» Monday, February 13, 2006

Chancellor’s Speech-Terrorism

Asked if it was fair to assume that the Treasury had co-ordinated the Chancellor’s speech all with No10, and other departments, the PMOS said that it was perfectly natural that the Chancellor spoke up on these kinds of issues. The response to terrorism was not a matter that was limited to one department, but rather, was across Government. Equally, it was important that the public knew that the Government was united in implementing its manifesto commitments. That was what the Chancellor’s speech was about.

Asked if No10 was open to the idea of a Department for Homeland Security, the PMOS replied that the Chancellor did not actually talk about a Department for Homeland Security, as such. What the Chancellor was talking about was allowing people to see the amount of money that was spent on security. We believed that the public understood why we did need to spend the amount of money that we did on security, and therefore, we were completely open to being as transparent as possible about it.

Put that if we were consolidating the budget, would it not therefore make sense to consolidate the operations as well, the PMOS said that there were different arguments for and against a single department, and the way things worked at the moment were the way things worked. These were matters that were always kept under review.

Put that the Chancellor had said things that the Government had not said, the PMOS replied that what it was an expression of was us thinking through the implication of where we were on the subject such as terrorism. That was a perfectly proper statement for any Government Minister to do, particularly one who was in a position such as the Chancellor.

Asked if it was now Government policy as the Chancellor had passionately argued that we wanted the period when terror suspects could be detained without charge to be extended beyond 28 days, the PMOS said that whether the argument had been put passionately or not, that had been always our position. That should not come as a surprise to anybody, and that was why we had put the proposal for 90 days. It was not some kind of game-playing exercise, but rather, it was because we believed that that genuinely was the period necessary for precisely the reason which the Chancellor had set out today.

Put that the Chancellor implied that the issue was "open and live", as the argument had happened, and the vote had been lost, the PMOS said that if people actually looked back at what he and others had said, including the Prime Minister, after the 90 day vote, we said that we accepted the will of Parliament, but we continued to believe that the longer period was necessary, and we had not changed our view. It was necessary for precisely the reason that the Chancellor had set out, which was the amount of time it took to gather evidence, because of the language problems involved, but also because of the global nature of the threat that we faced. Those arguments had not changed.

Asked if it could come back as an amendment in future, the PMOS said he was not going to get into that kind of speculative territory. What the PMOS was quite clear about was that we did not mount the argument for 90 days as a piece of rhetoric, but rather, it was to reflect the reality, as we saw it, of the terrorist threat that we faced.

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

1 Comment »

  1. Department of Homeland Security? Why not call things by their proper names? It’s really the department for dealing with the consequences of Blair’s reckless foreign policy of putting US interests first and the British people in danger by participating in the illegal invasion of Iraq, thereby provoking the reprisals Blair was warned against by the peace movement. So let it be called the Department of Elective Insecurity.

    Comment by Michael McCarthy — 14 Feb 2006 on 9:52 am | Link

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