APPENDIX 5: MORNING PRESS BRIEFING
FROM 20 NOVEMBER 2008
Briefing from the Prime Minister's spokesman on:
Baby P, economy, Iceland, SME meeting, Gurkha petition and pirates
The Prime Minister's Spokesman (PMS) began by telling
the assembled press that the Baby P statement from Ed Balls was
an update and followed on from the exchanges at DCSF Questions
earlier this week. Asked if the statement would be substantive,
the PMS repeated that he expected it to be an update. It was about
keeping the House informed, as there had not been a full statement
on the issues relating to the Baby P case so far.
Asked if there was any response to mortgage figures
and retail sales, the PMS said that we didn't normally comment
on monthly figures. These figures fluctuated from month to month
and this was clearly a difficult time for the British economy
as it was a difficult time for the global economy. This was why
the Government was determined to take action and give real help
to people now, in order to help them get through this period.
Asked for his assessment of the effectiveness of
the stamp duty changes that came into effect in September, the
PMS said it was far to early to make an assessment at this point.
Insofar as there would be any assessment, it was really for the
Treasury to comment on in the PBR.
Asked about where we were on the package for Iceland,
the PMS replied that there was a joint statement that had been
put out by the UK, Dutch and German governments which read:
"In supporting the IMF programme the UK, the
Netherlands and Germany welcomed Iceland's commitment to meet
its obligations to depositors and ensure the fair, equal and non-discriminatory
treatment of creditors. As part of the international support for
Iceland, the UK, the Netherlands and Germany would work constructively
in the continuing discussions with Iceland to conclude agreements
on pre-financing that enabled Iceland to meet its obligations
towards depositors shortly."
Asked if the support given by the UK was due to assurances
made by the Icelandic Government on non-discriminatory treatment
of creditors, the PMS said he did not have enough information
on the specifics of the discussions, so people should check with
Asked if the amount given by the UK Government was
in the region of £5 billion, the PMS said he was not in a
position to comment on any specific numbers and he advised people
to speak to the Treasury.
Asked for a read-out of the meeting, the PMS said
that this was one of a series of meetings that the Prime Minister
was having, listening to the concerns of businesses. We recognised
that some small and medium-sized businesses were facing tough
times and that was why, as the Prime Minister had said in the
House yesterday, we would be taking action and announcing the
action in the PBR in order to help small businesses at this time.
We were only able to do that because of the commitment that we
were making to support the economy through a fiscal stimulus.
Asked if the small businesses had any particular
areas where they wanted more assistance, the PMS said that it
would probably be best for people to speak to the small business
organisations themselves to get a view as to what they were asking
of the Government. The PMS added that it was a very useful and
Put that the Gurkhas would be handing in a petition
at No10 today and would there be any further Government announcements
on the issue, the PMS said that the Government position on this
was set out by the Home Secretary at the time of the recent court
case judgement. Where there was a compelling case, soldiers and
their families should be considered for settlement. The judge
did agree that our cut-off date of 1997 was a fair date, but as
the Home Secretary had made clear after the ruling, we would revise
and publish new guidance and we would honour our commitment to
the Gurkhas by reviewing all cases by the end of the year.
Asked about a possible EU force in the Gulf of Aden
to combat piracy, the PMS emphasised that this was something that
had been under consideration and been looked at and planned for,
for some time. Planning was under way for an EU mission to the
region to help combat pirating as a successor to the NATO mission.
Subject to contributions from other member states, we had offered
to host the operational headquarters for that EU mission, command
the operation and to provide a frigate. Discussions were still
ongoing and this was still at the planning stage.
Asked if he knew where and when these discussions
were taking place, the PMS said that on process questions it would
be best to speak to the MoD.