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No. 10 Morning Press Briefing From 14 Nov 2007


No. 10 Morning Press Briefing From 14 Nov 2007

Briefing from the British Prime Minister's Spokesman on: Security, E-Borders, Pakistan, British Footballers and Middle East Envoy.

Security

Asked if the Prime Minister had full confidence in his Security Minister to make his own statements and judgements, the Prime Minister's Spokesman (PMS) replied that yes he did.

Asked what happened then between Lord West going on the Today Programme when he said that he still needed to be fully convinced that we absolutely need more than 28 days, and a statement released by the Home Office later this morning where he said that we needed to legislate now so that we had the powers in place if we need them, the PMS replied that Lord West's statement, the second one referred to, spoke for itself. Lord West also said on the Today Programme that one can build up a very good case and rationalise it. There might well be a case, particularly if there are multiple attacks at the same time, which would go beyond that i.e. 28 days, and Lord Carlile mentioned that.

Asked if Lord West decided himself to make the second statement, the PMS replied that Lord West thought it was necessary to make sure that his position was properly understood.

Asked to what extent the Prime Minister played a role in getting Lord West to change his mind, the PMS replied that he was not sure that Lord West had changed his mind. Lord West had made his position clear in his statement.

Put that Lord West did meet with the Prime Minister after his interview, the PMS replied that he was at the breakfast meeting this morning with the Prime Minister as the TV footage showed.

Asked if the Prime Minister discussed his comments, the PMS replied that he was not going to discuss discussions between the Prime Minister and other Ministers. Lord West had made his position quite clear.

Asked if it was our position that there was no contradiction between Lord West's words at 08:20 and his words at 09:50, the PMS replied that his 09:50 statement made his position quite clear.

Asked therefore was it our position that Lord West's earlier statement was a slip or that he changed his mind, the PMS replied that Lord West set out his views quite clearly in his second statement. On the Today Programme he did refer to that fact that there had been a number of cases that had gone right up to the 28 day limit. And he did say that one could build a very good reason and rational for extending the case beyond that.

Put that Lord West did not seem to think the case was fully established, the PMS replied that clearly extending beyond 28 days was a serious matter, and we needed to convince Parliament and the public of the case for that. That was why the Prime Minister was keen to ensure that should we extend the terror detention limit beyond 28 days that there would be tighter parliamentary and judicial oversight. That was included in the proposals that we set out on the summer.

Asked if it was fair to say that the Prime Minister still needed to be convinced that we absolutely needed an extension beyond 28 days, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister's position was the Government's position, that there was a case for extending beyond 28 days for the reasons set out in the document the Home Office published in July. But any extension beyond 28 days would have to be accompanied by stronger judicial and parliamentary oversight.

Asked if the Prime Minister had persuaded Lord West or presented him with new evidence, the PMS replied that Lord West made clear his position in his second statement.

Put that Lord West said in his statement that it would be "dreadful" if we could not change the laws, and asked if this was the Prime Minister's position, the PMS replied that we had set out our position in July, and made clear at the time that there was a case for going beyond 28 days. There were good reasons for this, and they were set out in the Home Office document in July. But this was a consultative process and we wanted to find a consensual solution to this. Any extension beyond 28 days did need to be accompanied by stronger judicial and parliamentary oversight.

Asked if it we had not gone a bit further than this in recent weeks to the point that we were saying there would be an increase to between 28 and 56 days, and the only question was how big the increase would be, the PMS replied that the position had not changed. We had set out a number of options, and that the Government's preferred option was extending beyond 28 days, as long as it was accompanied by the additional measure on parliamentary and judicial oversight as set out in the document.

Put that the way Lord West was treated was destined to destroy his credibility, the PMS replied that this was not the case at all. Lord West had made his position quite clear. He was a great expert on security, and his words spoke for themselves.

Asked if was our position that Lord West misspoke in his Today Programme interview, or that he failed to articulate what he wanted to articulate, the PMS replied that Lord West set out his position clearly in his second statement. And on his Today Programme interview, he made a number of points on why there was a case for moving beyond 28 days.

Asked that if he was happy with his Today interview, why was there the need to issue subsequent statements, the PMS replied that Lord West had issued a subsequent statement, and he had made his position quite clear.

