» Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Forest Gate

Asked if the Prime Minister still backed the Police 101% after the statements today of the individuals arrested in Forest Gate, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that that the Prime Minister’s view had not changed. As he had said yesterday, if the police and the security agencies had failed to act on the intelligence they had received then people would have, quite rightly, been critical. The Prime Minister recognised that there were always difficult judgements to be made in cases like this. We supported the police and the security agencies in making those difficult judgements. People should keep in mind that those difficult judgements were against a backdrop of what continued to be a very real threat to this city and this country.

Put to him that there was a suggestion that the police had made their move 48 hours late due to a disagreement with MI5, the PMOS said that he didn’t comment on operational matters, furthermore there was an IPCC investigation on going which he wouldn’t pre-empt in any case. Asked if we were considering having a review of operational protocol in light of this, the PMOS said that, as people were aware, there was an ongoing process of review on all such matters. That process should not be an excuse for people to simplify, get back from, or in anyway devalue the difficult decisions that had to be taken when credible intelligence was presented. Put to him that there had been a shortage of people to assess the intelligence that was coming in, the PMOS said that he couldn’t comment on these matters and he didn’t know if it was possible for any person to comment openly on such matters.

Asked to comment on disagreements between the police and the security services, the PMOS said that, as he said yesterday, reports about these disagreements were simply wrong. He went on to say that some people might want to approach this from the perspective that in some way the Government would not support one aspect of the police or the security services, that was 101% wrong. We recognised the reality that there were difficult decisions that always had to be taken and we were in no way going to back away from supporting those who had to take those difficult decisions. We would not succeed in meeting the very real threat this country faced if we were more focussed on trying to divide the security services and police then on the threat itself. We had to be united as a country against the threat.

Asked if the Government and authorities were acknowledging that in retrospect this intelligence had not been accurate, the PMOS said that the bottom line in all of this was a recognition that intelligence was an art-form where you could not be 100% right all the time. The threat we faced was not one which openly advertised its activities. The authorities had to act on credible intelligence and that involved difficult decisions. What we had to do was support those who had to take those difficult decisions.

Asked if it was right that we were considering bringing forward tomorrow the power of detaining people for up to 28 days without arrest and if we were concerned about the message this sent out to some members of the Muslim community, the PMOS said that he was not sure the proposal to bring the powers forward would be laid tomorrow, but they would be through shortly. In terms of the need to hold people for 28 days, our view remained that it needed to be longer for the reasons we set out when the bill had been going through Parliament. Asked if we were concerned about the impact of the recent events on the Muslim community, the PMOS said that, as he had said yesterday, we should all be very wary of caricaturing opinion in one section of the community as being entirely in one place. We had heard Muslim opinion which was strongly supportive of the Police and the need to take action on the basis of credible intelligence.

Asked if we were considering putting some sort of compensation procedure in place in recognition of likelihood that there would be further false alarms even if those false alarms were with good intent, the PMOS said the most important thing was that the Police and Government had quite explicitly set out why we believed that action in such cases was necessary and we had done that. Andy Hayman had set out last week the reasons the police believed they had had to act. Therefore communities could be in no doubt as to what our intention was and therefore communities had to decide whether they expressed their support for action designed solely meet the terrorist threat, or not. Asked if it wouldn’t be economically cheaper to put more resources into the police so that we wouldn’t be late in the future and have to pay compensation, the PMOS replied (with thunder rolling ominously in the background) that that question had inbuilt assumptions which he had already said were incorrect, therefore he would not answer such a question.

Briefing took place at 15:00 | Search for related news

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