Asked to comment further on what Chancellor Merkel had said regarding the European Constitution referendum, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that he had nothing further to add to what he had said earlier in the day. It should be taken step by step, and the first main issue that Europe would have to address was what the responses of the French and the Dutch were following their referendum.
Put that the Big Brother situation appeared to be getting more serious, and was it turning into a diplomatic incident, and therefore, was there any more that could be done at this end to address the issue, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister had not seen Big Brother, and therefore, none of what he said would be a commentary on the Prime Minister's view of the programme, as it would not be right for him to offer an opinion. What clearly was to be regretted, and countered, was if there was any perception abroad that in any way we tolerated racism in this country. What the response to the programme had shown was precisely the opposite and that there was no level of toleration in this country for anything which rightly or wrongly was perceived as racism. Therefore, the message should go out from the UK loud and clear that we were a tolerant country and that we would not tolerate racism in any way.
Deputy Prime Minister
Asked if the Prime Minister had anything to say about the Deputy Prime Minister's words on his department being broken up, the PMOS said that these decisions about departments and their responsibilities were always fine judgements, and people would always have different perspectives. In the end, the Prime Minister had to make these difficult decisions.
Asked if it was still the case that we were committed to a referendum on the EU Constitution, given that Angela Merkel had said that one of her priorities was to revive the Constitution in some form or another, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) replied that we should take things step by step. Obviously the first step was to try and reach a consensus on the way forward, but that had to reflect not only the position of the EU Presidency, but also the positions on the ground including France and Holland above all, given the results of the referenda there.
Asked about the possibility of the 4 men involved in a rescue mission in Helmand on Monday receiving honours, the PMOS replied that Prime Minister would obviously pay tribute to the bravery displayed, but in terms of honours it would be totally wrong for him to speculate.
Defence Training Review
Asked to comment on Welsh MPs who were claiming victory this morning in the long running battle on this issue, the PMOS replied that he refused to speculate on the outcome of what Des Browne was going to say later today, other than to say that it clearly did make sense to deliver training on a defence wide, tri-service basis rather than a single service basis. That would allow the training to be used in a more effective way and gave better support to operational deployment. It clearly made sense in terms of what was important which was the quality of training given to those in our defence support system.
Put to him that the Prime Minister's fight against racism was well documented so was he not quite appalled to see it on our TV screens, the PMOS replied that the Prime Minister had not seen the particular programme so would not comment directly on the programme. Against that his position on racism was well known, and the Government's position on racism was well known.
Asked if the Prime Minister would be meeting with Hayden-Phillips today, the PMOS replied that we would not be getting involved in the subject of when the Prime Minister met people who were making reports to him, but he was obviously being kept fully up to date on Hayden-Phillips' thinking.
BBC Licence Fee
Asked if he could confirm that an announcement would be made on the BBC licence fee tomorrow, the PMOS replied that he could not confirm this.
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