Asked that the Defence Secretary last month had said, when giving evidence to the Joint Session on Defence and Foreign Affairs Committee that he expected this year to be able to withdraw British troops by 'a matter of thousands', if that was still the expectation, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that the situation was precisely as the Prime Minister set out this afternoon in his statement to the House of Commons, which was that we would reduce down from 7,100 to 5,500 by the summer. We then hoped to go below 5,000 figure but that would depend on the conditions on the ground.
Asked if there was a cast list for the Crime Summit tomorrow, the PMOS said no. All announcements would be made tomorrow morning.
Prime Minister’s Statement on Iraq and the wider Middle East
Asked for further information on the Prime Minister's statement to the House of Commons today on Iraq and the Middle East, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that he was not going to pre-empt the statement. He summarised it by saying that what the Prime Minister believed was that in line with the policy of Iraqiisation which we had announced as long ago as April 2004, we had now reached a stage where the next chapter of life in Basra could be written by the Iraqis themselves. What was important was that we took the steps towards that. It was a conditions-based approach, and that meant that while we would be announcing certain steps today, future steps would depend on conditions on the ground. That was consistent with the approach that we announced in April 2004.
Asked what the Government's response was to the High Court ruling on pensions this morning, the PMOS said that both sides were appealing with the judgement. The PMOS noted that the judgement had said that there was no causal link between the leaflet and the difficulties that people had got into. Because both sides were going to appeal, the PMOS said he was very limited as to what he could say about it.
Asked for further information about Ruth Turner being questioned by police, the PMOS replied that Special Advisors were temporary civil servants and he did not comment on civil servants, temporary or otherwisw. The only reason he had commented before was because of the particular circumstance of an arrest.
Put that the No10 website showed the Prime Minister replying to an email by writing on a pad, and was that how the Prime Minister thought emails happened, the PMOS replied that he realised this may not surprise journalists, but the Prime Minister himself had confessed that his internet capability was somewhat limited!
Margaret Thatcher Statue
Asked by the Daily Mail if the Prime Minister would attend Baroness Thatcher's memorial, the PMOS asked if the journalist meant memorial or statue?!
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