Asked given that the RUC collusion with police in Northern Ireland was over a number of years until the current administration did any Ministers know, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that there was no suggestion of Ministerial awareness. Asked why Ministers didn't know of the collusion, the PMOS said that these were police operational matters not ministerial policy matters. Asked surely given the scale of the collusion some Minister at some point must have known, the PMOS said no, there was a very strict dividing line between operational matters and policy matters. The PMOS went on to remind the reporter that it was the current administration which set up the Ombudsman office, which has powers to investigate matters such as this, and set up the Policing Board to supervise the police and give local accountability.
Asked if the Prime Minister thought that broadcasters should be more careful about the kind of things that they screen given the row that has erupted from Big Brother, the PMOS said that as it was not his role to offer a running commentary on programmes on Channel 4 or elsewhere, that is a matter for OFCOM to reach judgement. However, clearly everyone, broadcasters, newspapers and so on, do need to be aware of the sensitivities involved in these kinds of issues. It is for the proper regulatory authorities to reach judgements on such cases, not for the Government as such. Put to the PMOS that the current furore didn't help the Respect agenda much, the PMOS said that the Respect agenda allowed dialogue between local communities and the police, and it is a matter that is better for people to talk about, but how it is handled and broadcast is a matter for the regulatory authorities to enforce.
Asked if the line had changed about the reforms to the Home Office and that there was more consultation now taking place than had first been thought, the PMOS repeated what he had said this morning that there is a balance to be struck between tackling terrorism and addressing the issues connected with that whilst at the same time getting a consensus within Government as a whole about the best way to proceed. The PMOS went on to say that a serious report had been presented by John Reid that is now being seriously looked at with other colleagues in Government. That does not say anything about the speed with which these matters will be resolved. The Prime Minister is seriously engaged in this issue and given that we are talking about tackling terrorism there is an urgency about these discussions. What that means in terms of timetables and so on is purely hypothetical.
Asked in light of what General Richards said last month and the Guardian this morning about defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan, would NATO be sending equipment and troops, the PMOS said that in terms of the operational needs first and foremost it is a matter for commanders on the ground and secondly for NATO to decide. In terms of extra troops, an extra 1,000 are due from Poland this coming month in Afghanistan and in Riga we did get many of the caveats on the use of other troops lifted. It is a matter for discussion within NATO as to what further resources are needed. Asked as it was General Richards who said the same thing and he is the man on the ground, the PMOS said again the forum within which to have discussions about troop and equipment deployment is first and foremost with NATO. Asked if the UK was planning to increase troops to Afghanistan, the PMOS said again let us see what emerges from NATO and see where we go from there.
Asked if the Prime Minister thought that David Miliband should have flown to India with the Chancellor to reduce the Government's carbon footprint following comments made by David Miliband about the Prince of Wales's visit to the United States, the PMOS said that all the reporter had done was convince him of the wisdom of the approach he had taken last week which was in saying that this was essentially a matter for the Prince of Wales's office and David Miliband's office. Asked if the PMOS was encouraging the Prince of Wales to comment on the matter the PMOS said no, he was not the Prince of Wales's spokesman and it was a matter for the Prince of Wales's office.
Police Ombudsman’s Report, Northern Ireland
The Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) told journalists that this was a deeply disturbing report about events which were totally wrong and which should never have happened. The fact that they did was a matter for profound regret and the Prime Minister shared that regret. This was also a report about the past, and what was important now was that under the new structures introduced along with the formation of the Police Service Northern Ireland (PSNI), these events could not happen now. What mattered at this stage was the whole community supported that process of transformation.
Asked how the Prime Minister felt about the way in which Ruth Turner was treated, the PMOS replied that as people knew, we had consistently refused to give a running commentary on this investigation. Despite all the coverage there had been in the papers, it had not come from us, and we had refused to engage in public or in private about it. That remained the case.
Asked what the current view was on the Home Office being split up, the PMOS replied that what had changed was the increasingly complex nature of terrorism and the challenge faced by terrorism. On the basis of that, John Reid had put forward a serious suggestion to the Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister would want to consider that with the Government as a whole. There was a serious threat, and a new kind of threat in terms of international terrorism, so we had to see where that led to.
Asked for a view about Catholic adoption agencies, the PMOS replied that everyone recognised that there were sensitive issues involved. The Department was considering those and would announce a decision in due course. It was important to take the time and space to consider what were sensitive issues.
Abolition of Slavery Reception
Asked for further information about the abolition of slavery reception tonight, the PMOS informed people that that it was about signing up to the Council of Europe Convention on Human Trafficking which had been signed by more than 30 other countries. The Convention required signatories to provide victims with secure accommodation, access to emergency medical assistance, translation services, counselling, assistance with judicial proceedings and access to education for children. The PMOS said that this was marking the start of the commemoration of the bi-centenary of the abolition of slavery.
Original PMOS briefings are © Crown Copyright. Crown Copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland. Click-use licence number C02W0004089. Material is reproduced from the original 10 Downing Street source, but may not be the most up-to-date version of the briefings, which might be revised at the original source. Users should check with the original source in case of revisions. Comments are © Copyright contributors. Everything else is © Copyright Downing Street Says.
Contact Sam Smith.