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No. 10 Afternoon Press Briefing From 17 Dec 2007


Briefing from the British PM's Spokesman on: Cabinet, Data Security, Europe, Bank of England, Pre-Charge Detention and Christmas

Afternoon Press Briefing from Monday 17 December 2007

Cabinet

The Prime Minister's Spokesman (PMS) began by saying that Cabinet this morning discussed the various issues relating to data security. They also discussed the outcome of the talks in Bali following a briefing from Hilary Benn. A meeting of the Political Cabinet then followed.

Data Security

Asked if it was a good day to bury bad news, the PMS replied that he did not think there was any suggestion of that.

Put that there was an awful lot going on, the PMS replied that we were being quite open about what was going on. The parliamentary timetable was normally quite crowded towards the end of a session, and he did not think this was any more unusual than any other similar day.

Asked if he could outline the Prime Minister's thoughts and reaction to the various data statements, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister's general view, as was discussed at Cabinet, was that obviously this was an issue that needed to be taken seriously by the Government, as we saw in the case of the HMRC data loss in particular, which was clearly qualitatively different from any other data breach that has subsequently been reported. This was an issue not only for the public sector, but for the private sector as well, in fact there was a report earlier today in relation to an insurance company that had faced similar issues and had been subject to fines. But similarly if procedures needed to be tightened up, then they should be tightened up, and that was one of the conclusions of the Gus O'Donnell report that we were publishing later.

Europe

Asked when the meeting with Chancellor Merkel and Mr Sarkozy would be, the PMS replied that we had published some ideas with the French and the Germans in October around the area of the financial sector and financial sector regulation. This was something that the Prime Minister, Chancellor Merkel and President Sarkozy would discuss, along with a wider discussion about the global economy as well, and we could expect this to happen within the first two weeks of January.

Put that last week at the Liaison Committee the Prime Minister talked about a three month window for the EU Bill, the PMS replied that we were not yet in the position to set out the exact parliamentary timetable, but the Government would want to enable Members of Parliament to examine and scrutinise the Bill at an early opportunity.

Asked if three months was an aspiration, the PMS replied that we would anticipate a fairly intense period of parliamentary activity. It was the Government's intention to give MPs an early opportunity to discuss this. But he was not in the position to set out any specifics about the parliamentary timetable.

Bank of England

Put that the Chancellor would be coming forward with proposals once the Treasury Select Committee had come forward with its proposals, and asked if it was right that the Treasury was reviewing the tripartite system, the PMS replied that the Chancellor had already said that they were looking a the operation of the tripartite structure, and that they would bring forward some proposals. But they wanted to ensure that the Treasury Select Committee had input into that debate, so no proposals would be brought forward until the Treasury Select Committee had reported. This was nothing new this morning, just what had already been said previously by the Chancellor.

Asked about the Times story about the Treasury proposing to take back various powers, the PMS replied that he had nothing particularly to say on that. As he had said the Chancellor had made clear that they were looking at the operational structure of the tripartite arrangement, but they would not be bringing any proposals forward until after the Treasury Select Committee had reported.

Pre-Charge Detention

Asked if the Prime Minister found Lord Falconer's comments helpful at lunchtime, the PMS replied that there was a debate going on about this, and the Government had set out its position. Despite how it was reported, he did not think that the Government's position in principal was that different from the position taken by the Home Affairs Select Committee, who were also calling for reform of the Civil Contingencies Act in order to ensure that the period beyond which people could be held for 28 days, was one that was exceptional and temporary, which was pretty much what the Government was proposing to do as well. As he had said previously, some of the differences between the various parties in this debate had tended to be exaggerated. As we had also repeatedly said, we were not getting pre-occupied by the number of days, the key thing was to focus on the safeguards around the circumstances in which any extension beyond 28 days may be necessary.

Christmas

Asked if he was in any position to tell Lobby where the Prime Minister would be spending Christmas, the PMS replied that he was not in the position to tell them that at the moment, except to say that it would be in the UK.

ENDS

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