» Monday, July 10, 2006

NatWest Three

Asked what talks were being held regarding the NatWest Three, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) told journalists that there were two things to be distinguished. The first was the extradition arrangements with the US, and as the PMOS had explained in some detail last week, what we had to understand was that the 2003 Act stopped the process whereby in effect, we discriminated against the US by having a higher burden of proof that the US had to meet than 50 other countries that we had extradition arrangements with. The 2003 Act brought us into line in our relations with the US with the relationship that we had with 50 other countries, including Council of Europe countries, New Zealand and Australia. There was also the matter of the Treaty, which neither country had ratified at this stage. The PMOS said that we remained anxious to push that process forward, and that had been an ongoing matter of discussion between us and the American authorities. The PMOS said there was no doubt at all that that would be reflected in Margaret Beckett's discussions, and as she had said today, Baroness Scotland was planning to go to America at some stage.

Briefing took place at 10:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (6)

Natwest Three

Asked what progress had been made on bail as an extradition date had been set, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that he would not get into confirming or denying times of this specific case as would be the situation in any case. As he had previously stated, the matter was being actively considered but he would not be giving a running commentary on it. Asked at what level these discussions were happening, the PMOS said that discussions would be at an official level but he did not think it was appropriate for him to provide a running commentary on discussions on any specific case.
Put that Lord Goodhart had suggested that there was not parity of evidence required, as the UK needed to produce evidence whereas the US did not, the PMOS referred journalists to what he had been saying since last week. The system before the 2003 Act meant that the US had to produce prima facie evidence for extradition from the UK to the US. Whereas going the other way, US to UK as with some 50 other countries only required "probable cause". Therefore the US had been discriminated against uniquely. The 2003 Act had brought the burden of proof into parity. It was now "probable cause" the same level of proof in effect going both ways and with 50 other countries that included members of the Council of Europe, New Zealand, Australia and Canada.

Briefing took place at 10:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)


Put that a few weeks ago, the Prime Minister seemed to agree that the sentence given to Craig Sweeney was out of kilter with the public views, and yet the Attorney General was planning to rule that the sentence would stand, the PMOS said that the time to ask would be after the Attorney General had spoken, and not beforehand.

Briefing took place at 10:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

Sweeney – Paedophile Sentencing

Asked whether the Prime Minister believed the sentence was too lenient, the PMOS said that the Attorney General had said after considering the case in detail that his opinion was that given Sweeney's past history he believed that Sweeny might never be released. This was not how the case had been reported at the time and the Attorney General had, himself, said at the time that he wished to review the case. He had now carefully considered this case and come to the judgement that given the law the judge had reached the appropriate verdict. The Attorney General, the Home Secretary and the Lord Chancellor had each identified problems in sentencing which all three of them would make a further announcement on before the summer recess. Put that the Home Secretary still stood by his view that it was too lenient and did the Prime Minister agree and who was to blame, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister's view was that it was perfectly proper for the Home Secretary to raise this concern. As he, the PMOS, had said at the time it was right that different parts of government reflected different priorities in this area.

Briefing took place at 10:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)


Put by the BBC's political editor that there was an inconsistency between today's announcement regarding troops to Afghanistan and Downing Street pouring cold water at the end of last week, the PMOS said that in the spirit of equal honesty, the question showed a complete disregard of the proper process as outlined at lobby last week. The PMOS made no apology for sticking to that process. The process was that military commanders on the ground, as we said, made an assessment. That assessment was then passed to their superiors in London, and it was then assessed within the MOD, where it was the passed to the Prime Minister who made a decision. It would have been totally wrong for the PMOS to pre-empt any element of that process, and the decisions on this were not taken until the weekend. Therefore, the Defence Secretary would go to the Commons to outline the position. The PMOS said again that he made no apology at all for not engaging in hypothetical speculation, which as people knew, was a sin not to be committed by the PMOS.

Briefing took place at 10:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

Counter-Terrorism Strategy

Asked how the government wanted people to respond to elevations of the threat level, the PMOS said that it would depend on the nature of the threat level. We had always said that we would advise the public of any specific threat and any response that was necessary to it. In terms of the public response he was not sure the government had been short of taking and advising the appropriate action. For example there was the action that had been taken at Heathrow, which had been criticised at the time, but it had turned out to be absolutely right. Asked why the public needed to know, the PMOS said that there were times when it was right and proper that the public understood why they were seeing more armed police around Whitehall and why there were more searches and a greater presence on the underground. It was important that people understood that this was not just out of the blue but part of a wider picture. It was also important that people understood the recent operations were not ad hoc but part of a strategic counter insurgency operation. It was important that people understood the context of why a police operation took place. We had made it clear that we believed the level of the current threat to be severe.

Briefing took place at 10:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)


Asked if the Prime Minister believed that we should be "hugging hoodies", the PMOS replied that the journalist was trying to point him in a party political direction, and he would resist. The PMOS said that our policy remained the same, which was that was why the Prime Minister had developed the Respect agenda, SureStart, New Deal etc, and why we also had the anti social behaviour approach. Those were the concepts we believed would tackle the issues of youth crime and behaviour.

Briefing took place at 10:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

John Prescott

Asked if Mr. Prescott would still be in charge of the country in a few weeks, the PMOS said that he had answered that same question in the affirmative last week. Nothing had changed.

Briefing took place at 10:00 | Read whole briefing | Comment (1)

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