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No. 10 Afternoon Press Briefing From 11 Dec 2007


Briefing from the British Prime Minister's Spokesman on: Police Pay, Europe, Counter Terrorism and Russia.

Afternoon Press Briefing from Tuesday 11 December 2007

Police Pay

Put that Keith Vaz has claimed that at least 10 Ministers are rebelling over police pay, and asked if we recognised that picture, the Prime Minister's Spokesman (PMS) replied that this was not a picture that he recognised. On the more general issues, the Home Secretary answered a lot of questions on this earlier today, and set out the Government's position.

Europe

Asked to set out what will happen on Thursday, the PMS replied that as he said this morning, the Liaison Committee would start at 9am, moved forward from 10am, and we would expect that to last around two and a half hours. The Prime Minister would then fly straight to Lisbon. It was anticipated that he would be there in time for some of the lunch and he would also have a meeting with the Portuguese Prime Minister Mr Socrates, and it was expected that he may have some other bilaterals as well ahead of the Council on Friday.

Asked if it was correct that the Prime Minister would sign the Treaty, but would not be filmed signing it, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister would not be able to make it in time for the signing ceremony, but he would sign the Treaty.

Asked if it would not have looked better if the Prime Minister was there for the signing, the PMS replied that he had lost count of the number of times that we had been round this. As he had said, there were lots of precedents of people other than the Prime Minister signing treaties, and nobody then suggested that the then Prime Minister was in any way equivocal about the treaty. We had even had people that were not Cabinet Ministers sign treaties. The Prime Minister was going to sign this. He was the Prime Minister, he negotiated the Treaty, he thought it was a good Treaty for Britain, it will help streamline a lot of the EU processes following enlargement, we secured our red lines, and he stood fully behind it.

Counter Terrorism

Put that the Home Secretary had seemed to indicate this morning that she would await the final publication of the Home Affairs Select Committee before drafting the Terrorism Bill, and asked if there was still room for manoeuvre on 42 days, the PMS replied that the Home Secretary was not setting out anything that was different from the previous position, which was that the Government was in a process of consultation on this. We had not yet published the Counter-Terrorism Bill, we would anticipate that happening in the new year, so clearly there was an ongoing consultation. But she was also saying that the key thing about the initial set of proposals, and in particular this latest set of proposals, was to focus not so much on the number of days, but rather on all the additional safeguards put in place should somebody be held for longer than 28 days. It was certainly the Prime Minister's view that the differences between the various people participating in this debate were quite a lot less than was being made out. In practice it was not clear that the differences between the various people were at this point that significant.

Put that Liberty had just issued a statement to say that it was "baloney" for the Home Secretary to suggest that the Government had moved much closer to Liberty's position, the PMS replied that he did not want to start commenting on individual organisations, but the proposals that a number of organisations had been advocating was one whereby there might be circumstances where it might be necessary to hold people for more than 28 days. Now some people had been suggesting that in order to enable that to happen we would call a state of emergency. What the proposals last week were trying to do was incorporate some of the spirit of that to accept that the circumstances in which it would be necessary to hold people for more than 28 days would have to be demonstrably exceptional and temporary, but to do that in a way that did not go as far as calling a full state of emergency.

Asked to clarify that we were still against the Civil Contingencies Act being the potential framework for an agreement, the PMS replied that the proposals that had been set out incorporated some of the key principals of those people that had been advocating the use of the Civil Contingencies Act. There was a lot of on the record material from the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister as to why the Government thought that declaring a state of emergency in order to deal with a small handful of cases might be unnecessary. It was about trying to accept some of the principals that underlie that proposal without having to go that far.

Asked if people should not expect that when the Bill was published it would be 35 days not 42, the PMS replied that as he had said before, people should not get too preoccupied by the number of days. What was important was the safeguards. But if you accepted that there needed to be a maximum limit and that you could not hold people indefinitely, then you had to take a view of what the appropriate number of days might be.

Russia

Asked that given the significance of the Russian elections and the immunity that was given to the Russian Parliament, had we given up all hope of extradition of Mr Lugovoi, the PMS replied that our position on this remained unchanged. This was a dreadful crime that was committed in the centre of London, which could have put thousands of people at risk.

Asked if we realistically expected extradition in this case, the PMS replied that we would continue to pursue justice.

ENDS

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