Deputy Prime Minister
Asked for any developments on whether Sir John Bourn would be making an inquiry into whether the Deputy Prime Minister might have breached the Ministerial Code, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that as he had said all week he was not going to speak for other departments and their responsibilities. Asked if it was true to say that Sir John Bourne would only investigate something if he was invited to by the Prime Minister or by a permanent secretary and not in any other circumstance, the PMOS said he didn't want to get involved in a hypothetical or process discussion on this. Sir John Bourn had set out his role when he had been appointed. People should speak to the Cabinet Office for any detail on that.
Foreign Prisioners-Home Secretary
Asked if the Prime Minister still had full confidence in the Home Secretary, the PMOS said yes. The PMOS said that it might be useful, given some of the reports this morning, to point out that there were actually four agencies involved in this process, not just one. So reports relying on just one source were to some extent misleading. The Four agencies were IND, the Police, Probation and the Prison service and, in many cases, it was the Probation service which took the lead. This was an obvious example of where problems arose when people took information in a drip feed fashion rather than waiting for the full picture. The Home Secretary would make a comprehensive statement this afternoon about some of the most serious cases as he had promised Parliament on Wednesday. It was better that we waited for this overview, and as the Home Secretary had said, he would report back on a regular basis on this ongoing process.
Asked if the Prime Minister had made a decision on building new generation nuclear power stations, the PMOS said that the energy review was continuing. Michael Wicks had been involved in a consultation exercise, which had taken evidence from more than 2000 people and spoken to hundreds of experts in this area. He would report to the Prime Minister in the summer.
Asked if the Prime Minister had ever considered giving peerages to former Labour MPs if they didn't stand at the next election, the PMOS said that that was a party matter. Put to him that it was a question about working peers, the PMOS said no, it was in connection with a party matter and it was therefore better dealt with by them.
Asked if it was likely that the Home Secretary would provide an update on the issue of foreign prisoners, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that he didn't anticipate anything further today. He confirmed that the Home Secretary had expressed the hope that he would be able to provide MPs with more information about the most serious cases by the end of the week. However on the whole the best thing was to get the information right and as complete as possible rather releasing information piecemeal.
Deportation of Foreign Prisoners – Charles Clarke
Asked if there had been any further offers of resignation "from anybody, anywhere at any time" within the last week, the PMOS said no. Asked whether the Home Secretary was still in post and was expected to remain in post, the PMOS said yes. Questioned as to whether the Prime Minister continued to retain confidence in him, the PMOS said yes.
Deputy Prime Minister
Asked if the Prime Minister was satisfied that the Deputy Prime Minister had not breached the ministerial code, the PMOS said that the fact that people may have made allegations didn't make this any less of a private matter. The Prime Minister's discussions with his Cabinet colleagues were private. Any specific allegations should be addressed to the ODPM. In terms of ministerial conduct, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister was of course the ultimate judge on the ministerial code. We should however proceed on the basis of facts rather than allegations. Asked if he was not prepared to state whether or not the Prime Minister was satisfied that the Deputy Prime Minister had abided by the ministerial code of conduct, the PMOS said that what he was saying was that he was not prepared to comment on unsubstantiated allegations. Put to him that it was not about making an allegation but a question as to whether the ministerial code came into play and whether the Prime Minister took this seriously or not, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister always took the ministerial code seriously. However he was not going to comment on speculation or allegations that were made without any facts. Asked if the ministerial code covered the fact that the Deputy Prime Minister had had a relationship with a civil servant in his own department, the PMOS said that it wouldn't be right for him to start giving a commentary on the ministerial code.
Asked by the Sun if he would agree that the fact that violent crime, sex offences and drug offences had all risen in the last three months would suggest that Charles Clarke was not the right person to be Home Secretary, the PMOS said he noted that the journalist had conveniently forgotten what else the statistics had shown - that risk of being a victim of crime was the lowest since 1981; that total recorded crime was stable; that burglary was down 4%; that vehicle crime figures were stable; that robbery figures remained well below the numbers they were before we had brought in the Street Crime Initiative in 2001/2. Yes, of course there were areas where more work needed to be done. That was why we were continuing to work with the police. In addition, we recognised that there had been a 21% increase in the number of drug offences. However, that did not mean that drug crime was rising. What it meant was an increase in police activity in this area and more people being charged with drug offences.
Asked if he could characterise the Prime Minister's mood, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister accepted that there were events which happened which you had to deal with. As he demonstrated at his press conference on Monday, he was determined to deal with those events and address the genuine concerns of people on issues such as the NHS, whilst at the same time keeping his eye on the big picture. That big picture was about pushing forward the reform agenda in the NHS and in education, taking the decisions that needed to be taken, whether it be on pensions or energy and other issues, pushing forward progress on Iraq and he would continue to do that. So he remained firmly focussed on the big picture whilst dealing with issues as they came along, even if they sometimes came along at a faster rate than at other times.
Asked if he thought it helped the Government's case to reform the NHS to dismiss expressions of anger as a "political stunt", the PMOS said he thought that the behaviour of the delegates at yesterday's nurses' conference had been rude. Perhaps those who had attended the conference should reflect on the fact that there were now 85,000 more nurses in the NHS. That number was not going to drop next year. We had also seen a 25% increase in nurses' starting pay - from around £12,000 to around £19,000. He also pointed out that the top pay which the most senior nurse could earn was £83,000. Of course we recognised that few nurses would earn that much. However, it was an indication of how much nurses' aspirations had changed under this Government.
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