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No. 10 Afternoon Press Briefing From 7 Nov 2007


Afternoon press briefing from 7 November 2007

Briefing from the British Prime Minister's Spokesman on: Pakistan, Bank of England Governor, 56 Days, Coroner's Legislation and Home Secretary.

Pakistan

Asked, in relation to the situation in Pakistan, if the Prime Minister had been making enquiries and taking a direct role or if the Foreign Secretary had mainly been dealing with it, the Prime Minister's Spokesman (PMS) said that the Prime Minister was obviously keeping a keen interest in the situation and had been in discussions with the Foreign Secretary in recent days.

Asked if the Prime Minister had spoken to President Bush about the situation in Pakistan and whether or not people would hear about it if he had, the PMS said that people would not necessarily hear about it but that we were in contact with the US Administration and the White House regarding this and other matters

Asked if the Prime Minister was concerned that Pakistan was a nuclear power, the PMS said that obviously we wanted to see a stable, prosperous and secure Pakistan, which was in the interests of not only the region but the whole world as David Miliband had been making clear.

Asked what that meant in terms of security and nuclear weapons, the PMS said that we wanted to see a secure Pakistan and that that was in everybody's interest.

Asked if there had been any enquiries regarding the subject of security, the PMS said, that as would be expected, internal Government discussions on a whole range of issues were considered, including in relation to security and other matters.

Bank of England Governor

Asked if it was the Prime Minister's intention to reappoint the Governor of the Bank of England, the PMS said that the Governor's appointment expired in June of next year and that there would have to be a process in advance of that; this was not something that needed to be considered at this moment. As was said this morning, the Prime Minister thought that Mervyn King had been a first-rate Governor of the Bank of England.

Put that the normal procedure was that the appointment of the Governor of the Bank of England was decided before Christmas, the PMS said that that was not the case.

Put that the Bank of England thought that the appointment would be made before Christmas and asked if there was any reason why the decision had been left till early next year, the PMS said that we had not decided to do anything; the appointment expired in June of next year and a decision would be taken in advance of June.

Asked if there was any guidance as to when a decision would be made, the PMS said he would not expect anything to happen this year.

Put again that the normal procedure was that an appointment was made before Christmas and asked if he could point to an occasion when the Governor had not been appointed at that time, the PMS said that he did not recognise that as the normal procedure; the previous Governor was appointed in the Pre Budget Report 2002, ahead of the June 2003 appointment, which was considered at the time to be exceptionally early and people were surprised by how early that appointment was made, but he would not want to suggest that that set any sort of precedent.

Asked if the Prime Minister was comfortable about potentially going into a financial downturn over the next 12 months with Mervyn King as the Governor, the PMS repeated that the Prime Minister believed that Mervyn King was a first-rate Governor of the Bank of England and had worked with him for many years. The PMS went on to say that he would not announce a decision on who the Governor of the Bank of England will be after June as that was a decision for the Queen, the Prime Minister and the Chancellor to take at the time. He repeated that the Prime Minister believed Mervyn King to be a first-rate Governor of the Bank of England.

Asked repeatedly if there was any reason not to make a decision now due to the suggested rift between the Treasury and the Bank of England, the PMS said that both the Treasury and the Bank of England had been denying any suggestion of a rift between them. The Governor's term did not expire until June next year and a decision would be taken in advance of that. He again repeated that the Prime Minister believed that the Governor had been a first-rate Governor of the Bank of England.

56 Days

Asked if the Government was still hopeful that it would get the 56 days preferred option, the PMS said that 56 days was not the preferred option, the preferred option was to consult on an extension up to the maximum of 56 days.

Asked if the Government would be quite happy with less, the PMS said that we would want to consult and seek a consensus on an extension of up to 56 days. It was important to emphasise that the other aspect of the proposal in July was to introduce much tighter judicial and Parliamentary oversight for any potential detention beyond 28 days and that was a key part of the proposal.

Asked if the Legislation would include a specific figure, the PMS said that would be expected but that that was only one part of the proposal and an important part of the proposal was also the extra measures in relation to judicial and Parliamentary oversight.

Asked about the argument that post-charge questioning removed the need for detention, the PMS said that it was not just the Government that didn't necessarily think post-charge questioning was sufficient; the Home Affairs Select Committee reached that conclusion as well.

Asked if the figure of 56 was there for any reason other than it was double 28, the PMS said it was always up to 56; in a sense 56 was the maximum of the maximum. Jacqui Smith said this morning that we would expect there to be maximum limit. Obviously there would need to be a discussion and a consensus needed to be found regarding exactly what the right number should be; there needed to be a maximum limit and in terms of initiating the consultation in July, we said that that maximum limit would be up to 56 days.

Asked what could be done to change the Opposition's view on this, the PMS said we should wait and see; there had been discussions with the opposition parties and he was sure that there would be discussions in the period ahead, but it was the Government's intention to try to find a consensus. The Home Office set out the evidence in the consultation document in July and as he had said before, there had been discussions and he was sure there would be further discussions.

Asked how the figure was determined and put repeatedly that it would have to come from the Government, the PMS said that there would have to be discussions; an initial range was already out there and we were consulting at the moment on a figure within that range. At some point a figure would have to go onto the face of the Bill and there would have to be a vote in Parliament. It was the Government's intention to find a solution to this that was consensual. The process of discussion was ongoing and had not concluded yet.

Coronor's Legislation

Put that the Government was dropping the Coroner's Reform Legislation, the PMS said that it had been in the draft Queen's speech legislation; obviously decisions had to be taken in relation to the number of bills that could be put into any Parliamentary timetable but for specifics it was best to speak to the Ministry of Justice.

Home Secretary

Asked of there was any reason why the Home Secretary had been downgraded to a follow-up role to the Secretary of State for Justice/Lord Chancellor, the PMS said that nobody had suggested that that was the case at all.

ENDS

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