Weapons of Mass Destruction
Asked if what Margaret Beckett had said on WMD today was correct, that the Government knew that the 15 minute claim was erroneous before the vote in Parliament, The Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that he had not heard what Margaret Beckett had said but that there had been four inquiries into this matter and there was nothing further to add.
Asked why the Prime Minister was 'flouncing' around the Middle East instead on concentrating on domestic matters, the PMOS said that nothing was more important to the UK than its security. Security is achieved by a number of methods, one of which is to achieve political progress in the Middle East. There is a fundamental issue to be resolved in terms of the future of the Middle East which will impact directly on the overall security in the world, including in Britain. The Prime Minister therefore makes no apology in talking to those in the region who can most influence what the Prime Minister believes to be the most crucial issue in the world today; which is the future of the Middle East and of Israel and Palestine in particular. People in the UK understand that and understand that as in Northern Ireland if you want to achieve peace you have to go the extra mile and you have to go at it again and again and again; even when it seems difficult.
BAe and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
Asked if there had been any contact between UK officials and officials in Saudi Arabia at any level during the visit, the PMOS said no. Asked if the PMOS was confident that the Serious Fraud Office's decision on BAe had not contravened any convention on bribery laws and if it was consistent with the Government's convention requirements, the PMOS referred the reporter to the lobby briefing of yesterday afternoon where this question was dealt with.
Chatham House Report
Asked what the response was to the Chatham House report suggesting that the Prime Minister has had little or no influence on Washington during his time as Prime Minister, the PMOS said that the wires would shortly be producing the Prime Minister's response and the reporter should wait for that.
Asked if anyone in Downing Street had been in contact with Yates of the Yard with regard to any future interviews, the PMOS said there was nothing further to add. Asked if there was any likelihood of a further visit by the police the PMOS said he was not aware and it was after all a matter for the police.
Put to the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) that last Thursday, the PMOS had said that the Prime Minister had told the police that the people nominated for peerages were done so for party service, but it now seemed that the nomination papers contradicted that, by saying that they were nominated for public services, including city academy work, the PMOS replied that there was no contradiction. They were nominated as working party peers, and every other party leader nominated people as such. In other words, to act in the Lords for the party. At the same time, these were people who had an interest in various issues, and those were listed in their application. There was no contradiction between having an interest in other matters, whilst also expressing a willingness to act as a working peer.
Asked for further information about the initiative that the Prime Minister was looking into with other world leaders, and also, about the announcement the US had made about giving money to President Abbas, which they had been quite blatant about, and would we be equally blatant, the PMOS said that "blatant" was a loaded way of describing what was a much more sophisticated analysis by the Prime Minister. The PMOS said that we had, and would continue, to support Palestine with £30 million which at the moment, we channelled that money through a mechanism, because of our concern about how the money would be spent if it went through the Palestinian government, as we were worried that it might be misspent by Hamas. However, what we recognised was that it would be better if we gave money whilst working with the Palestinians. Therefore, if it was possible to look again and see if there were ways in which the two objectives could be met. In other words, that money could be given, and it was not the amount of money that was the issue, but rather, the manner in which it was spent in order that it was guaranteed to go into things that would help Palestinians, for example, hospitals and education. The PMOS said that it was precisely because it was an international mechanism that we had to talk to our international partners about whether they agreed that there might be a different way of doing this. That was what we would do. The issue was precisely the one identified by the Prime Minister, which wasn't us excluding people, but rather, people who were excluding themselves by failing to recognise the reality. That reality was as President Abbas had put it, Israel and Palestine needed each other if there was to be a solution to this problem.
Sergeant Roberts Inquiry
In answer to the question of whether the Prime Minister still completely stood by his decision regarding the BAe Serious Fraud Office Investigation and to what extent would he be willing to defend it, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister stood by his position, and people should look at what the Attorney General had said about the likelihood of a successful prosecution.
Asked to comment on John Major's call for an independent inquiry following the Carne Ross revelations, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) replied that there had been four independent inquiries into these matters, all having full access to all the information they required, and all four came to conclusions which have been published. Therefore all these matters have been the subject of not just one inquiry, but four inquiries.
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