» Thursday, October 19, 2006

Informal European Summit

The Prime Minister's Spokesman (PMS) told journalists that the agenda would cover further developments of EU energy policy, economic reform, especially boosting European capacity for innovation, Darfur and immigration. President Putin would join EU leaders for dinner. Our objectives for the Summit were to make further progress towards an EU energy policy which would deliver security and diversity of suppliers, but also, low carbon energy economy. We wanted to send a strong EU message on Darfur, and to ensure that the Summit provided impetus on a wide-ranging, innovative agenda, including product markets, intellectual property and education reform.

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


Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said this morning the Prime Minister had presented at Cabinet details of the policy review programme. The Cabinet had enthusiastically endorsed plans to take forward a formal Whitehall process, which would see every aspect of Government policy come under scrutiny. The programme called "Pathways to the Future" sought to assess the long-term strategic priorities of the UK alongside the Government's existing policy framework. Through this process a series of questions would be asked and answered, which would point the Government and the country in the right direction as it prepared for the future.

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

Forthcoming Business

The Leader said that on, Monday October 23, the business would be remaining stages of the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Bill [Lords]. Details of other business were:

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

Social Cohesion

Asked whether there was any other discussion at Cabinet, the PMOS said that Ruth Kelly had also done a presentation on the up coming Local Government White Paper. Asked whether the issue of the veil and cohesion had been discussed, the PMOS said that there had been a group discussion of not just the veil, but also of the issues that the Prime Minister had highlighted at PMQs. We needed a real debate within the country about the whole range of views between the Muslim and non-Muslim communities not just the issues of separation and integration within the Muslim community.

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

Prorogation-September sittings of the House

In response to a question, the Leader said that Prorogation - the date of the end of the present parliamentary session - would be approximately a week before the State Opening on November 15, but cautioned that it was not yet fixed. On September sittings of the House, Mr Straw said that there would be a decision before the end of the present session. The House had decided to approve September sittings in 2002, which took effect in 2003 and 2004. It would have continued in 2005 but for the need for essential security work.

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

Mirza-Tahir Hussain

Asked if reports were correct that Mirza-Thair Hussain had been granted a two-month stay of execution, the PMOS said if the reports were correct then we welcomed them. We continued to express our opposition to the sentence being carried out as the Prime Minister had set out at PMQs yesterday. Asked if there had been any contact with the Prince of Wales Office, the PMOS said he was not aware of any. However, we continued to be in touch with all sides in this through the usual channels.

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

YouTube video violence

The Leader was asked about his comments during Business Questions relating to a possible amendment to the Violent Crime Reduction Bill to tackle the issue. He said that his response to the MP concerned was merely a helpful suggestion, and added that there could be an opportunity during the debate on Lords amendments to the Bill to raise the issue. The Leader said he had no prior knowledge of the MP's question, but he was certainly concerned about the kind of material in such videos being available to young people. He said he was not aware of the Home Office view. Mr Straw added that he had expressed a view that the MP took up the issue in relation to an "appropriate" amendment. It remained to be seen whether any amendment would be in order.

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


Asked repeatedly if there was any sign of the UK sending more troops and equipment to Afghanistan, the PMOS said referred journalists to General Butler's reply to the Guardian today in relation to their report of yesterday. The remarks by the NATO Secretary General today had also made clear that the NATO allied forces were making real progress in Afghanistan. The forces consisted of over thirty thousand troops from thirty countries. There was an issue of getting more troops there, but that was a matter best dealt with by NATO. What was important was that people understood that we were, despite today's attack, making real progress. Our thoughts and prayers were with the injured troops and with the families of the Afghan children who were killed in that attack. Asked repeatedly about more helicopters being sent to Afghanistan, the PMOS said again, those are matters best dealt with by NATO.

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

Freedom of Information

Asked why attempts to obtain full disclosure of MPs' expenses had been blocked, Mr Straw said that was for the same reason as the BBC, as another public authority, resisted a number of FOI requests in respect of the Corporation. The Act's structure fully entitled public authorities to do so, where it was reasonable to claim an exemption. The whole point of the Act was that it was balanced, providing the right to information and providing rights to a public authority to exemptions to it. Asked why it was "reasonable" in this case, the Leader said a great deal of information was now published in respect of the amounts that MPs were paid. There was a point beyond which it came, in the judgement of the House of Commission, within the exemptions. The questioner pointed out the contrast with the Scottish Parliament, the US and other countries. Mr Straw said it was a matter for the Scottish Parliament to make its own decisions.

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


Asked whether the Prime Minister agreed with President Bush's statement yesterday where he had said, that a definition of success or failure in Iraq was not linked to the number of troop casualties, the PMOS said we had always made it clear what our goal was. Our goal was the establishment of a democratic Iraqi Government that was able to defend itself and able to exercise control all over Iraq. That was what we were working to achieve. This was why we had transferred responsibility in a number of the provinces. We had always set this out as our goal. Asked whether he was saying that the number of troop deaths were an irrelevant factor, the PMOS said all deaths including troop deaths were a matter of deep regret. We would always express our regret at the death of anyone. The important point however, was to set out what it was we were trying to achieve.

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

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