» Thursday, October 12, 2006

Northern Ireland

The Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said the core issues of the talks were power sharing and policing. It was the two Governments' view that the DUP and Unionists were prepared to share power with Sinn Fein. There were issues still to be addressed surrounding that, but the core principle we believed was that they were prepared to work together. It was also the two Governments' view that on the core principle of policing, Sinn Fein were prepared to engage, as the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) report had suggested. Again these details needed to be discussed and agreed. However, as in previous issues, there was a confidence issue to be addressed by both sides. We recognised that these were big steps for both sides to take. It was difficult to exaggerate just how big they were. Whilst both sides, we believed, were prepared to move in principle, they also wanted to know that the other side was going to move at the same time, given recent history. The key issue for the Government was whether we could give both sides confidence in terms of moving forward on the big issues so that nobody would be left exposed. Hence, the issue was not so much the principle of power sharing and policing, but sequencing. It may well be that in the end it would be the two Governments who would have to make that call and if necessary we were prepared to do so by tomorrow. The other message that the Prime Ministers were giving to the two sides was that theses issues were not going to change. We recognized that they were difficult. We recognized how significant they were. However, as we had said all this week, it was time for people to make up their mind. They knew the consequences if we did not get agreement. But equally people knew if we crossed this river then we were in a completely different place.

Briefing took place at 12:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

Cash for Peerages

Asked if the Prime Minister had been interviewed by Scotland Yard, the Prime Minister's Spokesman (PMS) replied that there had been no change in the position since the question was last asked.

Briefing took place at 12:00 | Read whole briefing | Comment (1)

David Blunkett’s Memoirs

Asked if the Prime Minister had suffered heart problems for fifteen years, the PMOS said we had dealt with this the last time he had gone into hospital, and he had nothing further to add. Asked why HM the Queen, Bill Clinton and David Blunkett had all suggested that the Prime Minister had told them something different, the PMOS said he had said what he intended to say at the time, and was not going to get into commentating on what other people thought.

Briefing took place at 12:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

Forthcoming Business

The Leader of the House said that on, Monday October 16, the business would be devoted to a Liberal Democrat Opposition Day. The first half would be a debate entitled "Post Office Network"; the second would be on "The Green Tax Switch". Provisionally, Douglas Alexander would speak on behalf of the Government in the latter debate.

Briefing took place at 12:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

Lancet Report

Asked what the Prime Minister's view was on the Lancet report, the PMOS said we made our view clear first in 2004. We had made it clear again, but much more important was the view of the Iraqi government, which, as recently as October, had said that the Lancet report numbers method was far from the correct. The Iraqi health ministry was the place to get the relevant figures. The problem with this was that they were using an extrapolation technique, from a relatively small sample, from an area of Iraq which was not representative of the country as a whole. We had questioned that technique from the beginning and we continued to do so. The Lancet figure was a greater order of magnitude than of any other figure. It was not one we believed to be anywhere near accurate. That was not in anyway to downplay the seriousness of the security situation in Iraq or lessons to be learned in the wake of the tragedy of the deaths that had been caused. It was important to remember that the deaths were being caused by terrorists, not by the Iraqi Government or the international force.

Briefing took place at 12:00 | Read whole briefing | Comment (1)

Spoof Video

Asked for his reaction, the Leader said that he had not seen the broadcast of the video, adding that it was a matter for the MP to explain. Pressed about whether it was helpful to make personal attacks on the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Straw said his view, which applied across the board, was that it was necessary to ensure that political discourse was at a reasonably high level and avoided personal attacks. However, it was a matter for the MP.

Briefing took place at 12:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

Prime Minister’s Questions

Asked whether there was a change of practice for the Prime Minister in not mentioning the deaths of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan at PMQS, as it had not did not happened the day before, the PMOS said it was not a change of practice. It was a reflection of the period of time since Parliament last met. The Prime Minister did pay tribute generally. Asked whether if there were more tragedies next week we would revert back to the original practice, the PMOS said we all hoped there would not be. However, should there be, he did not anticipate any change of practice.

Briefing took place at 12:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

Guantanamo Bay

Mr Straw indicated that he agreed with the earlier comments of the Foreign Secretary. To the suggestion that her comments appeared to go further than previously, the Leader said that she had made clear that the view of the Prime Minister was that the camp should be closed. He said that she had gone on to explain the reasoning for that. The Leader added his own observation that what was explicable and justifiable five years ago might not be at present because of changed circumstances.

Briefing took place at 12:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

Abu Hamza

Asked repeatedly if the Prime Minister was concerned that Abu Hamza appeared to have brought a house for a quarter of million pounds cash despite having his assets frozen, the PMOS said the Legal Services Commission were looking into the circumstances of this individual case under the court order. Therefore it would be wrong for the PMOS to comment further on individual circumstances whilst the enquiry was progressing.

Briefing took place at 12:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

Muslim Veil

He was asked if he regretted the "can of worms" that had been opened by his comments in a local newspaper column last week. Mr Straw said that he did not regret what he had written and he stood by his article. He pointed out that, in the same newspaper today, he had written a further column, which reflected on reaction over the past week. He also drew attention to the fact that he had made almost identical comments in June at a conference in London, organised by the Muslim Council of Britain. Although the media was present on that occasion, not a word of his views was reported.

Briefing took place at 12:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (3)

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