PRIME MINISTER – WITHDRAWAL FROM IRAQ – 21 February 2007

Dr Julian Lewis: Does the Prime Minister accept that announcing a timetable for withdrawal from any conflict while it is still going on sends an invitation to insurgents to redouble their efforts? Does he accept that that is not what he has done today, but that it was spun in the media last night that that was what he was going to do? Will he take this opportunity to distance himself from last night's media reports that he was setting a timetable for withdrawal, which would have put our soldiers at risk?

[The Prime Minister: First, let me tell the hon. Gentleman that my experience over the past few years is that I am singularly incapable of spinning the media one way or another on issues – [Interruption.] – particularly on this issue, on which it is incredibly difficult to get any balanced coverage at all. However, what he says is absolutely right. The reason why we are able to draw down is because the conditions have been met. It would be absolutely disastrous – we are not doing this in any shape or form – to say that future drawdowns are unconditional. Everything is conditions-based – based on progress and the capability of the Iraqi forces.]