» Thursday, June 24, 2004

Cabinet Committees

Asked again about reports that a new Cabinet Committee had been set up to monitor UK-US relations, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that as he had told journalists this morning, we never commented on Cabinet Committees. Asked if he was suggesting that such a Committee did, in fact, exist, the PMOS said he was simply making the point that we never discussed Cabinet Committees. Put to him that we published an updated list of Committees at fairly regular intervals and that the list in the latest edition of Vacher's did not record such a Committee, the PMOS referred journalists to the Cabinet Office who, he said, were more knowledgeable about Cabinet Committees than he was. Pressed repeatedly as to whether a Cabinet Committee on UK-US relations had been set up, the PMOS said that he would make the relevant enquiries on journalists' behalf and they could ask their questions again at tomorrow morning's briefing.

Briefing took place at 15:45 | Read whole briefing | Comments (5)

NATO Summit

Asked about next week's NATO Summit in Turkey, the PMOS said that the two key elements would be Iraq and Afghanistan. As was well known, Prime Minister Alawi, on behalf of the Iraqi Government, had issued a request for help with training Iraqi troops. Since we were in favour of Iraqi-isation, we would consider this request positively, not least because we were already involved in such a process in Iraq. However, this was something that would need to be discussed by all our NATO colleagues, building on discussions which had taken place at the recent G8 Summit at Sea Island. The NATO Summit would also raise the issue of Afghanistan - hence President Karzai's expected attendance - in which we would want to discuss the issue of security, particularly in terms of expanding ISAF's role beyond Kabul. It went without saying that we remained committed to helping Afghanistan wherever possible. Asked if the Prime Minister had considered not attending the Summit following the bombings in Istanbul today, the PMOS said no.

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

EU Summit

Asked if the Prime Minister would attend an EU Summit next week to discuss candidates for the job of European Commission President, the PMOS said that as the Irish Presidency had stated, a meeting would only be held if there was sufficient consensus to produce agreement on a Commission President. We were anticipating that discussions would continue over the weekend. We would have to wait and see what the outcome might be.

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

Waiting Lists

Questioned about waiting lists and waiting times, the PMOS said that John Reid had explained today the position regarding waiting lists. He had said that while it was important to reduce the figures, the reality was that patients started counting the time from the moment of GP referral rather than when they were actually put on a waiting list. That was why he thought it would be useful to try to bring targets into line with the reality of patients' expectations. However, that could only be done if the issue of capacity was addressed. Asked if that was what Dr Reid had meant by speaking of 'hidden waiting lists', the PMOS said yes. However, that was not to say that considerable progress had not been made in meeting the real need to count down waiting times. These were not phoney results. They were real. The point, however, was that the Government needed to go even further if it was to meet people's expectations and needs.

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


Asked if the Cabinet had reached a final agreement on the CSR this summer, the PMOS said that a date had not yet been set for the CSR. Questioned as to whether the ongoing negotiations between the Treasury and Departments were routine or if the delay in the CSR indicated something more sinister, the PMOS said that if he was being asked about today's Evening Standard report, all he would say was that such coverage in the run-up to any CSR was clearly routine.

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


Asked for an update on the release of the eight British servicemen, the PMOS said that they were still at the British Embassy in Tehran. No doubt more details about the incident would emerge once they were out of Iran and had been properly debriefed. Asked if the boat had been returned, the PMOS said that discussions were continuing about this issue.

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

Northern Ireland

Asked about the Northern Ireland talks at Lancaster House tomorrow, the PMOS said that we would take the opportunity to assess the current position. We believed we needed to intensify the process in the early autumn and would set out how we intended to do so.

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


Asked if there would be a Commons Statement on the release of the British Servicemen in Iran, the PMOS said that he wasn't aware of one at this stage. The latest information he had was that the eight Servicemen had now reached the British Embassy in Tehran, which we were obviously glad about. Asked what condition they were in, the PMOS said that they would be assessed by Embassy staff. However, we had no reason to believe that they were in anything other than good condition.

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


The PMOS told journalists that we condemned the latest attacks in Iraq today. Unfortunately, it seemed that they fitted into the predicted pattern of events in the run-up to 30 June. However, as both the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary had noted at Cabinet this morning, what we had seen in Iraq in recent days was the increasing profile of the new interim administration and, in particular, the role of Prime Minister Alawi. The attacks, therefore, were clearly no longer aimed solely at the Coalition but also at the Government of Iraq as it assumed authority. They were obviously designed to try to stop the transition of sovereignty next week. However, they would not succeed.

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

CSR/Five-Year Plans

Asked if the reason for the delay in the CSR and the fact that some departmental five-year plans would be announced in the autumn was because the Prime Minister had been taking part in the negotiations on spending between the Chancellor and certain Ministers, the PMOS said it went without saying that the Prime Minister took a personal interest in such matters. However, as he had pointed out to journalists yesterday, since a date had not yet been set for the CSR, it could not be said to have been delayed. The fact that some of the departmental five-year plans would be announced before the summer recess and some afterwards in the autumn was nothing new. Put to him that the Treasury had wanted to announce the CSR next week, the PMOS said he would disagree. No firm date had been set. Put to him again that the Treasury had wanted it done next week, the PMOS said that he was not aware of anything on which such a claim could be based. A date for the CSR would be announced at the appropriate time.

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

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