Asked to explain the Prime Minister's thinking on the 28 days debate, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) replied that as John Reid had said at Cabinet last Thursday, the police had asked us to look again at the issue. This was because their experience in the latest case in August meant that they used up all 28 days available for questioning. What John Reid had suggested, and the Cabinet had agreed, was that we try and achieve a consensus between the police, the Government and the opposition on the best way forward. We had not said what we thought the outcome of this should be. The Government's view at the time of the legislation was that we needed more than 28 days, but Parliament had reached another decision. Since then however, the police had more experience in which to make a judgement, and others had also revisited their views on this.
Asked if the Prime Minister agreed with Baroness Scotland about axing the Corporate Manslaughter Bill, the PMOS replied that it would be better to wait for the House of Lords to reach a decision, and then respond.
Put to him that the Conservatives had written to Gus O'Donnell today to raise the issue of contractors who may become involved in bidding for the ID card contract, and did the Prime Minister feel that by doing this they were delaying the whole process by at least 2 years and possibly until after a General Election, the PMOS replied that he would not be getting into party political matters. All he would say was that the Prime Minister believed that every time the debate about ID cards moved, it moved to underscore the value of having proof of identity. Put to him that this was a Government matter, not a party political matter, the PMOS replied that it seemed that the reporter was asking him to take a view on who would win the next General Election, nothing could be more of a political matter than that!
Asked if there had been any updates in the inquiry since this morning, the PMOS replied that there had not, although he noted that the Crown Prosecution Service had put out a statement denying that they were responsible for any leakages on the matter.
Asked if the Prime Minister expected to be interviewed again by the police, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that he had checked with people in Downing Street and within wider Government, and the answer was that there had been no contact at all about the possibility of a third interview, and people could draw their own conclusions from that.
Middle East visits
Asked to clarify if Mrs. Beckett was going to the Middle East with Chancellor Merkel, the PMOS said: no. The Foreign Secretary would see Prime Minister Olmert and the Israeli Foreign Minister, as well as President Abbas.
Asked if COBRA was meeting this morning to discuss the avian flu outbreak, and was there any further information, the PMOS replied that in terms of COBRA, it was better for the department concerned to comment. DEFRA had taken the lead and they had put in place a protection zone of 3 kilometres radius, a surveillance zone of 10 kilometres, and a wider restricted zone. The PMOS said that David Miliband would give an update in Parliament at 1530 this afternoon.
House of Lords reform
Asked if the Prime Minister had a fixed view on the composition of the House of Lords, the PMOS replied that the Prime Minister would wait for the White Paper to be published. We would then prepare for the free vote in Parliament, and the Prime Minister, as in the past on other such issues, would not express an opinion in advance of that, because he would not want to be seen to direct a free vote.
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