From the Prime Minister's spokesperson on: Libya, Sentencing Guidelines, Bahrain, Japan and unemployment.
The Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) said that there were further discussions in New York last night at the United Nations Security Council. We had decided we needed to move things onto the next stage, and following consultations with Lebanon, France, the US and others we had introduced the text of a further United Nations Security Council resolution on Libya. The draft resolution set out a menu of measures, including a no-fly zone and other measures designed to step up the pressure on Gaddafi, such as a broader asset freeze and measures to enforce the arms embargo. Clearly, there were a range of views inside the Security Council on this issue so we were going into this process with our eyes open and realised the negotiation process would be a difficult one. There was a very brief discussion last night and ambassadors to the UN had gone away to consult with their capitals. There would be further discussions today.
Asked how hopeful the Prime Minister was of success in getting the support of other countries, the PMS said that we needed to see what happened today.
Asked why the UK had tabled a resolution before securing support from other countries first, the PMS said that there had been a lot of discussion in recent weeks. There was a special meeting of the European Union last week; there had been discussions at NATO; and there was a G8 Foreign Ministers meeting earlier this week. Our feeling was that to move that discussion forward we needed a text on the table to frame the discussion.
Asked if negotiations were happening too late now that Gaddafi had said that it would all be over in 48 hours, the PMS said that the Prime Minister made clear in his statement on Monday that time was of the essence and this is why we had taken steps to move that discussion on.
Asked how close we thought we were to securing a majority needed for the draft resolution tabled yesterday, the PMS said that we might have a better feel for this later in the day.
Asked for further detail on the proposed no-fly zone, the PMS said that the draft said a no-fly zone should be brought in. The resolution as drafted would give immediate authority for this and would ground Libyan planes, including commercial flights.
Asked if the UK was irritated by silence from the White House, the PMS said that we had been clear that we needed to move forward and we had been doing that in consultation with colleagues in the US.
Asked if the US supported the draft resolution, the PMS said that there were several parts to the resolution including a no-fly zone, measures to enforce the arms embargo, widening the asset freeze, widening the travel ban, and setting out a process for monitoring this resolution and previous resolutions. We had to wait and see how discussions progressed.
Asked if the Prime Minister was speaking to leaders in other countries, the PMS said that he was speaking to a number of people and would be talking to more people over the coming days. We wanted to get a better sense of where countries were and would have a better understanding of that later today.
Asked for the Prime Minister’s assessment of the current situation in Libya, the PMS said that things were getting worse rather than better. Time was of the essence which is why we were taking steps to move the debate forward.
Asked if the Prime Minister was concerned about sentencing guidelines that reduced the offence for someone who had physically attacked a police officer, the PMS said that the Sentencing Council was an independent body. It had set guidelines which were a point of departure for the judiciary when they were coming to judgements. Clearly our view was that physical attacks on police officers were extremely serious and tough punishments needed to be in place to deal with offenders.
The PMS said the Prime Minister had spoken to the King of Bahrain last night and expressed his serious concern at the deteriorating situation on the ground. He called for restraint on all sides and said that it was vital the Bahrain authorities responded through reform, not repression. The Prime Minister encouraged the King to pursue the political dialogue that the Government had proposed and he called on all sides to take part in that dialogue.
Asked if following his call the Prime Minister had been disappointed in reports that security forces in Bahrain had cleared anti-government demonstrators from a central square in Manama, the PMS said that we were concerned about the escalation of the situation in Bahrain. We wanted to see all parties exercise maximum restraint and avoid violence and we we were monitoring the situation there very closely.
The PMS said that the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies met again yesterday afternoon to review the situation in Japan. The unanimous view of the group was that from the perspective of possible radiation dangers there was no need for UK nationals to evacuate the vicinity of Tokyo.
Asked whether or not it was true that British rescue workers had been denied access to Japan because of paperwork, the PMS said that the team in question had not been organised by the Government. The situation in Japan was that lots of countries were making contributions, which needed to be coordinated to make sure the correct support in place.
Asked for the Government’s response to unemployment figures out today, the PMS said that the figures were mixed. There was a rise in the International Labour Organisation measure, which was a cause for concern, but the numbers claiming Job Seekers’ Allowance were down. Employment had risen by 32,000, which was driven entirely by growth in full time jobs in the private sector.