Special Educational Needs Schools
Asked to clarify the Government's policy on special educational needs, as journalists had been told that it was not the Government's policy that special educational schools should be closed, however, the Government had advised local authorities that children educated in special schools should fall over time, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that the Government's policy was that whatever was right for the child was what parents had a right to ask for.
Asked if we could expect anything on Wednesday after President Bush's speech on Iraq, the PMOS replied that as he had said this morning, the US would decide what they would decide, and would announce accordingly. As we had said when we were in Basra, people should not confuse the situation in Baghdad with the situation in Basra, as they were two separate situations on the ground. In Basra, there was Operation Sinbad, and that was halfway through. There was a situation where the Iraqis were increasingly in control of more and more of the city, and there was a situation where sectarian violence was not of the same scale of problems as it was in Baghdad. Therefore, what the Americans would announce about Baghdad would be in relation to the situation on the ground there, and what we decided to do in Basra would be to do with Basra. The two were separate.
Asked why the Prime Minister was being so quiet recently; why did he let the Chancellor go on Sunday AM; why was he not doing the PLP; why was he so shy about commenting on Saddam Hussein's execution, the PMOS replied that the Prime Minister had set out decades ago his position on the death penalty, as he opposed it. The Iraqi Government was a sovereign government, and it was, therefore, entitled to take its view of the death penalty, irrespective of the views of the British Prime Minister. That view was partly shared by the strong emotions that Saddam's actions in the past had caused within Iraq. However, last week at lobby, we did say that we supported the position of the Iraqi Government in response to the execution and the way in which it was carried out, to carry out an inquiry because of what the Iraqi Government had said was its shame at what had taken place. Therefore, there had not been a slowness by No10 to give a view, as we had given a view last week.
Asked if Ian Paisley was right when he said that there was no set date to transfer policing to Northern Ireland, the PMOS said that he did not brief on personal conversations between the Prime Minister and the Northern Ireland political parties. What the Prime Minister was referring to in his article today was his assessment of what should happen if Sinn Fein fully supported the police and the rule of law. It was the Prime Minister's firm view that if that did happen, then there should be devolution by May 2008.
Asked to give journalists a flavour of what was on the agenda of the Prime Minister's meeting with his Japanese counterpart, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) replied that it would be a wide-ranging discussion, being their first conversation since the new Japanese Prime Minister took over. It would focus on the following points in particular: proliferation, where North Korea was an obvious concern for Japan, but also Iran; Iraq and Afghanistan where that Japanese were committed supporters of international action; climate change where Japan had played its role in Kyoto, and as G8 chair in 2008 Japan will receive the report of the Gleneagles dialogue and take forward its recommendations; and the bilateral relationship. Asked for the British government's position on Japan's new 'assertive foreign policy' particularly related to North Korea, the PMOS replied that he was not the spokesman for the Japanese Prime Minister.
Asked if the Prime Minster believed that it was impractical to expect people to give up cheap flights, the PMOS went over what this country, led by the Prime Minister, had done in terms of climate change. We will be the only European country to double our Kyoto target in terms of emissions. We had announced a whole series of efficiency measures in terms of combating climate change domestically. We had also developed things such as the use of bio-fuels domestically.
Asked for more details on the statement on Northern Ireland that the Prime Minister was due to make on Wednesday, the PMOS replied that the statement was about setting out the distinct separate roles of the police service and the security service in Northern Ireland. Essentially this was about providing reassurance that there would not be, as some would regard, a force within a force i.e. police working in the security service who would not be accountable to local politicians should the assembly return.
Asked if the Prime Minister had reacted to the new video of Saddam's corpse, the PMOS replied that he had not seen the reports. Repeating what was said last week, he said that something clearly went wrong and that is why the Iraqi government had launched an inquiry and that is why we supported that inquiry. Asked when this week the Prime Minister would be saying something about the manner of Saddam's death, the PMOS replied that he would reply at the appropriate time. Put to him that the week was now wearing on, the PMOS replied that it was only Tuesday and that Tuesday was nowhere near the end of the week. Tuesday was Tuesday and would be followed by Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
Put to him that Tower Hamlets had made quite clear that their provision was perfectly adequate to meet the needs of any parent who had a child with special needs, and that Ruth Kelly believed this was not the case, was this not purely a matter for individual choice, the PMOS replied that he could not answer the question without further intruding on the privacy of a nine year old child. Asked whether the government would be considering a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission, the PMOS replied that it was a matter for Ruth Kelly to decide.
Sexual Orientation Regulations
Asked what the Prime Minister was saying to members of religious faiths who were concerned by the effect to their religious freedoms, imposed in their view by the sexual orientation regulations, the PMOS replied that there was a consultation process going on and that the results would be made known. Asked what the Prime Minister thought about the protest against the specific regulations in Northern Ireland and the vote in parliament, the PMOS replied that we were aware that there were strong views on this and it had been made clear that the regulations would be set out in good time. Northern Ireland had always had a separate equality law framework, and again people in Northern Ireland had the ability to affect these decisions should the assembly return.
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