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No. 10 Morning Press Briefing From 24 June 2008

Briefing from the Prime Minister's Spokesman on: Cabinet, Zimbabwe and misc

Morning press briefing from 24 June 2008

Cabinet

The Prime Minister's Spokesman (PMS) began by giving a summary of Cabinet, which lasted for about 90 minutes. The main items discussed were the future of the NHS on the basis of a presentation from Professor Ara Darzi on the main conclusions of his review, which would be published next week. There was also a discussion about renewable energy in light of the Renewable Energy Strategy, to be published by John Hutton on Thursday and an update from David Miliband regarding the European Union Council last week and where we were on Zimbabwe.

Asked whether Cabinet discussed actions being taken by Unions, the PMS said it did not come up.

Zimbabwe

Asked what the current situation was in regards to Zimbabwe, the PMS said that we had had a very strong statement from the UN Security Council last night, with the Security Council united in condemning the actions of the Government of Zimbabwe and calling on the results of the 29th March elections to be respected.

As far as the Government was concerned, this was a very good outcome from the Security Council and we would continue to discuss the way forward with our partners in Europe and at the UN and in the region. The PMS understood that there would be a further meeting of SADC today and that would be the next step forward.

Put that the Prime Minister would be meeting Nelson Mandela today and would the Prime Minister ask Mr Mandela to intervene in any way, the PMS replied that it was a private meeting and Mr Mandela was not actively engaged in politics at the moment. Our main focus in terms of dealing with the situation in Zimbabwe was our discussions with the current generation of African leaders. Put that the Prime Minister had the chance to influence the most iconic and influential African in the world, the PMS said that it was really up to Mr Mandela to decide if and how he said something. It was not for the Prime Minister to make any recommendations to Mr Mandela about how he should behave. Mr Mandela was here to attend events in honour of his 90th birthday, so it was very much a private trip.

Asked when the Prime Minister last spoke to President Mbeki, the PMS said that the Prime Minister spoke to President Mbeki yesterday.

Put that there had been reports in The Times that there were two military options that the MOD had for Zimbabwe and had the Prime Minister discussed either of the options with the Defence Secretary, the PMS replied that we should not get ahead of ourselves. Mark Malloch Brown had said yesterday that this was not a plausible course and one that would not enjoy international support, so people should not get too exited about these reports.

Put that a Zimbabwe cricket tour was still scheduled to go ahead, the PMS said that our view on this was that under current circumstances, the tour would clearly be unwelcome. It was important to make a distinction as there were two potential tours next year; there was the bilateral tour, which under current circumstances would be unwelcome and separately there was the ICC Twenty20 World Cup, an event organised by the ICC, which happened to be taking place in England. Again, under current circumstances, we would have serious concerns about Zimbabwe participating in the Twenty20 World Cup, but this was a matter that we would need to discuss further with our ICC colleagues, because this was not something solely in our gift to take a decision on.

It was worth noting that the South African cricketing authorities were suspending their relations with Zimbabwe. Asked if this was something we would consider doing, the PMS said that was really a matter for the ECB to take a view on. We were discussing this with the ECB and they shared our general assessment that we had serious concerns about the prospect of these tours taking place next year. Asked whether the Government would consider compensating the cricketing authorities, the PMS said that these were all matters that needed to be discussed with our partners in the next few days.

Misc

Asked whether the Government was concerned that Iran had taken $75 billion out of foreign banks following the Prime Minister's comments on sanctions being imposed and was it actually the case that those sanctions had been imposed, the PMS replied that he was not sure that any of the facts being asserted in the question were correct. The last one was definitely not correct as sanctions were agreed by the EU yesterday.

Put that the judgment in the Stuart Wheeler case was due tomorrow and what position would the Government take if the judgment went against it, the PMS said he would not answer hypothetical questions. He advised people to wait for the judgment and then we would give a response.

Asked whether the Chancellor was safe in his job, the PMS said he had answered that question yesterday and he had nothing to add to that.

Asked what was on the agenda with the Sultan of Brunei, the PMS said he was sure discussions would include oil and regional trade matters.

Asked if there was any message from the Prime Minister to Labour MP's ahead of tomorrow's planning bill, the PMS replied that our general position on this was that it was an important piece of legislation which was about streamlining the planning process to enable us to take forward, among other things, our renewable energy agenda.

ENDS

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