Algerian President’s visit
Asked if the mergers of some parts of the police force was still going ahead the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that John Reid would be making a speech tomorrow and he didn't want to pre-empt that. He had said last month however that consultation would continue and that would be the theme of his speech tomorrow. Asked if he was saying that the Home Secretary wasn't ruling the mergers out, the PMOS repeated that journalists should wait until tomorrow. Put to him that their news desks wouldn't wait, the PMOS said that sometimes it was the job of a political editor to tell the news desks that some times life was tough.
Asked what agenda was for the Prime Minister's meeting with the Algerian President to day, the PMOS said that they would be talking about regional matters, Africa, cooperation on counter-terrorism matters. They would also talk about energy where by 2010 Algeria was forecast to provide 12% of our gas and be Europe's second largest source of gas after Russia and BP had an investment of $4billion there. Asked if we were any closer to an agreement for Algeria to take back suspected terrorists, the PMOS said that discussions on deportations with assurances were continuing and would continue beyond this visit. As with all discussions you weren't there until you were there but we were making progress.
Asked further about police mergers, the PMOS replied that the situation was as the Home Office had set out, which was that the consultation on this would continue, as John Reid had said last month. The PMOS said that Tony McNulty would be making a speech tomorrow, and he would set that out. There were two different issues. One was efficiency and effectiveness, which was what the HMIC report highlighted, and the other was local accountability. There was obviously a debate about how the two were reconciled, and that debate would continue.
Asked if there was any word on the Prime Minister's attempts to secure bail for the Natwest 3, the PMOS said that discussions continued. What was important was to separate out the burden of proof issue from the discussions over the treaty. He underlined that whilst the wording might not be precisely the same it was the legal opinion that what we now required of the United States in terms of evidence was the same as what we required of other countries and vice versa. The wording of our extradition arrangements with other countries might be different but we now believed that now all were on a par so that there was no difference in terms of the burden of proof asked for by the United States, compared for what we asked for from there or indeed what the US asked for and what other countries asked for.
Asked if the Prime Minister was confident that the ID cards scheme would go ahead in the form that it was put before Parliament, the PMOS replied that he was not going to get into artificial deadlines. However, the introduction of the ID cards system remained broadly on track.
Asked if the Prime Minister was happy with the way that the tax credits were working out, the PMOS said that it was a matter for the Treasury and they would talk about that. We had talked in the past about the real benefit that tax credits had brought to millions of families. People should bear that in mind.
Asked if there was any significance in the Prime Minister visiting a wind farm today and not a nuclear power station, the PMOS said that whilst the BBC might find it difficult to walk and chew gum at the same time, in terms of government energy policy you had to have a multiple approach. That multiple approach was about getting the right mix. Wishful thinking would not keep the lights on, you had to think hard about the reality of the energy gap. The reality was that if you did nothing the amount of energy that we got from nuclear would decline from 20% to 6%. At the moment despite the fact that with the exception of Denmark, we generated more offshore wind power than any other country in the world, it only contributed 1%. What people would see from the energy review was that there would be a big increase in renewable energy.
Asked if the Prime Minister thought that Zinadine Zidane should have behaved the way that he did in the final, the PMOS replied that since the Prime Minister had said football had been discussed over the lunch with the Algerian President, and as they were doing a press conference at that very moment, no comment was the safest thing to do.
Asked if the Prime Minister had been aware that Sir Gulam Noon had been lending money to the Labour party when he nominated him for a peerage, the PMOS said that he didn't get into processology or party matters.
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