» Thursday, October 26, 2006

Cash for Peerages

Asked if the police had spoken to the Prime Minister yet, the Prime Minister's Spokesman replied that nothing had changed since the question was asked at the morning lobby briefing.

Briefing took place at 6:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

Cabinet

The Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said at this morning's Cabinet Peter Hain updated colleagues on Northern Ireland, primarily because he had not been able to do so last week, not because there was anything new. Tessa Jowell gave an overview of where we were on the Olympics. Professor Nick Stern gave a preview of his report on climate change, which comes out next week. Asked whether there was any discussion of the Queen's Speech, the PMOS said no.

Briefing took place at 6:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

Forthcoming Business

The Leader said that on Monday, October 30, the debate would be on Lords amendments to the Violent Crime Reduction Bill, followed by a debate on the Security of Energy Supply on a motion for the Adjournment. The business on Tuesday, October 31, would be on a half-day Opposition debate on the "Conduct of Government Policy in relation to the War in Iraq and its Aftermath". This would take place on a motion tabled by the Scottish National and Plaid Cymru parties. It would be followed by a debate on motions relating to the Crossrail Bill, which was a carry-over measure.

Briefing took place at 6:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

Climate Change

Asked what was the reaction to the Stern Report, the PMOS said it was difficult to talk about the Stern Report without revealing the contents of it. However, the Cabinet recognised this was a very serious piece of work about a very serious subject and very clear thinking about the economic benefits of dealing with climate change now compared to the costs of not dealing with it in the not so distant future.

Briefing took place at 6:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

Northern Ireland

Asked where the Government was on Northern Ireland, the PMOS said it was a matter for the parties to decide if and when they met. The deadline remained essentially the 10th November for parties to indicate whether they were in line with the St Andrews agreement; and then take the necessary steps forward. It was important that parties indicated their overall agreement with the St Andrews agreement by the 10th November.

Briefing took place at 6:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

September sittings and House motions

Mr Straw said that the motion on September sittings would welcome the introduction of written questions and written ministerial statements in September this year and, in the light of that and other consultations, also would seek to rescind the decision, made in 2002, to have September sittings. There would be a free vote on the issue.

Briefing took place at 6:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

MPs’ expenses

Asked about the release of the data today and the increase in the total sum, Mr Straw said that, aside from those which related to second homes and travel, all the rest related to the running of constituency offices and the payment of staff salaries. It was a complete misnomer to call them MPs' expenses. He said his personal figures included the cost of staff in a very busy office - and every single penny went on paying for that. From memory, he said that the Senior Salaries Review Body had recommended increases in the staff allowance and the incidental expenses allowance, which he guessed would explain the rise. The car allowance had gone down. While he could see what the headlines tomorrow would state, unless his guesswork was wrong, they would be inaccurate. Mr Straw also pointed out that the figures for severance payments for MPs who had left the House, which were included, were considerable. Asked if he believed that, before publication of the details under FOI, the system had been open to slackness, he said he did not think that was the case. He explained that the "Green Book" set out clearly what MPs could and could not claim. The Leader said that the current system meant that MPs had to account for spending; it was also scrutinised and subject to audit.

Briefing took place at 6:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

Extradition

Asked whether the Prime Minister agreed that US soldiers allegedly responsible for killing a UK journalist should not face questioning in the UK, the PMOS said that as the Prime Minister had told the House of Commons at PMQ's yesterday, we should not interfere in proper legal processes. Put that three UK citizens had been deported to US to face prosecution there, the PMOS said again that was fully in line with the proper legal process.

Briefing took place at 6:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

Iran

Asked what did the Prime Minister think of the Russian Foreign Minister rejecting the text for Iran, the PMOS said rather than respond here, the proper place to so was at the United Nations, and that was what the Government would do.

Briefing took place at 6:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

House of Lords reform

Asked about the timetable, the Leader said that he hoped the White Paper, which was subject to the normal clearance procedures, would be published by the end of November, followed by a free vote. This would take place either side of the New Year. Pressed to say how he interpreted the Prime Minister's comments to peers, Mr Straw said that both he and the Prime Minister were in the same position: his initial preference had been for an all-appointed House. Since the last attempt in 2003 to achieved consensus had not worked, there had been further reports. The Prime Minister was fully behind the manifesto pledge to work for a long-term solution. Whether it was removing the remaining hereditaries and other issues, it was much better to achieve a solution through consensus. That was the aim. The Leader said it was the basis of the cross-party talks currently taking place and his discussions with colleagues of all parties in the Lords. The Government was going through a very deliberative process. The forthcoming report of the Joint Committee and the White Paper were aimed at trying to achieve a consensus. In addition, the Leader said that no-one had any wish to invoke the Parliament Act to get the reform through.

Briefing took place at 6:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

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