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No. 10 Afternoon Press Briefing From 25 June 2008

Briefing from the Prime Minister's Spokesman on: Anonymity for witnesses, Poynter Review, Lisbon Treaty, Troop numbers and Zimbabwe

Afternoon press briefing from 25 June 2008

Anonymity for Witnesses

Asked what the Prime Minister's involvement had been in the proposed emergency legislation on anonymity for witnesses, the Prime Minister's Spokesman (PMS) told the assembled press that the Prime Minister had had internal meetings with Jacqui Smith and Jack Straw among others. Asked whether anonymity would be restored for specific crimes such as drug cases, the PMS replied that on specifics, people should wait for Jack Straw's statement tomorrow.

Asked whether the legislation would come from the Ministry of Justice rather than the Home Office, the PMS said he thought that was correct. Asked if there had been discussions between the parties on the issue, as suggested by the Prime Minister in PMQ's, the PMS said that there had been. Asked whether all parties would cooperate, the PMS said that the Government hoped to take this forward on a cross-party basis.

Poynter Review

Asked whether the Prime Minister had had any time to further consider the Poynter Review, the PMS said that Alastair Darling had given a very comprehensive statement on that earlier today.

Lisbon Treaty

Asked about the outcome of the Wheeler case, the PMS replied that as Jim Murphy had said, we were pleased that the judge had recognised our case on this matter and that the judge had confirmed the Government's position that the Lisbon Treaty differs in both form and substance from the defunct constitution.

Put that now the Government had got that ruling from the court, what was the timetable for ratification of the Treaty, the PMS said we hoped to be able to proceed to ratification in the next few days or weeks. It depended on the availability of something called the Great Wafer Seal among other things. There were various procedures to be gone through. Asked for more details on the Great Wafer Seal, the PMS admitted that he was not a great expert on the Seal itself, but there were various administrative procedures that needed to be undertaken. This was why the Prime Minister had said that we welcomed the fact that the judge confirmed last week that he would be making a decision this week, as it was consistent with our timetable for ratification.

Asked who took the ratified document to Rome, the PMS said it was his understanding that normally a Foreign Office official was tasked with this.

Troop Numbers

Asked repeatedly whether the Prime Minister thought that the armed forces were stretched beyond their capabilities, the PMS replied that whenever we took decisions in relation to troop numbers overseas, we took those decisions on the basis of advice from senior military officers.

Zimbabwe

Asked whether the tougher sanctions the Prime Minister had spoken about in PMQ's would be on an EU level, the PMS said we would certainly be discussing this with our EU partners. Put that in PMQ's, the Prime Minister had said he was going to name and shame Mugabe's criminal cabal, the PMS said that we knew who the individuals were who were responsible for the action being taken in Zimbabwe. Asked if there were 131 people on the list affected by EU sanctions, the PMS confirmed that there were.

Put that the Sunday Telegraph had published a list of names at the weekend and was it the same people, the PMS said that some but not all of them were among the 131 names.

ENDS

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