Prime Minister Netanyahu Meeting
On what would be discussed in the meeting between the Prime Minister and Prime Minister Netanyahu, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) told the assembled press that the Prime Minister looked forward to welcoming Prime Minister Netanyahu to No10 today. The Prime Minister had made clear in his statement yesterday that this was a time to pursue, not ignore, the Middle East peace process and that would be his main message to Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Asked for a reaction to the proposed tube strike, the PMS replied that bringing disruption to the London transport network was not welcome, but on the other hand, strikes were a democratic right.
Usama Bin Laden
Asked if there had been any more contacts or detail of the circumstances surrounding Usama Bin Laden’s death, the PMS said that she had nothing to add to what the Prime Minister had said yesterday.
Asked when the Prime Minister was updated with the revised version of events, the PMS replied that we had regular discussions with the White House, but we would not be giving a running commentary on those discussions.
When asked if the Prime Minister had a problem with the news that Usama bin Laden had been shot and not captured, as was originally reported, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister had been very clear in the House; the Prime Minister welcomed the fact that Usama Bin Laden was dead and the PMS advised journalists to speak to the US administration on the details of the operation.
Asked if the Prime Minister had seen pictures of Usama Bin Laden’s body, the PMS replied that he had not seen any pictures. Asked if the Prime Minister had a view on whether the US should release the pictures, the PMS replied that it was entirely a matter for the US administration.
On whether the pictures had been shared with anyone in the British Government, the PMS replied that she was not aware of anyone seeing the pictures and thought it unlikely.
Asked for a reaction to Portugal reaching a bail-out agreement with the European Union, the PMS said that it was her understanding that details were yet to be agreed. The PMS added that the Prime Minister had been clear that stability in the Eurozone was in our interests and we wanted to see a strong and successful Eurozone.
On whether the Prime Minister had sympathy with the True Finns, who had made clear that they would block the deal going through, the PMS said that it was her understanding that the Finnish Government had not made a decision on whether to block the deal or not and she would not speculate on that issue.
Asked if the Prime Minister was expecting Britain to make a major contribution to the bail-out, the PMS replied that people would know the details of the mechanisms the UK had been signed up to, but on this particular deal, details had not yet been agreed.
Asked if the Prime Minister agreed with the Italian Foreign Minister who was reported to have said that it was time to set an end date for operations in Libya, the PMS said that the Prime Minister’s view on Libya was very clear; we wanted to enforce UN Resolution 1973; to protect the civilian population and we were committed to the alliance and the operations there.
Asked if the Prime Minister was still confident the Coalition would last the full five years of this Parliament, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister had been very clear in the interviews he gave yesterday about the strength and cohesion of the Coalition. On whether the Prime Minister still had confidence in Chris Huhne, the PMS replied that he did.
Public Sector Reform
Asked if the Prime Minister backed plans to scale back the privatisation of the public sector, the PMS replied that she believed a leaked memo was being referred to and as people knew, the Government did not comment on leaked documents. The PMS said that the Government had been very clear on its plans for public sector reform and people should wait for the White Paper that would be published on the subject.
The PMS added that we had made clear that we would open up the provision of public services to non-state organisations and as part of building the Big Society, we wanted to open up those public services to small and medium-sized enterprises, employee co-operatives, voluntary sector organisations and social enterprises who may often partner with the private sector. This would create more innovative and localised services while also decreasing costs and increasing efficiency.
Asked why the report had been delayed, the PMS said that we would be proposing some fairly radical changes and we wanted to take some time to get those changes right. Asked when the White Paper would be published, the PMS responded in due course.