» Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Terror Attack figures

Asked if there had been a previous occasion when the Prime Minister had given casualty figures with regards to a terrorist attack, as he had done in today's PMQs, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman said that the Prime Minister had referred frequently in the past to both the possibility of an attack, and also his view that if there was an opportunity to cause even more carnage, for example at the Twin Towers, then terrorists would use that opportunity to do so. Equally, he had referred in the past to the Madrid bombings, where hundreds of people did die, and again, if it had been possible, more people would have died, if the terrorists had had their way.

Briefing took place at 15:45 | Read whole briefing | Comments (4)

Royal Wedding/Legal Advice

Asked if the Prime Minister was going to go to the Royal wedding, or just the reception, or the blessing, etc, the PMOS that he would await an invitation before making a comment or speculating.

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

Attorney General

Asked to clarify if the words of the Written PQ of March 17th were drafted by the Attorney General, or were they drafted instead by Downing Street, the PMOS said that for the avoidance of all doubt, the PMOS referred the journalist to what the Attorney General had said in the statement issued this morning from the Attorney General's office.

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

Charles Clarke/Anti Terror

Asked if the Government was committed to the idea that the Home Secretary initiated a control, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister had given a very clear explanation at PMQs earlier today. The Prime Minister said that if there was a situation where the Home Secretary felt that the threat from an individual was such that he had to act immediately, there was not therefore the time to go through a whole judicial process. The Home Secretary needed to be given the flexibility to act in the knowledge that if he was taking away someone's liberty, there would be an automatic judicial input into that. That was why it was not just a matter of dogma, but rather, a matter of having the flexibility which the police and security services advise us that we need to respond quickly.

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

Belmarsh Detainees

Asked why we were passing this legislation if, as the leader of the opposition had pointed out this afternoon, police already had very similar powers to arrest people suspected of terrorist activities, the PMOS said that if you arrested someone you had to arrest them on the basis of evidence. The whole point of this issue was that these were people against whom you could not get evidence that would stand up in court. The question was what did you do when you had intelligence which by its very nature you could not use, particularly in an adversarial court system. Questioned further, the PMOS said that the basis on which you arrested someone was with the view to eventually charging them. In this case you could not do that. Put to him that in an imperfect world lots of people got arrested and not charged, Chris Eubank for example, the PMOS said that in terms of general acceptance if you arrested someone you either had to charge them or let them go. Asked how if the people were so immediately dangerous as to necessitate preventing them from using a mobile phone, it wasn't best just to arrest them, the PMOS said that was simplifying a complex situation. Anyone who had had to work with intelligence would say, as Sir Stephen Lander had recently: that the important thing was that sometimes you did not give away what it was that you knew. It was important that we protected the sources of intelligence, the nature of intelligence and the pattern of intelligence that we had. Asked why a judge would be slower at making this decision on these matter than the Home Secretary, the PMOS said that you would have to have the appropriate judge and you had to go through the judicial process. What you were relying on was the intelligence. You had to have a situation where only a small number of people had access to that intelligence. We were dealing with highly sensitive information. There was also the secondary point which Charles Clarke himself made which was that in the end it came down to an assessment of the threat to the country. Therefore it was right that the Home Secretary, who was accountable to Parliament, ultimately made the judgment about how to stop a threat to the country.

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

Commission for Africa

Asked about what we could expect from the Commission for Africa, the PMOS said that tomorrow was the final drafting session. What people will get is some idea of the literally thousands of people who had been spoken to and consulted about it. Obviously the main interest will be when the report is published towards the middle of March. Asked if the Commission would discuss the United States' decision to reject the suggestions on financing.

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

Lord Chancellor’s Legal Advice (Royal Wedding)

Asked what kind of advice Downing Street was giving to Buckingham Palace the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that in terms of the advice we gave, as we had set out at the time of the announcement, we had to give formal advice on issues such as legality, which had been done. Today the Lord Chancellor would be setting out an explanation of that advice. Asked if there was any change to the question of legality the PMOS said that there was no change. This would simply be an explanation of the advice that had been given. Without pre-empting the statement people would be able to see that it sets out the position very clearly and the analysis that went behind that position. Asked if it was Downing Street's responsibility to advise the Palace on whether they could marry in Windsor Castle the PMOS said that that was a decision for the Royal Family. Asked if it was still the Government's position that no special legislation was needed the PMOS said that was correct.

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

Attorney General’s Legal Advice (War)

Asked why the Government had not published the Attorney General's advice the PMOS the Attorney General had made it clear that he had given that advice, that it was his independent advice, and that in his opinion the war was legal because Saddam had broken UN resolutions. Therefore that was the basis, which he had set out at the time, why he came to the view that he had. Asked why the advice on the wedding was available but not the advice on the war the PMOS said it was because there was a distinction. The Lord Chancellor was setting out the reasoning. The Attorney General had also set out his reasoning but not the detailed advice.

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


Asked about the statistics released today by OFSTED which indicated that 50% of boys and 30% of girls left Primary school without sufficient literacy skills, the PMOS said that what was also important was to recognise as well that OFSTED found that more children than ever were reaching the acceptable standards in English and Maths. Results in Key stage 2 showed that attainment in English had gone up 13%, in Maths by 15%. International studies showed that standards were high and rising. That did not mean that we had yet reached the standard we had wished for. But the trend was going in the right direction.

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

Ken Livingstone

Asked if the Prime Minister still felt that Ken Livingstone should apologise, the PMOS said that he had dealt with this issue yesterday albeit in a somewhat disembodied form, he was happy however to reiterate it for the Evening Standard because of their local interest. The Prime Minister had given his view last week, but emphasised that it was a matter for Ken Livingstone. Ken Livingstone had reached his judgment and that was where the Prime Minister's view stood.

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

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