No. 10 Afternoon Press Briefing From 28 Nov 2007
Briefing from the British Prime Minister's Spokesman on: EU/Africa summit, Sudan, donations and binge drinking
Afternoon press briefing from 28 November 2007
The Prime Minister's Spokesman began by telling the assembled press that he could confirm there would be no UK Minister at the EU/Africa summit, on the assumption that Mr Mugabe would attend. Should Mr Mugabe attend, the Prime Minister would be asking Baroness Valerie Amos to represent him. Baroness Amos knew the individuals and the issues very well as a former Foreign Office Africa Minister and DfID Secretary of State.
Asked if the Government's stance had changed on the matter at all, the PMS said that the Government had previously said that no senior Minister would be attending if Mr Mugabe was.
Asked what position Baroness Amos currently held and was she a candidate for a UN post at all, the PMS replied that she was currently a member of the House of Lords. Asked if Baroness Amos was still a candidate for a UN job, the PMS replied that she was not.
Asked what Baroness Amos's status was, the PMS said that she had been appointed as representative of the Prime Minister.
On the charging of British teacher Gillian Gibbons in Sudan, the PMS said that the Government was surprised and disappointed by this development and the Foreign Secretary would summon as a matter of urgency the Sudanese Ambassador to discuss the matter further.
Asked whether he thought the Sudanese Government was letting the Government's sanctions on Darfur influence them, the PMS said that there wasn't any reason to suggest that that might be the case. The Sudanese Government would have to be taken at their word. It was a judicial matter relating to this individual, but the Government was surprised and disappointed and the Foreign Secretary would be summoning the Sudanese Ambassador.
Put that the Government's comments were rudderless and could a stronger sense of how the Prime Minister felt about the matter be given, the PMS replied that the news had only been received in the last half an hour. The PMS reiterated that the Government was disappointed and the first step was to summon the Sudanese Ambassador, in order to get a clear explanation for the rationale behind the charges and a sense of what the next steps might be. The Government would consider its response in the light of that. Asked what the response might be, the PMS advised that we had to wait until an official explanation had been given by the Sudanese Government and then the Government would consider what further steps might be necessary.
Asked whether there were any circumstances by which the Government would allow the woman in question to be whipped in public, the PMS repeated that the first thing to do was to establish what the rationale for the arrest was. Once the Foreign Secretary had met the Sudanese Ambassador, the Government would consider what further steps or representations might be necessary.
Put that the Government's response both yesterday and today had been very measured and was there a fear of provoking the Sudanese Government, the PMS said the Government would hear the explanation and get a better sense officially of what the next steps were from the Sudanese Government. The Government would then consider what further action or steps it might need to take.
Asked if this would be an issue at the EU/Africa summit, the PMS advised people to wait and see what the situation was at the time of the summit.
Asked if the Prime Minister thought the police should be informed, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister thought, as he had made clear on numerous occasions in the House, that this was a matter for the Electoral Commission who are reviewing the matter. Asked whether the Prime Minister thought it was a matter for the Electoral Commission due to a fixed procedure or just because he thought it was the appropriate way, the PMS said that the Prime Minister thought it was the role of the Electoral Commission to examine matters of this kind and that's what they were doing.
Asked if there had been any contact from the police, the PMS said that as far as he was aware, there hadn't been any contact.
Asked if the Prime Minister had been involved in the NEC meeting that afternoon, the PMS said he would check, but not as far as he was aware.
Asked if the Prime Minister had spoken to Lord Triesman about his knowledge of the matter, the PMS replied that the question fell into the category of a political matter as well as private discussions held by the Prime Minister so he was not able to answer the question. Asked if the Prime Minister still had confidence in Lord Triesman, the PMS replied that he clearly did.
Put that the Prime Minister had mentioned that a document would be released rounding up the ideas that had been expressed at a meeting last week and was there anything that could be added to this, the PMS replied that there was not much to be added at this point. The key thing would be the review of the licensing laws, which would be issued in the New Year.