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No. 10 Morning Press Briefing From 1 July 2008

Briefing from the Prime Minister's Spokesman on: Thomas Tallis visit, Cabinet, food prices, Embryology Bill, Zimbabwe, Kosovo, West Lothian question and misc...

Morning press briefing from 1 July 2008

Thomas Tallis Visit

The Prime Minister was this morning visiting Thomas Tallis school in London along with Children, Schools and Families Secretary, Ed Balls.

Thomas Tallis is a flagship Creative Partnerships school. They showcase what we are trying to achieve with "SHINE" (a week long national festival celebrating all the talents in all young people) - by encouraging their students to take part in creative activities.

The Prime Minister will meet with students, parents and staff and tour the schools fashion, film making and magazine design departments.

Cabinet

The Prime Minister's Spokesman (PMS) told the assembled press that Cabinet had lasted for just under an hour. They had mostly discussed the impact of increases in global food prices, with the discussion being led by Hilary Benn. As part of that discussion, Ruth Kelly outlined the main conclusions of the Gallagher Review on bio-fuels and the proposed Government response. There was an update from David Miliband on the situation in Zimbabwe and a brief update from the Defence Secretary on the situation in Kosovo, where the UK's deployment as a reserve force ended today.

Asked if the Prime Minister stood by the bio-fuels targets, the PMS advised people to wait for the Gallagher Review and the Government response.

Asked whether vehicle excise duty had been discussed in Cabinet, the PMS said that there had been a brief discussion of various tax matters in the context of the usual update from Geoff Hoon on parliamentary business. Asked how many Ministers took part in the discussion, the PMS replied that it was very brief and he would hardly characterise it as a discussion, but more of an update of the situation.

Food Prices

Asked what Hilary Benn had said about food prices, the PMS said that the Strategy Unit had been doing some work on the causes of the increase in food prices and the implications for Britain and what we may be able to do about it. They hoped to be able to publish that within the next week or so, so people would get a fuller assessment then.

Embryology Bill

Asked whether the Prime Minister was disappointed that Ruth Kelly would not be available to vote on the Embryology Bill, the PMS said it was a Government vote and therefore we would expect Government Ministers to attend, but it was not unusual for Minister's to have business overseas and of course when that happened they were unable to vote. Ruth Kelly would be attending some important meetings in Brussels. Asked for a description of the meetings, the PMS replied that it would be best to speak to the Department of Transport who he was sure could give people a very detailed account of her schedule.

Zimbabwe

Asked whether David Miliband had said anything new on Zimbabwe and what was the current situation, the PMS replied that the Foreign Secretary had given an update on where we were. Lord Malloch-Brown was attending the African Union (AU) meeting as an observer. We were awaiting the outcome of the AU summit and we had been welcoming the calls for greater AU involvement in the mediation of the situation in Zimbabwe. We were continuing to discuss ways forward with our international partners at the UN as well and we expected further discussions at the UN in the next few days. Asked if the Prime Minister was disappointed that so far only the Kenyan Prime Minister had spoken out about the Mugabe regime, the PMS replied that we had had statements from a number of African leaders and former leaders in the last week, condemning what had been happening in Zimbabwe.

Put that the Kenyan Prime Minister was the only leader at the Sharm el Sheikh summit to issue a statement, the PMS said that the summit was still ongoing and had not concluded and advised people to wait and see how it concluded before making a judgement. Asked if the Prime Minister was disappointed that Mugabe was able to travel again, the PMS said it was a matter for the AU to decide who attended their summits. It was very clear what the rules were in relation to the EU.

Asked whether Lord Malloch-Brown had conveyed any message to Mugabe or his advisors, the PMS said that the Zimbabwe regime understood very well what our position was.

Kosovo

Asked what had happened in Kosovo today, the PMS replied that the UK was the reserve force in Kosovo for the first six months of the year and that expired today. Des Browne would be making a formal announcement on the situation in a Written Statement to the House later today.

West Lothian Question

Asked whether the Government would consider adjusting voting on English-only bills, the PMS said that it was not for him to respond to these proposals from the Conservative Party; that was for the Labour Party to do. On the general question, the Prime Minister was a very strong supporter of the Union and was very sceptical of any proposals that would put the Union at risk.

Misc

Asked whether the Prime Minister would send his good wishes to Andy Murray for his next match, the PMS said it was the Prime Minister's view that the whole of the country would want to see Andy Murray continue his good progress.

Asked whether the Prime Minister had spoken to President Sarkozy last night or today, the PMS said not that he was aware of. Asked what the Prime Minister's view on the future of the Lisbon Treaty was after the Polish President had refused to ratify it, the PMS said his view on the Treaty was the view that we had been setting out consistently since the Irish referendum, which was that it was up to individual countries to decide how they managed their own ratification procedures.

ENDS

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