» Monday, October 9, 2006

Northern Ireland Talks

Asked what the expectations of the talks in Scotland were, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that it was difficult to overstate the importance of this week. This was it. Last week, we said that the IMC Report on the IRA's inactivity laid the basis for a final settlement. As a result, we were not taking anything for granted, and there were still issues that could trip us up, but the fundamentals were clear: unionism accepted that at some stage, they would have to share power with Sinn Fein. The question was: how and when, not if. Equally, Sinn Fein, according to the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) Report, accepted that it had to engage with the police. The question was: how and when, not if. Therefore, the issues essentially were about sequencing, not fundamental principle. The details could trip us up, but as the Prime Minister had said last week, this was the time for leadership should be encouraged, and to keep an eye on the big picture. That big picture was that there was an opportunity this week which might not come again in the foreseeable future. There was a window here to reach a final settlement, and the significance of that could not be overstated.

Briefing took place at 9:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

North Korea

Asked whether the government had accepted North Korea's claim of testing nuclear weapons, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that the Foreign Secretary would be making a statement shortly. However, everything we have seen so far led us to believe that we should take this with due seriousness.

Briefing took place at 9:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

North Korea

Asked if people had the right to be worried about a "lunatic" with his hands on something so important as nuclear weapons, the PMOS said that as the Prime Minister's recent words made clear, we did regard this very, very seriously indeed. However, so too did China, Japan, the US, South Korea, and the wider world community, which was why we anticipated that the UN Security Council would want to meet fairly quickly to discuss this matter. People were seized by the significance of this irresponsible act, and there would be a response. What the PMOS did not want to do was to get ahead of what would happen in New York later today. However, anyone who had heard the statements by China and Japan yesterday, or the statements that the United UN Security Council warning North Korea about the consequences of going ahead with this act should in any way send a signal other than a very strong one to North Korea.

Briefing took place at 9:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

Opposition Proposals for the NHS

Asked what the government's position was on David Cameron's comments on introducing legislation to enshrine the independence of the NHS, the PMOS said this was a party political matter and he would not respond officially to the leader of the opposition. The factual position was that the government had transferred eighty percent of the health budget to the front line. In terms of practitioners in the health service we had given primary care trusts greater operational independence. We had reduced the number of centrally imposed targets. But there was a balance to be struck between on the one hand giving people the operational independence that they needed to carry out a service and on the other maintaining the accountability of those who spent money on that service. The other key issue that people needed to recognise that was going on was not a process of financial cuts, but a process of trying to align the changes in the pattern of diseases and in the pattern of clinical treatments with the level and structure of provision. You could not freeze frame the NHS anymore than you could freeze frame the progress of medical treatment or indeed the demands of the public that treatment where possible be more locally accessible and the impact that had on where you put resources into the NHS. You could not say that the NHS as it was ten years ago was how it should be today because the nature of illness had changed. The nature of public demand for the service had changed. The nature of medical technology had also changed. Therefore you had to reconfigure the NHS to fit modern day medical reality.

Briefing took place at 9:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

UK-India Summit

Asked for further information regarding the Prime Minister's meeting with Prime Minister Singh tomorrow, and would they discuss terrorism, the PMOS replied that as always when the Prime Ministers met, terrorism would be one of the subjects. So too, however, would be other matters, including our economic links. Indeed, the Prime Minister was coming with a high-level Ministerial delegation, and a large business delegation.

Briefing took place at 9:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

David Blunkett

Asked what would the Prime Minister say to those MPs who claimed that one reason that the prisons were in the current state of crisis was the mess left by David Blunkett who by his own admission was not concentrating fully on the job when he was Home Secretary, the PMOS said that was a clever way to try and get him to do something that he never did, which was called a book review. Therefore we would concentrate on what we were doing about the prisons now rather than given giving a commentary on a past Home Secretary.

Briefing took place at 9:00 | Read whole briefing | Comment (1)

Veils

Put that a Sun reporter managed to evade security at Leeds/Bradford airport, and did the Prime Minister show any security concerns as a result, the PMOS replied that in terms of the operational assessment on security, that was a matter for the relevant authority, and it did not help if we acted as a commentator.

Briefing took place at 9:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (2)

Alastair Campbell

Asked if the PMOS was aware Alastair Campbell had periods of depression whilst at Downing Street, the PMOS said that issue came under the heading of personnel matters. Therefore he would not comment.

Briefing took place at 9:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (2)

Afghanistan-Army

Asked for some information regarding Afghanistan and the troops there, the PMOS said that in terms of Afghanistan, the Prime Minister had spoken for the situation on Saturday morning. In terms of resources, we would listen to whatever the Commanders in the field told us, and that process of evaluation and assessment was one that went on all the time. Therefore, we would wait for their assessment.

Briefing took place at 9:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

Chancellor’s Speech

Asked what would the Chancellor be speaking about later in the week, the PMOS replied that the speech was largely focused on security and financing and terrorism and how that could be tackled. The PMOS said journalists should speak to the Treasury for more information.

Briefing took place at 9:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

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