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No. 10 Afternoon Press Briefing From 27 Nov 2007


Afternoon press briefing from 27 November 2007

Briefing from the British Prime Minister's Spokesman on: Sudan, party funding, cabinet and capital gains tax.

Sudan

Asked what steps the Government was taking to free the teacher in Sudan, and asked to clear up whether there had in fact been any official contact, the Prime Minister's Spokesman (PMS) replied that as the Prime Minister had said this morning, the Embassy was giving all appropriate consular assistance to Ms Gibbons. His information was that Embassy officials visited her yesterday and the Foreign Office had been in touch with her next of kin.

Put that it was being reported that they had not had access, the PMS replied that the information he had from the Foreign Office was that Embassy officials visited her yesterday.

Asked if the Prime Minister would allow this teacher to be whipped, the PMS replied that as he had said the Embassy had been in contact, and they had also been in contact with the Sudanese Police Authorities, and the Sudanese Government to clarify the situation. But we understood that she has not yet been charged with any offence.

Asked if there were any circumstances in which the Prime Minister would intervene, the PMS replied that again, we understood that she had not been charged with any offence. The Embassy was in contact with the Sudanese Police Authorities and the Sudanese Government to clarify the situation.

Party Funding

Asked to be clear whether the Prime Minister had full confidence in Harriet Harman, the PMS replied that there should be no ambiguity about this - the Prime Minister had full confidence in Harriet Harman.

Asked if the Prime Minister had been in touch with Baroness Jay, or did he plan to speak to her, the PMS replied that we would not normally talk about particular conversations the Prime Minister may or may not have had.

Asked if the Prime Minister was at all concerned that some of his Ministers knew there was a proxy system going on, the PMS replied that this was a Labour Party funding question, and therefore a matter for the Labour Party.

Asked to establish exactly where we were in relation to the Bill on party funding, the PMS replied that the Hayden Philips process had broken down at the end of October, we had said that it was the Government's intention to bring forward proposals on the regulation of party funding, but we were not in a position to say more about what that might involve or the timetable at this point.

Asked if it was still the Government's wish that this would be done with some degree of consensus with the opposition, or was it a case of going it alone now, the PMS replied that it had always been the Government's position to establish some form of consensus.

Asked if he could characterise the Prime Minister's mood in terms of how he reacted to the news on Saturday, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister's mood was that issues like this do arise. He had had to deal with this, the loss of the CDs last week, he had had to deal with floods, terror threats, foot and mouth, and everything else. The question was how did you respond to that. Secondly he was determined to continue to keep focused on some of the longer term changes that he wanted to see made in policy areas such as welfare reform, environmental policy, skills and training, and all the other issues that he set out yesterday.

Put that the Prime Minister must at least find it frustrating that things like this must distract everybody from those issues, the PMS replied that as the Prime Minister had said this morning, issues like this do arise, and they have to be dealt with. It was his determination that they were dealt with, and it was also his determination to keep focused on the long term priorities and the long term changes that needed to be made.

Asked if the Prime Minister had made any enquiries from his Ministers as to whether there was any conflict of interest over planning issues, the PMS replied that obviously the Prime Minister would expect his Ministers to deal with all of these matters in the appropriate way. But he did not think there was any evidence to suggest that anybody had not done that.

Asked why then had Hazel Blears told MPs that she would look into this planning application, the PMS replied that he had only just heard this and had no more information on that matter.

Cabinet

Asked what was covered at Cabinet this morning, the PMS replied that Cabinet had a discussion of data management issue in light of the events of last week with contributions from Alistair Darling and Gus O'Donnell on the review that he was conducting. There was also a general discussion around where we were on counter-terrorism and security matters.

Asked if ID cards came up, the PMS replied that it was a wide-ranging discussion. But the Prime Minister's position on ID cards was that ID cards were an important way of protecting people's identity.

Asked if ID cards and the database that went with it were on track, or would they be delayed now, the PMS replied that you could make the opposite argument. You could argue that in a world where lots of private sector organisations had lots of information about individuals and therefore there was the potential for data fraud, this strengthened the argument for ID cards as it enabled people to protect their own identity because they were biometric.

Asked if 28 day detention was discussed at Cabinet, the PMS replied that he did not want to get into the specifics of exactly what was discussed, except to say that it was a wide ranging discussion on counter-terrorism and security matters.

Capital Gains Tax

Put that the Chancellor today seemed to suggest that there was still room and time for changes to CGT proposals, and asked to clarify the position, the PMS replied that the position was absolutely clear, exactly as set out at the time of the PBR. The Government put forward a number of proposals and HMRC and the Treasury, as set out in the PBR document, would immediately begin discussion on implementation with interested parties. So there was a consultation ongoing on detailed implementation, which the Prime Minister referred to yesterday, and the Chancellor had referred to today.

Put that the mood music around the Chancellor seemed to indicate that he was listening and discussing the possibility of changing, the PMS replied that there was a consultation underway, as we had said at the time of the PBR, on the detailed implementation of the proposals.

ENDS

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