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No. 10 Afternoon Press Briefing From 15 Nov 2007

No. 10 Afternoon Press Briefing From 15 Nov 2007

Briefing from the British Prime Minister's Spokesman on: David Miliband Speech, Terror Detention, Private Sector and Health, and Immigration Statistics.

David Miliband Speech

Put that the Guardian seemed to suggest this morning that there was the possibility of EU countries doing more collectively on defence and that there would be a review of this, the Prime Minister's Spokesman (PMS) said it was best to speak to the Foreign Office for an interpretation of David Miliband's speech. His understanding was that he had been talking about European Member States doing more in relation to, for example, burden sharing in Afghanistan.

Put that the "model power" discussed in David Miliband's speech was the European Union as a whole rather than a group of individual states, the PMS said he thought that David Miliband had been talking, specifically in relation to defence, more about individual countries doing more in terms of burden sharing in Afghanistan, to give an example; he specifically refered to that in his speech.

Asked what was wrong with a European army intervening in somewhere like Darfur, the PMS said that we did have EU peacekeeping forces in Chad, for example, and in the Congo, but obviously defence matters were matters for Member States. Member States could cooperate, for example, in relation to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.

Put that David Miliband was setting up Europe as an entity as opposed to NATO by saying Europe had shared values, the PMS said that he did not think that was what David Miliband was doing. Members of the European Union did have shared values, as did members of NATO, and those values were pretty much the same, as far as the PMS could tell.

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Asked what the Prime Minister's view was on this, the PMS said that the Prime Minister's view was that there had been no change in terms of the Government's position in relation to EU defence matters or in terms of the relationship between the European Union and NATO.

Asked what the Government's position was in relation to EU defence matters, the PMS said that it was the same position which had been set out in endless white papers and official statements over the years.

Asked what the EU defence capability review was, the PMS said he did not recognise what the journalist was referring to - there had been no reference to such a thing in David Miliband's speech.

Put that, in theory, there were similarities between the EU and NATO's rapid reaction force, the PMS agreed and said that EU peacekeeping troops, where appropriate, had gone into action, for example, in Chad, the Congo and elsewhere. The position in relation to EU and NATO had not changed.

Put that David Miliband should be encouraging European Union states to bolster the NATO effort, the PMS said that that was what he thought David Miliband had been doing in his speech.

Asked if the speech was seen in advance by the Prime Minister, the PMS said that, as would be expected, if the Foreign Secretary was giving a major speech on foreign policy, of course he would discuss that with the Prime Minister.

Terror Detention

Asked if Lord Carlile had been right in thinking that there would be decisions from the Home Office regarding terror detention in the next 48 hours, the PMS said no.

Asked how far away such decisions and announcements were, the PMS said people should wait and see, but as he had said this morning, there needed to be further consideration of the options and we were not yet in the position to put forward any new proposals.

Asked if there was surprise regarding Liberty's suggestion that the Government had not fully understood their position, the PMS said that he was not sure if that was what Liberty had said. The Government wanted to work with Liberty and with all of the major interests, including the opposition parties, to find a consensual approach to this; we were not going about this in an antagonistic way; we wanted to do this on a consensual and cooperative basis by talking to and working with people to find a solution.

Put that both David Davis and Liberty were saying that the Government was misrepresenting where they were coming from, the PMS said it was not for him to comment on what David Davis was saying; there would be further discussions with the opposition parties in the coming weeks and we would have to see where that would get us to.

Private Sector and HealthAsked if it was accepted that the Government was scaling back the involvement of the private sector in the health service, the PMS said we would not accept that; the policy on the role of the private sector in the health sector remained the same. We were totally committed to using the independent sector where it represented value for money.

Put that it did not represent value for money, the PMS repeated that the policy had not changed and we were committed to using the independent sector, but as in all Government decisions in relation to Government money, it had to represent value for money.

Immigration Statistics

Asked if it was a good or bad thing that the immigration statistics showed that more people were coming and more people were leaving, the PMS said that Hazel Blears had said something on behalf of the Government and that was what the position was. Net migration levels had fallen for the second consecutive year.


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