Deputy Prime Minister
Asked if he could shed any light on the Deputy Prime Minister's day, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that the Deputy Prime Minster's office had issued a statement and he had nothing to add to that. Put to him that people close to the Deputy Prime Minster had said he was close to walking away, the PMOS said that it was not for him to give a running commentary on what people said on Sky News, if he did that he would be here all day, mainly correcting the numerous inaccuracies. The Deputy Prime Minster had a job to and he would get on with that. The Prime Minister believed that the Deputy Prime Minster's years of experience in Government were hugely valuable in resolving issues which were cross-departmental. Therefore he brought a lot to the important role of chairing Cabinet Committees.
Asked if the Prime Minster had any comment on North Korea's missile launches, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that we condemned this irresponsible act. The Government of North Korea had launched these missiles despite repeated worldwide pressure not to do so. We viewed this as a deliberately provocative act. We urged North Korea to rejoin the six-party talks with the US, China, Japan, Russia and South Korea and, in the meantime, it was important that the Security Council left North Korea in no doubt about the strength of international concern over their actions.
Asked what the Prime Minister had meant when he said he would look into the issue of bail in the United States for the "Natwest 3" and how that squared with the promise not to interfere in the legal process, the PMOS said that that was a fair question. In terms of interfering in this particular case nothing had changed. There was a legal process which would continue. However the Prime Minister was aware that there was concern by the families of these individuals that because the defendants were from the UK they might not be considered for bail in the US for obvious reasons. Therefore he had asked officials to look and see whether those concerns, should they arise, could be dealt with. That was not interfering with the individual cases but simply trying to reassure families about what would happen if those circumstances arose around bail.
Deputy Prime Minister
Asked if the Prime Minister still retained full confidence in the Deputy Prime Minister, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said yes. The PMOS had answered this question yesterday and nothing had changed since then. Asked whether the Prime Minister had discussed the Deputy Prime Minister with Sir John Bourne or Sir Gus O'Donnell, the PMOS said, as they all knew, that he did not get into giving the press a running commentary on the Prime Minister's discussions with officials or colleagues. Journalists should not read into that one way or the other.
Asked to confirm whether another British soldier had been killed in Afghanistan, the PMOS said that he was aware of reports but he would rather not say any more until the MOD were ready to release details. He took the opportunity to point out to the lobby that last week in similar circumstances a number of outlets identified possible units which troops reported dead might have belonged, and that in turn had caused quite a lot of alarm amongst families of troops posted in Afghanistan. There were set procedures which the MOD observed and he would ask that out of sensitivity for the families everyone observed those set procedures because it did cause genuine problems for families.
In response to the suggestion that a former US ambassador had said that extraditing the Natwest three was a political decision by the government, as the treaty had not yet been ratified by the US senate, the PMOS said, without commenting on the specific details of the case, that was based on a misconception. This misconception was that we had in some way given a unilateral concession to the United States. That was not true. In the past the US had actually faced a higher threshold of evidence when it had sought to extradite people from the UK when compared to the threshold other countries had to cross, or indeed the threshold the UK had to cross when extraditing people from US to the UK.
Put that a 7/7 inquiry would allow lessons to be learned on intelligence gathering methods, the PMOS said we had already had that type of inquiry carried out by the independent Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) therefore those lessons had already been explored and learned. The question people needed to ask was whether we diverted police resources when there were 70 ongoing terror related investigations being carried out. We believed that we should not divert those resources. Put that the police had been able to deploy 250 officers to Forest Gate, the PMOS said that suggestion was facile. The officers that were deployed to Forrest Gate were not the officers that would be diverted into an inquiry. It would be the senior officers who were directing the 70 terror investigations and senior members of our intelligence community. This was serious stuff and that suggestion was oversimplifying the situation to say the least.
Asked if plans had changed on publishing details of meetings with Rupert Murdoch, the PMOS said that this was still a matter of ongoing discussion with the Information Commissioner.
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