Asked to deny that there was any attempt by No10 or the Prime Minister to persuade the Security Minister to issue another statement, the PMS replied that Lord West had made his position quite clear. He went out and made his statement, and his words spoke for themselves.

Asked if anyone had reminding him of what collective responsibility meant for a Minister, the PMS replied that there was no need to, Lord West had gone out and made his position perfectly clear.

Asked if when Ministers joined Government from outside bodies, did they receive any training or induction, the PMS replied that Lord West was a very experienced individual, former First Sea Lord, Former Chief of Defence Intelligence, and had a lot of experience in dealing with the media in his previous military capacity.

Asked if Lord West would be giving any more interviews today, the PMS replied that he was not aware of any plans.

Asked if the Prime Minister would be covering "hearts and minds" in his statement, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister would be covering that.

E-Borders

Asked to comment on the e-borders Raytheon bid, the PMS replied that it was best to speak to the Home Office on this.

Put that it seemed to have been announced not in Parliament or on a regulatory news service, but in the Sun, the PMS replied that it was best to speak to the Home Office.

Asked if it was a leak from Downing Street, the PMS replied that it was not as far as he was aware.

Asked if there would be a leak inquiry, the PMS replied only if a leak inquiry was considered necessary. But it was best to speak to the Home Office on this as they were responsible for the e-borders contract.

Asked if it would be announced today, the PMS replied that it was best to wait and see.

Put that the Home Office had been briefing on this last night, and if that was the case, would there be a leak inquiry, the PMS replied that he did not know if that was the case. He had no information to suggest that this was the case.

Put that when the Prime Minister took over in June there was a very clear message that Parliament would always be told first, and there has been a long history of Government announcing contracts either to Parliament or to the Stock Exchange, the PMS replied that an assertion had been put to him which at this point he had no evidence to substantiate.

Asked again if there would be having a leak inquiry, the PMS replied that we would have to look into this.

Pakistan

Put that General Musharraf had said he would not resign, although he considered it, and that any election would be held under emergency powers, and asked for a reaction, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister and David Miliband set out the Government's position earlier this week. The Commonwealth position, which we fully supported, called for the restoration of the constitution, the immediate release of detainees, removal of curbs on the media and rapid moves towards creation of free and fair elections.

Put that Musharraf's comments did not seem to fall in line with that, the PMS replied that the Commonwealth had called for restoration of the constitution, and for rapid moves towards the creation of conditions for free and fair elections.

Asked if we still regarded Musharraf as an ally in the war against terror, the PMS replied that the internal issues in relation to Pakistan in terms of how they choose their leader was up to them. Our position was that we wanted to see constitutional processes restored and free and fair elections. But we did take our relationship with Pakistan very seriously.

British Footballers

Asked about the piece in the Guardian today on British jobs for British workers in the Premier League, and asked if there was anything that the Government could do, the PMS replied that this was clearly a matter for the football authorities. There were discussions that took place between the Government and the football authorities on a number of issues, but primarily this was something for them. The Prime Minister did think that football was a powerful force for social integration. The Prime Minister has supported the Kickz project, which was a good example of how football could be a force for social integration. But the Premier League and UEFA rules were a matter for the authorities.

Put that presumably non-EU players would have to be licensed in some way to play for the clubs, the PMS replied that they would be subject to the relevant immigration laws.

Asked if the Prime Minister thought that it was a good idea that there was a large number of foreigners in British football both from inside the EU and outside, the PMS replied that he had never heard the Prime Minister express a view on that subject.

Asked why Downing Street was worried about foreign players in the Premier League, and what did this have to do with Government, the PMS replied that these were issues that are raised by the football authorities when they have occasional meetings with representatives of the Government. But the Prime Minister's view was that football is a powerful force for social integration and did play a wider social role. Therefore he is keen to support projects like the Kickz project which gets young people off the streets and involved in team sports in some of our deprived communities.

Middle East Envoy

Put that the former Prime Minister Tony Blair was seeing President Bush next week, and asked if he would be having talks with the Prime Minister before he goes, and was there a role he could play, the PMS replied that the former Prime Minister was the Quartet's representative on the Middle East Peace Process. The Prime Minister talked occasionally to his predecessor as you would expect.

Asked if Mr Blair was helping smooth relations with America, the PMS replied that Mr Blair was the Quartet's representative on the Middle East Peace Process.

ENDS

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