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No. 10 Morning Press Briefing From 3 Dec 2007

Briefing from the British Prime Minister's Spokesman on: Sudan, Russia, Flood Heroes, Reception, Child Poverty, Afghanistan, Lord Ashdown, EU African Summit And Misc.

Morning press briefing from 3 December 2007


The Prime Minister's Spokesman (PMS) started by highlighting the Prime Minister's statement and the words he recorded whilst at the Royal Marsden Hospital, regarding Gillian Gibbons' release. The PMS read out the Prime Minister's statement;

'I was delighted and relieved to hear the news that Gillian Gibbons is to be freed. Common sense has prevailed. She will be released into the care of our embassy in Khartoum after what must have been a difficult ordeal.

Through the course of Ms Gibbons' detention I was glad to see Muslim support groups across the UK express strong support for her case.

I applaud the particular efforts of Lord Ahmed and Baroness Warsi in securing her freedom. I am also grateful to our officials for all their work behind the scenes.'

The PMS also told journalists that the Prime Minister had spoken to Ms Gibbons' family again that morning.

Asked if there were any details of the logistics concerning Gillian Gibbons' return, the PMS replied, no, not at this stage but obviously we were focused on getting her back to the UK safely.

Asked if the Prime Minister was expected to meet with Ms Gibbons following her return to the UK, the PMS said that that would be kept under review.

Asked what the Prime Minister had said to Ms Gibbon's family this morning, the PMS said that the Prime Minister had expressed his delight and relief that Ms Gibbons was to be released and informed the family of the work that had been going on behind the scenes in order to secure her release.

Asked if there had been any contact between the Prime Minister and his counterpart in Sudan, the PMS replied no.

Asked if the Foreign Office was going to change its advice to visitors to Sudan given this case, it was made clear to journalists that the travel advice was changed after the accusations were first made.

Put that advice should reflect the on going situation rather than an individual case, the PMS said that the Foreign Office advice reflected all manner of things to make sure that the British public got the best advice possible.

Asked if this case would in any way affect the Prime Minister's position regarding Darfur, the PMS said no; this was an isolated consular incident and the position on Darfur remained the same. There were ongoing processes in both the EU and the UN in terms of bringing about resolution and peace to that area and we remained committed to that.


Asked about the Prime Minister's reactions to the elections in Russia, the PMS said the final results were yet to come through but that the Foreign Office had made their position clear this morning. It was vital that the Russian Central Election Commission urgently investigated all allegations of electoral abuses.

Flood Heroes Reception

Asked what the Prime Minister thought about the Chief Executive of the Environment Agency's comments, on a Dispatches programme to be aired tonight, warning insurance companies to stop giving cover to people in certain circumstances, the PMS said that she had not yet seen the Dispatches programme but that the Department for Communities and Local Government would be able to respond. She went on to say that the Prime Minister, at the reception this evening, would be thanking people personally for their efforts in dealing and coping so heroically with the challenges they faced over the summer.

Child Poverty

Put that the Government was not going to meet its 2010 target on reducing child poverty, the PMS said that the Government remained absolutely committed to the promise which had been made in halving child poverty by 2010, on the way to eradicating it by 2020. We obviously recognised that this was an ambitious target but it was right that it should be so.

Asked if the Government recognised that it was not going to meet the target, the PMS said that we had recognised that the policy was challenging but it was right that it should be so and we were fully committed to maintaining the levels which had been set out.


Asked if the Prime Minister was still intending on making a statement to Parliament on Afghanistan, the PMS replied yes.

Asked if the Prime Minister had learned from his experience over the Iraq statement regarding statements being made to the House of Commons first, the PMS said that journalists would be kept up to date on any travel plans at the appropriate time but there was nothing to point to at the moment.

Lord Ashdown

Asked if the Prime Minister was supporting Lord Ashdown as a potential international representative for Afghanistan, the PMS replied that the appointment was ultimately a decision for the UN Secretary General and she would not speculate on individuals being mentioned at this stage.

EU African Summit

Asked if the fact that the Prime Minister was sending a government representative to the EU African Summit compromised his former position, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister's position remained exactly the same and it was felt that Baroness Amos was the correct representation for the Prime Minister on this occasion.


When asked about the Barnett Formula, the appointment of the chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life and old people's care, the PMS said that she would return to journalists with answers to their respective questions.


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