» Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Deputy Prime Minister

Asked whether the Prime Minister had wanted to take away Dorneywood from the Deputy Prime Minister in the reshuffle, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that we had said all that we wanted to about reshuffles until the next one, whenever that may be. Put that people had a right to know whether the Prime Minister thought it was appropriate for the Deputy Prime Minister to have these perks, the PMOS said that he thought people wanted to know what the Prime Minister thought the Deputy Prime Minister's role was. The Prime Minister had set that out very very clearly in his letter of appointment. That role was a mixture of chairing important cabinet committees on important subjects and representing the Prime Minister and the government in important meetings overseas, as he had done last week in Finland on preparations for their presidency of the EU.

Briefing took place at 15:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (7)


Asked how optimistic the Prime Minister was about Iraq, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that yesterday we saw in Baghdad the benefits of democracy. We now had a national unity government which genuinely represented all the people of Iraq. Whether it was the meeting with Prime Minister al-Maliki, or President Talabani, and his Sunni and Shia vice presidents you got a real sense of a government of national unity. That was what was important.

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


Put that Des Browne had in answer to a parliamentary question yesterday said that he was not able to say when Iraqi forces would be capable of looking after security, the PMOS said that you could not just address the issue as one question. There were a series of questions within that question. In 14 out of 18 of the Iraqi provinces the situation was relatively calm. Therefore it was easier for the Iraqi forces to take control province by province, as the Iraqi Prime Minister had set out yesterday, in those 14 provinces this summer. The key question, however, was whether you could maintain that momentum into the more difficult areas and that was why it was important that we had for the first time a democratically elected Iraqi government, which represented all of Iraq. What was interesting in yesterday's discussions was the seriousness with which all the different elements within the Iraqi government took the unity of the government. Secondly, no one whether Shia, Sunni or Kurd, with connections to the insurgency had called for immediate withdrawal. What they all wanted to know was that we did not intend to stay forever, which we did not want either, but equally they did not want us to leave immediately either. They wanted us to create a situation where the Iraqi troops were ready to take on the responsibility. This was what we were doing.

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

Human Rights

Asked to clarify the Prime Minister's remarks concerning a re-balancing of Human Rights, the PMOS said that this country has been a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights for 50 years, and that was why we had the Human Rights Act. The Human Rights Act was a very important piece of legislation. However there were problems in this country with issues such as deportation, which other countries who had legislation which reflected the ECHR did not have. On this issue you couldn't have a partial view. You couldn't say that the rights of an individual took precedent over the rights of the community. Of course you had to respect the rights of the individual but also had to balance that with the rights of the community. It was a mistake to take a partial view because that ended up with the community at large thinking you were not protecting their interests as a whole and people lost respect for the very thing you want them to have the most respect for. Therefore while obviously we respected people's views, and we were not distancing ourselves from the principles enshrined in the Human Rights Act, we did have to look at practice. In terms of legislation, that was being studied at present so he wouldn't get into that.

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


Asked what was meant by the text in joint statement on Darfur saying "EU and NATO, through airlift co-ordination and training" and the phrase "we stand ready to do more", the PMOS said that the first thing was that we talked to the African Union and others about what they needed. As people would recall from Gleneagles we had committed to help create a 20,000 African Union peacekeeper force which was part of this. There was also a short-term need to implement the Darfur agreement reached last week. First and foremost we needed to speak to the African Union and today's discussion was part of that. Asked if that meant troops, the PMOS said we should have the discussions first and then see what NATO, as a whole, could do. It would take into account people's commitments elsewhere. Asked whether it was right to say that the shortages were in training for troops, the PMOS said that was why we were talking about creating 20,000 African peacekeepers and training was an important part of that.

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

Home Office

Asked about the numbers of foreign terror suspects claiming asylum here, the PMOS said that in terms of detail people should talk to the Home Office. He pointed out that if someone had a criminal record that was a reason for refusing citizenship. He would also point out that in terms of the balance between applications and removals we had now reached a the tipping point where there were more removals than new applications. That was a significant step forward and he was sure that it would be hitting the front pages any day now given the acreage of coverage the issue had received in the past.

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

EU Football

Asked whether the Prime Minister had met the Portuguese finance minister today, the PMOS said no, the report, as journalists would expect, had been received by DCMS. Asked whether the football report had come up with President Barroso, the PMOS said that the issues discussed on that agenda were primarily those that would be part of the June European Council and the forward look for the EU. Asked if there was a government response, the PMOS said that we would obviously study it and consider it seriously but we would also bear in mind the success that premiership clubs had seen this year and the need to maintain that.

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

Education Bill

Asked if the Prime Minister would be meeting any MPs today to try to get their backing for the Education Bill, the PMOS said that as Alan Johnson had made clear over the weekend, we recognised that votes were likely to go the way they had gone in the past. The important thing today was that this bill would progress and the measures it contained concerning individual learning, discipline, and giving parents greater choice would be put in place.

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

Education Bill

Asked whether the Prime Minister would be voting tonight, PMOS said he suspected that the Prime Minister knew, but he had not had time to check out for sure yet.

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

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