Asked for further information about the Prime Minister's plans this week, the Prime Minister's Spokesman (PMS) said that this week was about policy planning, and looking at the subjects and issues that were going to be vital over the coming period. The Prime Minister would be working from Chequers, and the seminar he was holding today would be with Ministers, including Hilary Armstrong, Beverley Hughes, Pat McFadden, as well as representatives from social exclusion organisations such as the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, and charities such as Turning Point.
Middle East Trip
Asked if there were any plans for the Prime Minister to make a trip to the Middle East, the PMS replied that we had set out the Prime Minister's intentions to travel to the Middle East. The timing would be based on the progress of the issues moving forward.
Asked if there was any response to Ed Balls' interview regarding the Prime Minister's departure date from No10, the PMS replied that these discussions had all being carried out in the context of a debate about the future of the Labour Party. It would therefore be inappropriate for the PMS to comment on party matters.
Asked what were the Prime Minister's or No10's views on the issue of Romania or Bulgaria, the PMS said that again, it was covered last week, and she had nothing to add to that.
Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister updates
When asked if the Prime Minister was on his way back from his holiday the PMS said that after years of asking the same questions about the Prime Minister's holiday, they should know that advance notice of the Prime Minister's travel plans was not given and this year was no different. Asked if the Prime Minister would be back at work in Downing Street this week the PMS said he will be back from his holiday when he is back and that they would be notified when that time comes.
Asked if the Prime Minister was in favour of getting rid of inheritance tax the PMS said that the Government had responded to the story in that inheritance tax is a fair and necessary means of raising revenue for public services, and affected only the top 6% of all estates.
Asked about Lord Levy's current role in the Middle East the PMS confirmed that his role had not changed including the fact that we did not brief on his activity as that was the most effective way for him to do his job. The PMS confirmed that the Prime Minister had established his intention in travelling to the region in the coming period. When asked about the Foreign Secretary's travel plans the PMS referred people to the Foreign Office.
Asked about what Alistair Darling had meant when talking about imposing restrictions on immigration from Bulgaria and Romania to the UK the PMS said that Alistair Darling was talking about the need for a mature debate on the issue and making the general point about the need for a managed migration system. In terms of the EU and Romania and Bulgaria, decisions will be made at the appropriate time, i.e. once the Commission had reported to the whole of the EU regarding accession preparations at, possibly, the end of September. When asked repeatedly if the Bulgarians and Romanians would be treated differently than the Poles in regard to immigration the PMS again said that a decision would be made at the appropriate time.
When asked if the Prime Minister was still engaged in making 'phone calls to leaders the PMS said that the Prime Minister was still engaged and in touch with officials and in addition he had spoken to Prime Minister Prodi over the weekend. They had discussed the urgent need for the stabilisation force to be on the ground as soon as possible and also Italy's possible contribution to that force. Asked if the Prime Minister had made any other calls to world leaders, the PMS said she was not aware of others. Asked if the Prime Minister had voiced any disappointment over the lack of French and German offers of troops the PMS responded that the Prime Minister was looking at the big picture and the need to get the stabilisation force on the ground as soon as possible. Negotiations regarding the composition of the force were going on at the UN.
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