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No. 10 Morning Press Briefing From 13 Nov 2007


Morning press briefing from 13 November 2007

Briefing from the British Prime Minister's Spokesman on: Immigration, General Musharraf, Jack Dromey and Alcohol. "Asked if the Prime Minister had full confidence in the Home Secretary, the PMS said yes."

Immigration

Asked what Jacqui Smith's explanation to the House of Commons would be, the PMS said that one of the accusations that had been made was that she had not given an explanation to the House, so it was best for her to give that explanation to the House first rather than for him to say it at the press briefing.

Put that her position was untenable, the PMS replied by saying that it was clear that when the issue arose and was identified in the Home Office, action was taken to deal with illegal workers in the Security Industry Authority (SIA), which meant that from July this year all new applicants were granted a license only if they were entitled to seek work in the UK. In addition, Ministers ordered checks on all existing license holders and these would be completed before the end of the year. In regards to questions about internal processes within the Home Office, it was for the Home Secretary to explain to the House of Commons later that afternoon.

Asked if the Prime Minister was satisfied with Jacqui Smith's conduct in relation to this issue, the PMS said that the Prime Minister had spoken to the Home Secretary and he was satisfied with the explanation that had been given, but repeated that it was for Jacqui Smith to give her explanation to the House of Commons at 3.30pm.

Asked if it was the case that some of the 5000 cases had already been dealt with or if they were still here, the PMS said that it was best to speak to the Home Office for details and went on to say that there were two issues. There was an issue about the flow, which officials had been dealing with since July; new applicants had been granted a license only if they were entitled to seek work in the UK, which was a specific requirement placed by the SIA on employers. It was the employer's responsibility, first and foremost to ensure that their workers had the correct employment status. Secondly, Ministers ordered checks on all the existing license holders; this was an ongoing process, with the completion of the review by the end of the year.

Put that the requirement had always been there, the PMS repeated that there was a requirement on employers. In addition the Government was strengthening the regulatory framework by explicitly making it a requirement of registered companies in the security industry, regulated by the SIA, to make sure that those checks happened. The PMS went on to say that it was best to check with the Home Office on the details, but his understanding was that from July, the regulatory framework was strengthened to ensure that there was an explicit requirement, in relation to responsibilities to the SIA, to make sure that these checks were undertaken.

Asked repeatedly when the Prime Minister knew about the situation if Jacqui Smith knew in July, the PMS that he would not get into internal Government processes and discussions, that was not something that was normally done. Jacqui Smith would deal with the procedural issues in her statement.

Asked when and how the Prime Minister had spoken to Jacqui Smith, the PMS said that he did not want to get into what discussions happened when and where but that the Prime Minister had discussed the situation with Jacqui Smith.

Asked if the Prime Minister had full confidence in the Home Secretary, the PMS said yes.

Asked if there was any enquiry underway at the Home Office as to how the documents had leaked, the PMS said it was best to speak to the Home Office.

Asked again about the SIA requirements, the PMS said that the Home Office could give the details, but his understanding was that the SIA imposed a number of requirements on firms in the security industry, checks that needed to be made before somebody was employed, for example, does a person have a criminal record. In July, they added to the list of those explicit checks that needed to be undertaken, employment status, which of course, companies in the security industry should have been undertaking anyway.

Put that the leaked emails implied that there was not much intention of the situation ever being made public, the PMS said that he was not going to discuss Home Office handling plans and that these were matters which he was sure would be dealt with by Jacqui Smith in her statement.

Asked if the Prime Minister was satisfied that security arrangements were safe enough, the PMS said that when the issue came to light in July action was taken by the Home Office, both to deal with the flow of new employees and to deal with the existing stock.

Asked what the Prime Minister's policy was on announcing issues that were of public interest and was it ok for a department to take action which could be constituted as cover-up, the PMS said that that was a slightly loaded question and that the reasons for the decisions the Home Office took would be set out in Jacqui Smith's statement to Parliament.

Asked again what the Prime Minister's policy was, the PMS said that the Prime Minister's policy was that significant policy announcements should be made to Parliament. Obviously it was for individual departments to make specific decisions in relation to their own area.

Asked if the Prime Minister was of the view that something that would concern the public like this should be made public immediately, the PMS repeated that it was for the Home Office to discuss the rationale for individual decisions that were taken in their department and that was what Jacqui Smith would be doing in her statement.

Asked if there had been any steps taken to see whether the same thing could happen in other industries, the PMS said that obviously the Government wanted to ensure that those who were here working were legally entitled to work. He was sure that the Home Office could explain exactly what they were doing across the board.

Asked for a reminder as to what the Prime Minister's view was on the use of spin and "burying bad news", the PMS said that it was the Prime Minister's general view, as he had said before, that significant announcements should be made to Parliament.

Asked if the Prime Minister was satisfied with the fact that we would not know whether or not the 5000 cases had been checked until the end of December, the PMS said that that was potentially a large number of people so it would take time to go through and check them all. He repeated that it would be best to wait for Jacqui Smith's statement for a fuller and more detailed explanation on that.

In reference to a story in the Sunday Mirror, it was asked when the Prime Minister became aware that somebody who had been protecting him was an illegal immigrant, the PMS said that it seemed to be an unsubstantiated story. It was the Metropolitan Police who were responsible for the Prime Minister's security. They took whatever steps were necessary to make sure the Prime Minister was secure.

Asked if the issue was raised at Cabinet this morning, the PMS said no.

Asked if Jacqui Smith volunteered to make the statement or if it was suggested to her by the Prime Minister, the PMS repeated that he did not want to get into a discussion about who said what to who and that Jacqui Smith would have no difficulty making a statement to the House of Commons on a matter like this.

Asked, hypothetically, if it wasn't the case that if you couldn't check somebody's immigration status, that every other check would fall down, by definition that they were not registered as being in this country, the PMS said that it was best to talk to the Home Office for details.

General Musharraf

Asked when the Prime Minister last spoke to General Musharraf, the PMS said that he wasn't sure of the exact date but they spoke before the state of emergency was discussed. There had been regular contact with the Pakistan Government at all levels on an almost daily basis.

Jack Dromey

Asked if the Prime Minister was concerned about Jack Dromey's criticism of British jobs for British workers, the PMS said that the Prime Minister was very comfortable with his explanation for British jobs for British workers, most recently set out in his interview at the weekend.

Alcohol

Asked if the Prime Minister was thinking about stopping some shops selling alcohol at certain times, the PMS said that there were a number of different reviews underway; the BCMS expected to complete an evaluation of the impact of the Licensing Act by the end of this year. The evaluation was looking at every aspect of the Act, from crime and disorder and sales of alcohol to children to cutting red tape and A & E studies such as the one carried out by Cardiff University. There was also a Home Office review looking at the impact of the licensing regime on crime and disorder - we expected that to report in the New Year.

ENDS

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