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Downing Street Press Briefing 13th May 2004


PRESS BRIEFING: 11AM THURSDAY 13 MAY 2004

PENSIONS

Asked if an announcement on pensions would be made today, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that lots of discussions and good work on this issue were taking place and progress was being made. We hoped to be in a position to make an announcement within the next few days. Asked if the Prime Minister's meeting with the Chancellor yesterday would have focussed on this issue, the PMOS said that it wasn't our policy to brief on meetings between the Prime Minister and the Chancellor. That said, Downing Street, the Treasury and DWP had all been involved in discussions about the pensions issue, as you would expect.

EUROPEAN CONSTITUTION

Asked to comment on a reported proposal by France and Germany suggesting that only the support of twenty out of twenty five EU member states was needed to go ahead with the European Constitution, the PMOS said that he never commented on hypothetical scenarios. That said, it was not an idea that we would look upon with any particular favour.

IRAQ

Asked if Adam Ingram was expected to make a substantive announcement this afternoon on the outcome of the investigation into the Mirror photos, the PMOS said that Mr Ingram would make the position as clear as he could within the constraints imposed by the ongoing investigation and the legal position. Both of those requirements obviously took precedence over everything else. Asked for a reaction to the suggestion that we had known the results of the investigation for several days, the PMOS said that the idea that we were deliberately holding anything back was false. He repeated that it was necessary for us to work within the constraints imposed by the ongoing investigation and the legal position. Asked if he was suggesting that the investigation into the Mirror pictures was still ongoing, the PMOS said that Adam Ingram would update the Commons this afternoon on the latest position. He was not going to pre-empt what he might say. Asked to clarify the constraints under which Mr Ingram was operating, the PMOS said that Mr Ingram would set out the position in more detail later today. As he understood it, the constraints related to the possibility of criminal charges, as was usual in investigations of this sort.

Asked if the Prime Minister was sympathetic to the idea of handing over control of Iraqi prisoners to Iraqis, the PMOS said he was surprised that the Times had been taken aback by the fact that this was an idea. As he had told journalists at yesterday afternoon's briefing, we wanted to 'Iraqi-ise' the situation on the ground as quickly as possible, both politically, economically and administratively, as well as in terms of the security forces, including prison authorities. Discussions were currently ongoing with Lakhdar Brahimi as to how that might work post 30 June. Obviously we would also have to talk to the Interim Authority about this issue. Mr Brahimi was due to report back to the UN at the end of the month. Our objective was to achieve local control as quickly as possible. In order to do that, however, we had to be sure that the Interim Authority had the capacity to deal with these matters. Thus, this whole issue was not a matter of dispute. It was simply a matter of a common sense working through of issues and problems.

Asked if the Prime Minister or any senior Ministers had seen the additional pictures of abuse and mistreatment which Senators in Washington had been given the opportunity to view yesterday, the PMOS said no. These were matters for the US authorities, not for us.

Asked if the Prime Minister continued to have full confidence in Adam Ingram, the PMOS said that the position had not changed from yesterday. The answer was yes.

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