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No. 10 Afternoon Press Briefing From 07 Jan 2008


Briefing from the British Prime Minister's Spokesman on: Pakistan, Chief of Strategy, Fabio Capello, Health and Prison Service

Afternoon press briefing from 7 January 2008

Pakistan

The Prime Minister's Spokesman (PMS) began by informing Lobby that the Prime Minister attended a meeting earlier today held by David Miliband and Douglas Alexander with senior members of the British-Pakistani community. The purpose of the meeting was to hear directly from them the issues surrounding the current situation in Pakistan.

Asked where the meeting took place, the PMS replied that the meeting took place in the Foreign Office. Asked if any MPs attended, the PMS replied that the exact cast list could be checked with the Foreign Office, but it was his understanding Sadiq Khan MP was invited.

Asked if the possibility of "no-go areas" in the UK was discussed, the PMS replied that they were mainly talking about the situation in Pakistan and the work that was being done behind the scenes to help restore stability and democracy in Pakistan.

Asked who was briefing who, or was it just a pooling of information, the PMS replied that it was an opportunity for the Foreign Secretary, the Prime Minister and Douglas Alexander to explain to them what the British Government had been doing to help behind the scenes, but also to hear their views as to what they thought about the situation in Pakistan and possible solutions.

Asked what kind of people were invited, the PMS replied that people should check with the Foreign Office, but the invite list included the Muslim Council of Britain, the British Muslim Forum, Islamic Relief, Progressive British Muslims, so it was a fairly representative of the British Pakistani community.

Chief of Strategy

Asked for more information on the new Chief of Strategy, when did the Prime Minister first meet him, and did he know him well, the PMS replied that the press notice largely spoke for itself. As the Prime Minister said, Stephen Carter was somebody of huge talents and experience who would be a welcome addition to the Downing Street team. The Prime Minister had obviously known by reputation Stephen Carter, they met fairly recently and the Prime Minister was impressed and has invited him to join his team.

Asked how many Special Advisors the Prime Minister now had, the PMS replied that he did not know that figure off the top of his head.

Put that the Prime Minister had only recently met Stephen Carter fairly recently, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister had known him by reputation for some time. They met recently, and obviously Stephen Carter was somebody who was held in high regards in the public and private sectors and in the business community and in Whitehall.

Put that the Prime Minister was now appointing a Chief of Strategy, and asked what had been wrong with the strategy from June 27th, the PMS replied that it was not for him to comment on that kind of thing. Obviously organisations evolved and new people come in - that was a normal procedure.

Asked why did the Prime Minister now, seven months in, felt the need to appoint a Chief of Strategy, the PMS replied that again in any organisation, organisations evolve. Stephen Carter was a man held in very high regard, he would be a very welcome addition to the team and he will strengthen the team on the political side.

Asked what his salary would be, the PMS replied that his salary would be consistent with the pay bands for Special Advisors, which were a matter for public record. Asked to clarify which pay band he would fall into, the PMS replied that Stephen Carter would be paid within the band that goes up to the highest possible ceiling. The Cabinet Office would be able to tell you the maximum amount that a special advisor could be paid.

Asked if he would be more a Jonathan Powell figure, or more of an Alastair Campbell figure, the PMS replied that he was neither, he was a Stephen Carter figure. There were no Orders in Council, he did not have powers to instruct Civil Servants. This was an evolutionary change, and there had been no change in the relationship between Special Advisors and Civil Servants.

Put that Stephen Carter was not a member of the Labour Party, the PMS replied that this was not a question for him.

Asked if evolutionary meant that this would be the first in a series of appointments, the PMS replied that in any organisation things change over time. As and when we had any other announcements to make, we would make them. But we were not making any other announcements today.

Asked where or when the Prime Minister bumped into him, the PMS replied that he would not characterise it in quite those terms, but he was not going to get into a discussion about private conversations the Prime Minister had had. Stephen Carter was somebody that was well known in Whitehall and within the business community, and his reputation went before him.

Asked if Stephen Carter would sit on Cabinet, the PMS replied that he would attend Cabinet meetings as an observer in the same way that other people in Downing Street did. Asked if he would speak, the PMS replied that he would be an observer and would not have a seat at the Cabinet table. Asked if there could be any occasions when he could speak, the PMS replied again that he did not have a seat at the Cabinet table, he would be seated along with a number of others from Downing Street.

Asked if he would have any influence on the Prime Minister's diary, on who he should and should not see for example, the PMS replied that the Principal Private Secretary and Chief of Staff, who was a Civil Servant, was responsible for managing Government business within Downing Street, and this would stay the same.

Fabio Capello

Asked if the Prime Minister had a message of support for the new England football manager, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister had written to Mr Capello to wish him well. Asked for a copy of the letter, the PMS replied that we did not usually disclose the Prime Minister's private correspondence

Health

Asked for more detail on how people would be targeted for screening, would there for example be a letter going out to every man over sixty, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister was the Prime Minister, he was not the Secretary of State for Health and he was not the Chief Executive of the NHS. Questions on operational detail would be clarified by the Department of Health shortly, when they set out their detailed plans for the national vascular screening programme.

Prison Service

Asked why the Government felt the need to crackdown on strikes in the Prison Service, the PMS replied that we would have to wait for Jack Straw's statement to the House of Commons later today.

ENDS

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