» Monday, April 26, 2004

PM’s Speech

The Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) briefed journalists on the Prime Minister's major speech on immigration at a CBI organised conference tomorrow in London. He would set out the Government's strategy to make controlled migration work for Britain, make clear that we would be firm on abuse, but underline the economic benefits which controlled migration brought.

Briefing took place at 15:45 | Read whole briefing | Comments (15)

ID Cards

Asked the point of ID cards if they were not compulsory, the PMOS said that the situation over the next period would be evolutionary. The first question, which we had been addressing since last November, was how to tackle logistical problems and to do so as quickly as possible, hence the introduction of voluntary cards in 2007/8. After that, the next question would be whether Parliament would approve compulsion - on a Government recommendation on the basis of a report. This fitted into the timescale as outlined last November.

Briefing took place at 15:45 | Read whole briefing | Comment (1)


Asked for an update on Coalition discussions relating to troop deployments in Iraq, the PMOS said that the discussions were continuing. He had no intention of providing a running commentary.

Briefing took place at 15:45 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

Middle East

Asked for a reaction to a letter from fifty two former diplomats criticising the Prime Minister's Middle East policy, the PMOS said that we were aware of the letter and would reply in due course. Obviously, as former members of the diplomatic corps, they were entitled to their views. However, our objectives in Iraq and on the Israeli/Palestinian question remained stability, peace and freedom. As both the Prime Minister and President Bush had made clear in their joint press conference in Washington recently, we remained committed to a two-state solution. President Bush was the first US President to support such a policy, as envisaged by the roadmap - a secure Israel and a viable Palestinian state existing side by side in peace. The Israeli offer to withdraw from Gaza and parts of the West Bank provided an opportunity to get back to the roadmap after months of limited progress. Both we and the US had also made it clear that we had not pre-judged any final status issues, which obviously had to be resolved through negotiation. On Iraq, we presumed that the fifty two former diplomats welcomed the removal of Saddam, as it was that which had opened up the possibility of democracy in the country. We were determined to achieve democracy working with the Iraqis themselves, because in the end they were the ones who would operate it.

Briefing took place at 15:45 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)


Asked for a reaction to reports that the Office for National Statistics (ONS) had been asked to change the way it measured productivity in public services, the PMOS said that the Treasury had dealt with this issue yesterday. As they had explained, there were problems with statistics in this field because, for instance, if more nurses were taken on, that would count as a cut in productivity since it would seem that there were more nurses per patient. Equally, if additional childcare assistants were taken on, that would also count as a drop in productivity because it would seem that there were more teachers and teaching assistants per pupil. That was clearly nonsense. Obviously the wrinkles in the system had to be ironed out and that was what this story was about. Asked if the Government would refuse to accept any suggestion by the ONS, under the current method of calculation, that productivity had fallen since 1997, the PMOS repeated that in the Government's view, more teachers and teaching assistants per pupil and more nurses per patient did not represent what would, under the current system, be classified as a fall in productivity. Rather, it should be seen as an increase in the quality of care of hospitals and an increase in the skills and experience available to pupils. It was therefore important to correct those anomalies, which was precisely what we were doing.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (3)


Asked about the possibility of sending additional troops to Iraq, the PMOS said that this remained a matter for review. We were in discussions with our Coalition partners about this issue, as indeed we had been throughout. At this point, there was nothing further to report. Asked if an announcement might be made this week, the PMOS said that no decisions had been taken at this stage. Put to him that the Government's policy on troop deployments appeared to be changing, the PMOS said he would disagree. He had been repeating the same thing since this time last week. Asked if the UK had been approached formally to send additional troops to Iraq to fill the hole created by the departure of Spanish troops, the PMOS said that he was not going to provide a running commentary on a review that was currently taking place. Others might give their views in private briefings. However, we believed that it was better for a decision to be made on the basis of operational advice from those on the ground.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Read whole briefing | Comment (1)

Prime Minister

Asked to confirm reports that the Prime Minister was intending to 'hang up his boots' after the referendum on the EU Constitution, the PMOS said that the best way to answer this repetitive question was to refer journalists to what the Prime Minister himself had answered, for example in his News of the World interview and his David Frost interview last September. As he had said then, you pays your money, you takes your choice. That view had not changed. Asked if the Prime Minister was pleased that Neil Kinnock was speculating about his future, the PMOS said that Mr Kinnock's words were a matter for Mr Kinnock, not for the Prime Minister or the PMOS.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

ID Cards

Asked to explain the sudden rush to introduce ID cards given the fact that the Government had been indicating last autumn that the decision would only be made some years hence, the PMOS said that the position had not changed since last November. The reasons for the introduction of biometric data in passports remained the same in terms of the international dimension. Similarly, the domestic reasons for introducing ID cards had not changed in terms of the focus on fraud and security and the protection of people's identity. Equally, the timetable remained the same, as did the fact that the decision on compulsion would be a matter for the Government and Parliament. Put to him that the Prime Minister himself had indicated last week that it was important to press on with ID cards, the PMOS said that as we had underlined last November, we needed to press on with sorting out the logistics of introducing such a scheme. However, the basic timescale and basic structure of the proposal remained the same.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (8)

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