Asked for a reaction to the Michael Stone verdict, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that the Department of Health were putting out a statement. Rosie Winterton would say that there were lessons to be learned. We had always regarded it as a very serious report and would treat it as such.
Asked to what extent the Prime Minister would raise the fact that the Taleban and Al Qaeda used Northern Pakistan as a stronghold, the PMOS said that journalists could take it as read that all aspects of the war against terrorism would be covered in their discussion. This would include the very real efforts made by the Pakistani Government to fight terrorism as witnessed by their success in operations down through the years. Other matters would be discussed in private. Asked how it could be described as successful when part of the country had been ceded to terrorists, the PMOS said that that was the journalist's own assertion and he would not be drawn into discussing assertions.
Asked if there was a response to the CIA report on terrorism, the PMOS said that as the Prime Minister had pointed out yesterday it was worth taking a step back and recalling that Afghanistan and 9/11 were before Iraq. There was also a long list of Al Qaeda attacks that had preceded 9/11 and Iraq. The idea that Iraq had been the source of terrorism was factually wrong. Was Iraq and Afghanistan being used as an excuse: answer yes. The Prime Minister himself had said it was being used as an excuse. This argument did not follow through its logic, which was that if you accepted that line of argument you stopped supporting democratic governments. We now had democratic governments in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Prime Minister's view was that we needed to be supportive. If you indulged that other line of thinking you ended up walking away from democracy.
The Prime Minister's Official Spokesman told journalists that, at the UN today, the US and Denmark are holding a meeting of Security Council, African Union and EU Foreign Ministers on Darfur. He also highlighted that the Prime Minister in particular wants the meeting to focus on the need for the UN to reinforce the African Union force pending vital deployment of the UN Force; the need for a political process to move forward the Darfur Peace Agreement; and, to help that, a ministerial level visit to Khartoum to set this out to the Government of Sudan; international leaders should be ready to meet soon to consider the next steps. The Prime Minister hopes that this meeting will set out strongly and clearly what the international community expects of Sudan. The Prime Minister remains very focussed on the issue of Darfur and the need to move it forward despite all the difficulties we are having in doing so.
When asked about whether the UK was prepared to give up its veto on EU matters related to the criminal justice system in favour of qualified majority voting, the PMOS said, as he had done previously, that today's meeting was an informal meeting at which no decisions would be taken.
Asked whether the Police had contacted the Prime Minister or any Downing Street officials, the PMOS said there was no change from what he had said previously and he would not be giving a running commentary. The one exception to this, as he had always said, is in terms of the Prime Minister, and the answer to that was no.
Home Office/Identity and Passport Service
When asked about the Prime Minister's plans for travelling to Party Conference the PMOS referred journalists to the Labour Party.
Revised Security Regime at Airports
Asked how the security announcement would be handled, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said we should wait for the announcement by the Department of Transport at midday. Asked if there would be anything unexpected in the announcement, the PMOS said we would most likely see a limited relaxation in terms of what people can take on board an aeroplane, but what people should not expect was a complete lifting of restrictions.
Statistics Commission Letter to DfES
Put that the letter from the Commission clearly indicated the political advisers in the Department for Education & Skills (DfES) had put pressure on the statistician, and that this was something we thought had been stopped, the PMOS disagreed with journalists. He said the Statistics Commission had confirmed it was the DfES chief statistician who took the decision to publish the results and no one else. The PMOS said it had also been confirmed that publication took place on the earliest possible date, and this decision was consistent with the national statistics code of practice. Equally the Commission had recommended changes in procedures and DfES said they would consider these recommendations very carefully.
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