Asked whether the Prime Minister agreed with Kenneth Clarke that some prisoners would have to be given the vote, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) told the assembled press that there was a process ongoing and we were looking at legal advice. There was a vote on the issue tomorrow and the PMS advised people to wait for the outcome of that vote.
On whether the outcome of the vote was crucial to how the Prime Minister would proceed on the issue, the PMS said that people would have their opinions on this issue, but we also had legal obligations.
Asked if the Prime Minister agreed with the comments made by the Archbishop of Canterbury when he said that prisoners were citizens and should be treated with dignity, the PMS said that prisoners were treated with dignity in prison, but they were there to be punished as well as rehabilitated in order to rejoin society.
Asked about a Commission on the application of the Human Rights Act, the PMS replied that we intended to establish a Commission in 2011 to investigate a UK Bill of Rights, that would incorporate and build on our obligations under the ECHR.
On whether that would make the Supreme Court the final arbiter, the PMS said that the Supreme Court was the final arbiter in terms of courts in Britain and that would continue to be the case.
Asked if the Prime Minister was concerned about claims that the military covenant had been broken, the PMS said that the Prime Minister’s views on the armed forces were well known. The Prime Minister believed that our service personnel made an extraordinary contribution to British life and those serving on the front line risked their lives for others on a daily basis. The PMS added that the Prime Minister was absolutely committed to rebuilding the covenant and would ensure that the military were provided with the help and support they deserved.
Asked if that would include enshrining the military covenant in law, the PMS replied that we had made a commitment regarding the covenant. It had never been written down before and there was only a passing reference to it in legislation. For the first time we would define what the military covenant was and there would be a report from the Defence Secretary to Parliament on an annual basis.
Asked if that was consistent with what the Prime Minister had said on the Ark Royal, the PMS replied that while on the Ark Royal, the Prime Minister had said that, “it was time for us to rewrite the military covenant to make sure we were doing all we could” and “I wanted all these things to be refreshed and renewed and written down in a new military covenant that was written into the law of the land.”
Asked what the Prime Minister thought about the trade figures released today which showed a £9.2bn gap, a record since figures began in 1980, the PMS replied that the OBR, the IMF and the OECD were all predicting a strong 2011 for trade.
We were publishing the Trade and Investment White Paper today, which would give us a strategy that put trade and investment at the centre of the Government’s plans for growth.
Asked about the figures specifically, the PMS said that clearly we needed to do more, which was why we were publishing a strategy today giving an outline of how to boost trade and investment for the UK.
We had a large deficit that we had to tackle; there had to be efficiencies across the board, but that did not mean that we were not putting effort into trade and investment. We had appointed a new Trade Minister and we had published a Trade White Paper today.