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Morning press briefing from 2 July 2008

Briefing from the Prime Minister's Spokesman on: Vehicle excise duty, Europe, BP and knife crime...

Morning press briefing from 2 July 2008

Vehicle Excise Duty

Asked if the Government was going to acknowledge that given the difficult economic circumstances this was not the time to penalise those with old cars, the Prime Minister's Spokesman (PMS) replied that the Chancellor had set out the Government's policy in the Budget. The Government did acknowledge that difficult decisions had to be taken sometimes to show how serious we were about the green agenda. The actions being taken in relation to vehicle excise duty would save an additional 1.3 million tonnes of CO2 by 2020.

Put that there would be no change in policy, the PMS replied that the position was set out by the Chancellor in the Budget, and that was the position.

Put that Tim Yeo was making the Government's case for it this morning by saying that second-hand cars made up such a big part of the market that very few people bought brand-new cars, and this was the reason for them having to be included, and asked if this was the Government's position, the PMS replied that this was the Government's position.

Europe

Asked if the Prime Minister agreed with Peter Mandelson that the French President was undermining Europe's negotiating position in the world trade talks, and if so had the Prime Minister raised this with President Sarkozy, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister certainly believed that Mr Mandelson was doing an excellent job as Trade Commissioner as he said in Brussels about 10 days ago. The Prime Minister also said that what Peter Mandelson was doing as Trade Commissioner was taking forward the agreed policy of the European Union.

Put that Peter Mandelson had said this on the record several times and President Sarkozy had also attacked him several times, and did the Prime Minister have any thoughts on that beyond vague generalities, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister's thoughts on that, which were more than vague generalities, were outlined about 10 days ago when he set out his position very clearly.

Asked if the Prime Minister had spoken to President Sarkozy on this, the PMS replied that when the Prime Minister did meet President Sarkozy of course he raises issues relating to the world trade round, and he would continue to do so.

Put that Peter Mandelson had said that it posed a great problem because as negotiator for the EU he needed the unity of the member states, and was it Britain's position that he could not function unless he had every state behind him, the PMS replied that Britain's position was that what Peter Mandelson was doing was enacting the agreed position of the European Union, and he was right to do that.

BP

Asked if the Prime Minister was going to speak to the Russian President about BP, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister would be meeting with Mr Medvedev in the margins of the G8 meeting next week. We hoped that the issues relating to BP would be resolved by then, but we would obviously only be giving a readout of what they had discussed once the meeting had happened.

Asked if they would speak before the G8 and how would this be resolved, the PMS replied that they would be meeting at the G8. At the moment there were discussions between BP and the Kremlin.

Asked if the Prime Minister was concerned that the issue had arisen, the PMS replied that our general position on this was that of course this was primarily a commercial matter, but we were monitoring developments. Clearly this did send a worrying signal to international investors about doing business in Russia, but we did hope that a solution could be found.

Knife Crime

Asked if the Government was planning to look again at whether under-16 knife crime was counted in statistics as Cherie Boothe had said it should, the PMS replied that on the issue of knife crime statistics, the Home Office could give a specific response to that specific question. But we had asked police forces to collect more detailed data on serious offences involving knives of sharp instruments from April last year, and the first full year's data would be available later this month. We were also committed to extending the British Crime Survey to include 10-16 year olds from 2010.

Asked if the Prime Minister agreed with what Cherie Boothe was saying yesterday that the scale of the problem of knife crime was far greater even that the crimes that were being reported everywhere, including hospitals for example, the PMS replied that we were obviously concerned about knife crime and that was why the Government had taken a number of measures in recent weeks - we had doubled the maximum sentence, we had launched a new and very graphic multi-million pound advertising campaign, and we had created an expectation to prosecute for anyone 16 or over carrying a knife. On the specifics issue of statistics, this was a matter for the statistical experts in the Home Office to take a view on, but we were looking at ways of how the statistics can be improved.

ENDS

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