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No. 10 Afternoon Press Briefing From 3 Dec 2007

Briefing from the British Prime Minister's Spokesman on: Party Funding.

Afternoon press briefing from 3 December 2007

Party Funding

Asked to clarify whether Wendy Alexander had offered to resign over the weekend, the Prime Minister's Spokesman (PMS) replied that it was not for him to answer questions on Wendy Alexander as she had no Government position, she was a Labour Party officer.

Asked if Lobby would be informed if the Prime Minister were to talk to the police inquiry, the PMS replied that as the Prime Minister said in his letter to Commander Mawer, it was important that the police were able to proceed with their inquiries, without a running commentary, but obviously if the Prime Minister were to be interviewed, we would inform people of that.

Put that there was a suggestion that the Prime Minister would go ahead with party funding legislation whether he gets a consensus or not, the PMS replied that the Government's position remained that we wanted to see a consensus on party funding. And as the Prime Minister said on Saturday, Jack Straw would be leading consultations on this.

Put that David Cameron's words suggested that he was not about to fall in with the deal, and asked if the Prime Minister would go ahead without a consensus, the PMS referred journalists back to what the Prime Minister said on Saturday where he made clear that Jack Straw would now be consulting on the best way forward.

Asked about the timescale for this, the PMS replied that he was not in the position to confirm any timetable, but the Prime Minister did say "quickly". Let's see how things develop.

Asked why we needed to legislate for new things when the problem was with existing laws, the PMS replied that there was a lot of history behind this, but the Prime Minister had said on numerous occasions in the last week that there was a need to make further reforms to party funding, and he had set out the rationale for that himself. The Government's position is that it is our intention to bring forward proposals relating to party funding.

Asked if it was fair to say that the timetable had dramatically increased in the last couple of months, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister did say today that he wanted to bring forward proposals quickly.

Asked if he accepted David Cameron's view that this was all a smokescreen, the PMS replied that he did not want to comment specifically on what David Cameron had said on this matter. But the Government had been talking for some time about the need to bring forward proposals in relation to reforming party funding, we had indicated that at the time of the Queen's Speech. The Hayden Phillips process had been under way for some time, that had broken down, but as the Prime Minister said on Saturday, he would like to see that process reinvigorated and Jack Straw would take the process forward.

Asked if the Government had come to a view on whether there needed to be more state funding for political parties, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister had answered this question earlier, and it was best to look back at his words.

Asked if the Prime Minister's thinking on this was any different to Hayden Phillips', and did he have any differences with Hayden Phillips proposals, the PMS repaid that he needed to be careful over the distinction between the Government's position and the Labour Party's position, so it was best to refer back to the Prime Minister's words on Saturday where he referred specifically to this.

Asked if the Prime Minister believed that his vision of more state funding was somewhat difficult to sell to the public, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister answered a question on this earlier today where he seemed to be signalling the opposite. The Prime Minister's words should speak for themselves, but in general he was strongly of the view that there was a need for further reform of party funding, he was keen to take this process forward in a consultative way, and that was why Jack Straw would be taking this forward.

Put that the Prime Minister did not rule out extra state funding or a cap on donations, and asked was not the only way to make sure to seek to dramatically limit spending on elections, the PMS replied that all of this had to be looked at as part of the debate on party funding. They had been round this particular course several times in relation to the previous Hayden Phillips proposals. These were matters for the parties to consider, and we just had to see how these things developed.


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