPs to vote through the education Bill, the PMOS said that he would not give a running commentary on how people might vote. In response to encouragement by journalists, the PMOS said that although it was a tempting offer on a quiet day like today, he didn't think it would be wise. As he had said yesterday, the Government took nothing for granted on this issue and would continue to argue the case right up until the vote. In terms of clarifications, they had been set out by Ruth Kelly and remained the basis on which the House would vote.

Briefing took place at 16:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

Asylum Seeker

Asked for a reaction to the Select Committee report on Asylum, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister's response had already been released to the news wires. However to summarise, we recognised that there were improvements still being made. First and foremost people should note that this was a report about the situation 2 years ago, not about now. A lot had happened in those 2 years. There was not one single factor, but you could look at how we had reduced the "pull factor"; how we were dealing with 80% of applications within 2 months; the introduction of bio-metrics; how we had tightened the system with measures mentioned in the report such as electronic tagging; the development of memoranda of understanding with other countries, then you could see that each step along the way the system was being tightened and the number of applications last year was fewer then at any year since 1994.

Briefing took place at 16:00 | Read whole briefing | Comment (1)

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 16:00 | Read whole briefing | Comment (1)

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 16:00 | 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. That did mean that in certain cases, if the level of risk could not be assessed as acceptable, people may never be released, so there was that fall-back. The PMOS said that primary basis by which we judged anything in this area was to encourage people to report offences, rather than to discourage them.

Briefing took place at 16:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

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