From the Prime Minister's spokesperson on: Libya, strikes, Israel and Portugal.
Asked if the Prime Minister thought that we should fund the rebels in Libya, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) said that the Foreign Secretary was at the Libya Contact Group in Rome today and we should wait for the outcome of those talks. They would be discussing various issues including actions to counter arms smuggling; mercenaries and the broadcasting of Libyan State TV; travel bans; asset freezes; steps to prevent the export of crude oil, and the importing of refined products to cut Gaddafi’s finances further and inhibit his military action.
Put that all those things sounded rather familiar, the PMS said that as we had seen today we had upped diplomatic pressure by expelling two Libyan diplomats, and we had to keep up the military and economic pressure. Part of today’s talks was to see what more could be done.
Asked for the Prime Minister’s view on funding the rebels, the PMS said that all these issues would be discussed at the meeting today and we should wait for the outcome of those talks. The Prime Minister’s view was that we wanted to protect the civilian population in Libya and do as much as possible in order to implement UN Security Resolution 1973.
Put that funding mechanisms were already in place to help the rebels, the PMS said that we were looking at a way for the Transitional National Council to manage revenue and also to assist with financial short-term requirements, which allowed partners to provide grants and loans. We were not planning to contribute at present as we had made a fairly substantial contribution towards aid to help the humanitarian effort.
Asked what the cost of the war in Libya was, the PMS referred the journalist to the Treasury.
Asked about the Prime Minister’s reaction to the Mayor of London’s accusation that he was being ‘lily-livered’ over strike laws, the PMS referred to PMQs in January when the Prime Minister had been asked if he agreed that any union ballot that led to industrial action should have the majority support of those entitled to vote. The Prime Minister’s reply at the time still applied: a strong case had been made, not least by the Mayor of London, for this sort of change, and we were very happy to look at the arguments for it, in order to make sure we had a fair body of union law in this country. The laws put in place in the 1980s were working well and we did not currently have proposals to amend them, but we were happy to look at this argument as we did not want to see a wave of irresponsible strikes, not least when they were not supported by a majority of people taking part.
Asked if the Prime Minister had looked at the arguments, the PMS said that the Prime Minister was still looking at the arguments but there were no current plans to amend them.
Asked how the Prime Minister would characterise the RMT strike, the PMS said that the Prime Minister condemned the strikes and the disruption that it would bring the people of London. Any strikes needed to be responsible, but ideally the Prime Minister wanted strikes to be resolved and not to happen at all.
Asked how the Prime Minister would define a responsible strike, the PMS said that she was not going to get into semantics, but clearly strikes needed to be responsible. If a strike meant disruption for lots of people then they would have strong views on that.
Asked what the Prime Minister had said to Prime Minister Netanyahu about the UK’s position if Israel didn’t engage in real peace talks, the PMS said that in some respects that was getting into the grounds of speculation - we needed to see through the current deal. The Prime Minister had been clear that we would judge the new Palestinian Government on its actions and our priority was that we wanted a negotiated settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. We wanted a two-state solution and the creation of a Palestinian state. We urged both parties to engage in fresh talks.
Asked if the Prime Minister was happy for the UK to contribute to the EU in order to help bailout Portugal, the PMS said that the Prime Minister had been clear about his position on bailouts and the mechanisms that currently existed, which the UK was signed up to. Going forward with the new mechanism the UK would not be involved in bailing out the Eurozone. The Prime Minister had also made clear that stability in the Eurozone was very important.