Briefing by the Prime Minister's Spokesman on: Israel, immigration, Sheffield Forgemasters, European Investigation Order and recess.
Asked if the Prime Minister had any response to Ron Prosor, the Israeli ambassador to London, who blamed the Palestinians’ situation on Hamas, the Prime Minister’s Spokeswoman (PMS) said that the Prime Minister had been clear in the press conference this morning about his long-held views on Gaza, and the need for progress in the Middle East peace process. The Prime Minister said this morning that we had long supported lifting a blockade of Gaza and we had long supported proper humanitarian access. Even though some progess had been made we were still in the situation where it was very difficult to get in.
Asked if there would be any contact between the UK and Israel to clarify the Prime Minister’s comments, the PMS said that the Prime Minister had made a similar comment in the House of Commons in June; it was a difficult situation and we needed the Palestinians and Israelis to start talking.
Asked if the Prime Minister thought his comments today would speed up discussions, the PMS said that the Prime Minister had spoken to both Prime Minister Netanyahu and to President Abbas last Friday.
Asked if the Prime Minister agreed with the Business Secretary that our immigration policy needed to be as liberal as possible, the PMS said that the Business Secretary’s views did not differ from other remarks by government Ministers; there was a balance to be stuck. We needed to address the concerns of the British people about immigration controls - the Home Secretary had already taken action on this by introducing an interim limit, and there was a consultation ongoing. At the same time we wanted to encourage economic growth and attract the brightest and the best to come and work and study here, which would help us grow our own economy.
Asked if the Prime Minister planned to have the most liberal immigration policy possible, the PMS said that we wanted to ensure that our economy grew and that the immigration policy allowed that, however we wanted to ensure that we reduced immigration as a whole from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands.
Asked why it had been left to the Business Secretary to correct the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister’s remarks on Sheffield Forgemasters, the PMS said that the Business Secretary wanted to put on the record what decisions were made and why decisions were made. He was the Business Secretary and as such you would expect him to do so.
European Investigation Order
Asked if the decision to opt in to the European Investigation Order would put extra strain on the police, the PMS said no. The Association for Chief Police Officers (ACPO) was consulted and nobody wanted to opt out. The message that came back from ACPO was that opting in would make it simpler for police to work with our European colleagues in fighting crime.
Asked how we could be certain that powers of sovereignty wouldn’t be affected, the PMS said that this directive would not affect sovereignty; this was a practical move that would make things simpler for the police force here. It meant that people from the EU who committed crimes here could be followed up when they returned home, and vice versa. It also meant that Britons who committed offences in other European countries could be tried here. It simplified the system and made it a lot easier for the police, which was why the Home Secretary made the decision today to opt in.
Asked if the Prime Minister was grateful for the Deputy Prime Minister’s offer to hold the fort over the summer, the PMS said that the Prime Minister was in charge, but he clearly had a deputy who took on duties for him.