» Friday, June 29, 2007


The Prime Minister’s Spokesman told the assembled press that as the Prime Minister had said on Wednesday during his first statement, he wanted to invite men and women of goodwill to contribute their energies in a new spirit of public service to make the nation would it could be. The Junior Ministers that would be announced were Sir Alan West who had been appointed as Parliamentary Under-Secretary in the Home Office, with responsibility for security. Sir Alan had a long and distinguished career, including being Chief of Defence Intelligence and Deputy Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee. Sir Digby Jones had been appointed Minister of State for Trade and Investment in the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform; he would also be chair of UK Trade and Investments, and as the former Director General of the CBI, he would bring his considerable talents from there to pushing British business. The PMS said that Sir Ara Darzi had been appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department of Health. Sir Ara Darzi was a world renowned surgeon in the some of the most high-tech areas of surgery, as well as combining this with great experience in leading change in the NHS. He was a former member of the NHS modernisation board, and he had led reviews at Kidderminster Hospital in 2001, Durham and Darlington Healthcare community, Hartlepool and Teeside, and mid-Yorkshire health authority, and he was currently developing the review into the future of the London NHS services. He would work with Alan Johnson in improving patient care, increase the convenience and accessibility of health services, and build a new partnership with NHS and staff and patients. Professor Darzi would be paid three days a week, work four days a week, and would continue to work on Fridays as a surgeon, and would not receive any salary from the NHS. Professor Darzi did have an international private practice, and any income that would be received from that was paid directly to Imperial College to fund research. The PMS confirmed that Shriti Vadera would become Baroness Vadera, Parliamentary Under-Secretary at DFID. Lord John Stevens of Kirkwelpington was to be the Prime Minister’s senior advisor on international security issues, Baroness Neuberger would work with the Prime Minister, the Government and the voluntary sector to champion volunteering, and Lord Lester of Herne Hill had agreed to advise the Secretary of State for Justice on aspects on constitutional reform. The PMS went on to say that we were also announcing today the membership of the Business Council. The PMS said that there was some confusion earlier on some of the broadcasts that Sir Alan West had replaced Tony McNulty. For the avoidance of doubt, Tony McNulty would be the Minister of State at the Home Office and his current responsibilities were unchanged; Sir Alan West was not replacing Tony McNulty as was being reported earlier.

Asked if the Prime Minister had spoken to everyone he had appointed, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister had intended to talk to all those he had appointed.

Put that Gordon Brown appeared to consider the talent pool in the Labour Party to be "rather thin", the PMS said that the Prime Minister believed that he had appointed a very strong Cabinet, and as would be apparent by the full list of Ministers appointed today whom he believed would do a very good job.

Put that there were a lot of outsiders in the list, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister wanted to reach out to the men and women of goodwill who had something to contribute to public service.

Put that Lord Hunt was already a health Minister in the House of Lords, and would he stay when Professor Darzi arrived, the PMS said that it was better to wait for the announcement of junior Minister appointments later today.

Asked if any approaches were made to other political parties, and were there many more big changes to come, the PMS replied that a lot of the news was in the announcements today, and obviously there would be changes.

Asked if all the new Ministers would take the Labour Whip, and were they asked if they would join the Labour Party, the PMS said that the decision as to whether or not they should join the Labour Party was a personal one. As Ministers, they would be expected to follow the Government Whip.
Asked if the Ministers would have to follow the Whip on all issues, and not only Ministerial responsibilities, the PMS replied that they would be expected to follow the Government Whip.

Asked about any constitutional conversation at Cabinet, the PMS confirmed that there was a full, good and lengthy discussion about it, but it would be inappropriate to say anything further in advance of the Prime Minister’s statement on Monday.

Asked if a possible referendum on the Welsh Assembly had been discussed, the PMS said it was a wide-ranging discussion and he didn’t want to discuss specifics.

Put that yesterday, the PMS had defended the constitution as the first thing that the Government was going to get on with, and were there any doubts about that today, as there were floods and bombs, the PMS replied that obviously, the Prime Minister took his responsibilities very seriously, and these were very important and significant issues. However, it was also important that the business of Government and the country continued.

Asked if the statement to the house on Monday would be about specific proposals or about steps towards policy ideas, the PMS said he had covered this at some length yesterday and had nothing to add to what he had said.

Asked if the statement would focus exclusively on rebalancing executive and legislative powers, or would it would be on wider constitutional issues, the PMS replied that there were a wide-ranging set of issues that needed to be looked at, but he did not want to pre-empt the statement on Monday.

Security Alert in London
Asked what time the Prime Minister was told about the explosive device in the West End today, asked to confirm that he did not attend COBRA, and had he spoken to the Leaders of the Conservative and the Liberal Democrats, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister was informed when he woke up. The COBRA meeting was originally scheduled to be a meeting of officials, but the Home Secretary, because of the serious nature of the issue chaired the meeting, and informed both the Prime Minister and Cabinet subsequently. The Home Secretary had been in contact with her opposite number, and there had been contact with the offices of the leaders of the main opposition parties to keep them updated of operational developments.

Asked if the Prime Minister was informed early today, the PMS confirmed that the Prime Minister was quite an early riser.

Asked if there were any plans to change PMQs from Wednesdays to Thursday, the PMS replied that there were no plans to do so.

Asked if there had been any further thoughts about new legislation or measures to be taken, and also, what was the Prime Minister’s thinking on whether this attack was linked to the new Government, the PMS said that with regards to new legislation, this was always kept under review. The issue for today, however, was establishing the facts and allowing the police to get on with their investigation to ensure that the public remained vigilant. With regards to whether it was linked to a change in Government, at the moment, we were waiting information from the police, therefore, it would be inappropriate to speculate.

Asked if there were any plans to change the level of the security alert, the PMS replied that that would be an operational matter for the police. The threat level was set by the Joint Intelligence Committee, and was independent of Government, as it was based upon intelligence. At the moment, it was still at severe, as it had been since August 2006.

Put that the Government was thinking about new security measures, and how would this incident feed into that, as it might suggest that some of the measures that were being considered would have had no effect on this sort of incident, and were therefore not well aimed, the PMS replied that there were about three or four hypotheticals in the question, and this was not the time to get into this sort of issue.

Asked what the Prime Minister’s view was on the length of pre charge detention, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister had said in the past that he had considered the case for extending the length of pre charged detention, but again, this was not an issue for consideration today.

Briefing took place at 15:00 | Search for related news

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