from the Prime Minister’s spokesperson on: forestry, prisoner voting, Al Megrahi and Egypt
Asked if the Prime Minister saying he was looking at all sides of the forestry argument was a signal that he will axe the policy, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) told the assembled press that the Government had put out proposals for consultation which were somewhat different to what was being reported. This was not going to be a mass sell-off or privatisation of forests and we were not going to be in a situation where people wouldn’t have access to forests. The PMS repeatedly urged people to read the consultation and if they had views to send them in. The Government would confirm its plans at the end of that consultation in the normal way.
Asked if Ken Clarke was speaking for the Government when he urged MPs not to vote against the prisoner voting motion next week, the PMS replied that the House would express a view on the prisoner voting issue and we would take that view into account alongside our legal advice before setting out precisely what we were going to do. The PMS said the Government’s policy was to keep the number of prisoners who get the vote to an absolute minimum, but at the same time we had to be mindful of existing compensation claims.
Asked if the Prime Minister would vote on the motion himself, the PMS replied that he could not yet confirm what the Prime Minister’s plans were. He added that he did not know what the precise whipping arrangements would be for the vote.
Asked if there would be a vote on the Government’s proposals when it came to a final view on the matter, the PMS confirmed any new policy would require legislation.
Asked if the new legislation would come into force before the May elections, the PMS replied that he did not believe that timetable would be possible.
Asked if Sir Gus O’Donnell would be releasing more papers on the release of Al Megrahi soon, the PMS advised that Sir Gus O’Donnell was conducting a review for the Prime Minister and would be making an announcement shortly, with the precise timing to be established.
Asked if the Prime Minister believed the longer the President stayed in power, the more violence and bloodshed there would be, the PMS referred the press to the Prime Minister’s earlier statement on the latest situation.
Asked how many people had registered for the chartered flight out of Egypt, the PMS said the Foreign Office would be able to provide details on numbers.
Put that there were suggestions that people were having trouble registering for the flight, the PMS added that there was certainly capacity on scheduled BA flights out of the country.
Asked why the UK Government had chartered a plane when there were seats available on commercial flights, the PMS said that the situation in Egypt was changing quite rapidly and it was therefore sensible to have contingency plans in place.