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No. 10 Morning Press Briefing From 22 Feb 2008

Morning press briefing from 22 February 2008

Briefing from the British Prime Minister's Spokesman on: Northern Rock, Private Members Bill - agency workers, Turkish troops and Linford Christie

Northern Rock

Asked if Northern Rock was now publicly owned, the Prime Minister's Spokesman (PMS) replied that, as journalists knew, Royal Assent had been obtained last night. The Treasury had now laid the necessary orders, that were previously available in draft on their website, and Ron Sandler had now formally taken up his position; he would now appoint his board and conduct his strategic review.

Put that Ron Sandler's comment about Northern Rock being in public ownership for some years actually meant at least five years, the PMS said that he was not aware that Ron Sandler had made reference to a specific number of years and that he had not seen anybody else interpret Ron Sandler's comment in the way the journalist had suggested. When the Chancellor was asked this at the weekend he made clear that it depended very much on market conditions.

Private Members Bill - Agency Workers

Asked for the Government's position on the Private Members Bill, the PMS replied that Pat McFadden had been on the radio this morning regarding this subject. The Government's position was that we recognised that there was an issue in relation to agency workers and we wanted to take action in order to address some of the concerns that had been raised. However, as Pat Mc Fadden had said this morning, we did not think that this bill was necessarily the right way of addressing the issue. This was why we were separately planning to set up a commission, which would be modelled on the Low Pay Commission, which had been originally set up to deal with issues relating to the minimum wage. John Cridland of CBI had said this morning that they were willing to discuss this and participate in this commission, as were the unions. As such, we felt that we could find a way forward; there seemed to be general agreement, in principal, that action needed to be taken, but we needed to find a practical solution.

Asked if that meant that there might be an amended bill, the PMS replied that he was not necessarily saying that; the Government's preferred way of dealing with this was through the commission that it was planning to set up.

Asked when the commission might start work and if there was a time scale in terms of when it would finish its work, the PMS said that he did not have that level of information to hand and that we were not yet at that point. It was best to check with BERR for further guidance in terms of time scales.

Asked if George Bain was likely to head the commission, the PMS replied that there had been some suggestion that it may be George Bain; he was someone who had a huge amount of experience in this area but we were not in a position to confirm anything at this point.

Asked if this was now an entirely UK matter, the PMS replied that there was not a consensus in Europe on this matter; we thought that this was an issue that could be dealt with through UK legislation and we were setting up this commission in order to look at the issues.

Turkish Troops

Asked about the reports that Turkish ground troops entered Iraq last night, the PMS replied that we were aware of the reports and that as of 10 minutes prior to the press briefing we were still urgently seeking clarification of the details.

Linford Christie

Asked if Linford Christie should carry the Olympic torch, the PMS replied that that was not really a matter that we would comment on.


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