Press release

Number 10 Press Briefing - Morning From 9 November 2010

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

From the Prime Minister's spokesperson on: security, Lisbon Treaty and housing benefit.

Security

When asked what the Prime Minister thought about George Bush’s comments on water-boarding ‘saving lives’, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) told the assembled press that the Prime Minister had not made any particular comments on George Bush’s book, or on the claims made. The PMS advised people to look back to the statement the Prime Minister made to Parliament in July on subjects such as detainees and the security services.

The Prime Minister had said that the Government’s position was clear and we stood firmly against torture and cruel, inhumane treatment or punishment. The Prime Minister had also said that we did not condone it and neither did we ask other countries to do it on our behalf.

The PMS said that the Prime Minister had also published the consolidated guidance for the security services and also announced the Gibson Inquiry into detainees. So there was a lot that had already been announced in regard to these issues.

Asked what the date of the statement was, the PMS said the 6th July. On what the Gibson Inquiry would look at, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister had said that while there was no evidence that any British officer was directly engaged in torture in the aftermath of 9/11, there were questions over the degree to which British officers were working with foreign security services who were treating detainees in a way they should not have done.

The Prime Minister had also said that the longer these questions remained unanswered, the bigger the stain on our reputation as a country that believed in freedom, fairness and human rights grew.

Asked if the review would start by the end of the year, the PMS said that we hoped the review would start before the end of the year and report within a year.

On whether the Prime Minister would raise human rights issues while in China, the PMS said that the Prime Minister had commented on this earlier today.

Put that the talks on the issue of human rights would end at midday, the PMS said that the issue of human rights was one of a number of issues that would be discussed during the talks.

Asked if the Government shared the view of the previous Government that water-boarding constituted torture, the PMS said that it came under that definition in our view.

When asked what the Prime Minister’s attitude would be if a foreign security service had intelligence that could save lives but it had been obtained through water-boarding, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister had set out in his statement and in the guidance that had been published, what the Government’s position was on any information brought to us that could have been obtained through the use of torture.

Asked what the guidance specifically said about using such material, the PMS replied that the guidance set out the principles very clearly consistent with UK domestic law and international law obligations, that governed the interviewing of detainees overseas and the passing and receipt of intelligence relating to detainees.

Asked if these procedures were followed in the run-up to devices being found at East Midlands airport, the PMS replied that people wouldn’t expect her to comment on intelligence matters. The Prime Minister had announced the publication of the guidance in July.

Lisbon Treaty

Asked what the Prime Minister’s view was on the signing of the changes to the Lisbon Treaty and whether he should be agreeing to those changes, the PMS said that the Prime Minister had set out his views on Euro zone changes; the changes did not affect the UK and there was a specific carve out for the UK. The PMS said that the changes were necessary for Euro zone countries.

Asked why the Prime Minister wasn’t taking the opportunity to do more, the PMS replied that these changes were very specific to the Euro zone.

Housing Benefit

Asked what the Prime Minister’s message would be to Tory MPs in London who were concerned about the changes, the PMS said that the Prime Minister had set out his views already.

Asked if the changes would go out across the country as they currently stood and within the timescale set out, the PMS said that the policy made clear that people who were taxpayers and on low incomes should not have to bear the brunt while housing benefit was being given to people who lived in high rent accommodation. This was a matter of fairness.  We had set out our policy, it would be debated in the House today and we were expecting it to be supported by all of the Government.

Put that the cap included in the policy was set in stone, the PMS said that the policy had not changed.

Asked if there was a carve out in the Coalition Agreement on housing benefit, the PMS said there was no specific carve out on that issue and we expected the whole of the Government to support it.