» Wednesday, July 4, 2007


Asked for more detail on the three counter-terrorism announcements made by the Prime Minister earlier today, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) replied that firstly the Prime Minister had asked Admiral West to urgently examine the screening of Health Service workers to see if there were any issues arising there. Secondly in relation to watch lists, at the moment if someone applies for a visa to come to the UK or a work permit, a number of checks take place. One of these is against the Warnings Index or watch list, which is a list held by the Borders and Immigration Agency of people we had security concerns about. The Prime Minister said that we would expand the watch list of potential terrorists. At the moment there was a watch list specific to the UK, obviously when we compiled that we fed in intelligence and information we get from other countries, but the Prime Minister was signalling the need for a more structured formal international watch list or a greater degree of cooperation internationally around the way in which individual countries compile these watch lists. Thirdly in relation to the migrants programme, we were in the process of introducing a new points based system. This included new controls on sponsorship whereby migrants would require a sponsor to support their application. The Home Office were currently designing criteria for the sponsor register so that people would not be able to bring others to the UK without being on that register.

Asked if he was implying that some of those arrested were on a European or US watch list and we were not aware of it, the PMS replied that he was making no implications at all about any individuals relating to the current case.

Asked if we saw this as similar to the no-fly list in the US, the PMS replied that we were saying that each country had its own particular processes for compiling such lists, and the Prime Minister was saying that we should work towards a system where there was a more structured basis for cooperation internationally.

Put that the problem with this was that the people on this list were regarded as suspicious because of their name or the countries they had visited for example, but there was maybe not enough evidence against them to charge them, and asked was there not a danger of sharing this list with other countries where people could be picked up for having the wrong surname because the country did not understand the basis on which the list was compiled, the PMS replied that this was why we should work towards a shared understanding of the basis on which these lists are complied.

Asked to clarify that on the point of checks on highly skilled migrants, people who sponsor incomers would be asked to give background checks, the PMS replied that under the new points based system, with the new controls on sponsorship, the individuals coming into the country on visas would be required to have a sponsor. That sponsor was then responsible for their behaviour once they were in the country. The sponsors could then be checked against a sponsor register.

Put that the idea of sponsor checks was not new, and asked whether this was the case with the watch lists, the PMS replied that what we were saying in relation to the watch lists was new. Clearly what we were saying with Admiral West was new, and clearly there were issues around the implementation of the points based system, that we confirmed today.

Asked about the idea of compiling watch lists had been discussed with anyone else, such as the Americans, the PMS replied that clearly this was an issue that was discussed at relevant international forums, but there would be further discussions with international partners taking this forward.

Asked if it was the intention that people could be excluded from this country on the basis of intelligence provided by foreign countries’ intelligence services, or would UK services be required to check and verify information passed to them, the PMS replied that this was something that need to be worked through. Asked if it was a case in principle that this system would involve greater pooling of intelligence information about suspicious persons, the PMS replied that in principle, this was correct.

Asked on sponsorship if we were talking about an individual or something like a health authority, the PMS replied that at the moment employers or academic institutions would count as sponsors, so it did not necessarily need to be an individual. These institutions would then be checked against the sponsor register.

Put that this meant there was no individual responsibility for migrants behaviour, the PMS replied that we had already set out what the responsibilities of the sponsor were when we had made announcements on the points based system before. It was best to check back to that for the precise wording.

Asked if this had been discussed with any other international leaders, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister had had calls with international leaders within recent days but he did not want Lobby to read into this that there had been detailed discussions with them on this issue. In the last few days the Prime Minister had spoken to President Bush, the NATO Secretary General and the Prime Minister of India among others.

Asked about the Prime Minister’s answers today on Hizb ut Tahrir and the idea of a border force, the PMS replied that on a border force, the Prime Minister was saying that ideas get put to us and we looked at these issues. On Hizb ut Tahrir, obviously this was something that was kept under continuous review, but we had to take decisions on proscription on the basis of the evidence available. Hizb ut Tahrir was a group of concern, and they remained under close review.

Asked what form Admiral West’s review would take, and would the public find out the outcome, and could the Prime Minister give an assurance to the public that the people they met in the NHS were not on any security list, the PMS replied that he could give an assurance that the Prime Minister was doing everything in his powers to ensure the safety of the British people. This was why the Prime Minister had asked Admiral West to look at this as a matter of urgency. In terms of the outcomes of the review, it would depend on what Admiral West concluded, and obviously there would be security and other considerations to be taken into account in terms of what was made public.

Asked if it was likely that the outcome of Admiral West’s inquiry could result in certain people being excluded from working in the NHS but still allowed to live here, the PMS replied that we should wait for the conclusions of Admiral West’s inquiry before interpreting them.

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

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