» Monday, August 23, 2004

Inheritance Tax

Asked if, according to reports, the Government was planning to crack down on the rich the PMS said that this had been dealt with yesterday. The IPPR was a think tank and they had done what think tanks do, which was to put forward proposals. The Government was not part of that and as it was made clear yesterday there was no review of inheritance tax taking place. All taxes were constantly under review but there was no special review of inheritance tax taking place.

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

David Blunkett

Asked if the Prime Minister had any plans to meet with David Blunkett on his return the PMS said she had not seen the diary for after his return yet. Asked if David Blunkett had sought a special meeting with the Prime Minister while he was on his holiday the PMS said that she would not comment on the Prime Minister's private holiday.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (7)

Fox Hunting

Asked if there were any plans for the foxhunting bill to come forward any time soon the PMS said that the situation had not changed since the last time the question was asked.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (4)

Road Map

Asked what the Government's attitude was to the US apparently sanctioning the building of 1000 more homes on the West Bank in breach of the specific terms of the Road Map the PMS said that she was not going to comment on that report. However the Government remained committed to the implementation of the Road Map. We had urged the Israeli Government to honour the commitment to freeze settlement construction. Asked if this could be taken as a criticism of the current work the PMS said that our position was as she had stated. In response to further questions the PMS referred journalists to the Foreign Office and reiterated that the Americans were well aware of our commitment to the road map and that they had also stated their commitment to the road map process.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (6)


Asked about the CBI's comments on GCSE standards the PMS that the Government was as committed as the CBI to raising standards in secondary schools. The CBI was part of the consultation group for the Tomlinson report, looking at secondary education, which would be publishing its conclusions soon. The PMS noted that there had been improvements in standards. There were now more pupils emerging from secondary schools with better results than in 1997 and people were well aware of that. This did not mean that anybody was complacent about standards and the Government was as committed as anyone else to raising standards. Asked how their comments suggesting that more and more children were leaving school unable to read and write were not in conflict with this the PMS repeated that the Government's aims were not in conflict with the CBI. One of the reasons the Tomlinson report was set up was to look at secondary education and how improvements could be made.

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

Migration and Asylum

Asked for a comment on reports suggesting that the Home Office was somehow deploying resources disproportionately the PMS said that a lot of questions were asked - often by journalists - about migration and asylum and Ministers had to have answers to those questions. People were there to provide answers to those questions. Asked if the Government had made any representations to the French Government about a new "al fresco" camp the PMS said that there was no camp as such. Sangatte had been an official asylum centre but since the Home Secretary had secured its closure there had been a number of people sleeping rough in the area, but this was no new Sangatte. We continued to work with the French Government to enforce the rules and any idea that there was a new camp was inaccurate.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (2)

» Monday, August 16, 2004


Asked for a reaction to the Iraqi Interim Government's threat to shoot journalists if they did not leave Najaf, the Prime Minister's Spokesman (PMS) said that we were in touch with the Iraqi authorities and the UK media about these reports. It was important not to be too hasty in turning this issue into a debate about free speech. This was especially so in the light of the fact that we were seeing a relatively 'lively' free media operating in Iraq for the first time in many years. The foreign media in Iraq was also enjoying greater freedom to report than ever before under Saddam's regime. Decisions about the presence of the media in Najaf was a matter for the Iraqi authorities. We were sure that any action taken by them would be consistent with the prevailing security situation. The PMS added that no one should be complacent about the security risks in Iraq under the current circumstances. The Foreign Office's travel advice was very clear: it advised against all but the most essential travel to Iraq.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (14)

ID Cards

Asked for a reaction to doubts expressed by Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner, regarding the purpose of ID cards and the information contained on them, the PMS said that Mr Thomas had made an important contribution to the debate on ID cards. A consultation was currently ongoing into the issue and we were therefore keen to hear people's views. However, as we had underlined in the past, there would be guarantees against any 'function creep' regarding the transfer of information about people to different parts of Government. As we had made clear, that was not going to happen. There would be proper oversight of such a scheme, as you would expect.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (14)

Civil service Reform

Asked about reports that the Prime Minister had appointed Sir Patrick Brown to conduct a review into the way Civil Servants took up jobs in the public sector, the PMS pointed out that this was not a new story. The Cabinet Office had issued a news release on 22 July announcing the fact that there would be a review into how Civil Servants could move into private industry and how people from the private sector could move into the Civil Service. Put to her that a 'welter of announcements' had been put out on 22 July - the day that Parliament had risen for its summer recess, the PMS pointed out that the Prime Minister himself had said in a speech at a Civil Service Conference in Docklands in February that a review into this issue would be undertaken. She repeated that this was not a new story.

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


Asked if the Deputy Prime Minister was keen to change the rules on pensions in local government, the PMS said that as she understood it, we were trying to ensure that public service pension schemes remained affordable and sustainable. She referred journalists to ODPM for further detail.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (6)

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