Press release

Press briefing: afternoon 22 August 2011

The Prime Minister's Spokesperson (PMS) answered questions on Libya, Syria and Hillsborough.

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


Asked if the Prime Minister had ruled out the possibility of British soldiers having a role on the ground in Libya, the PMS said that the Government did not know what extra support the National Transitional Council (NTC) might need in terms of stabilisation, but it was not expected that British troops would go to Libya. The PMS added that this had never been an aim in delivering the UN resolution and the PM spoke about that in his statement. Asked if the government was ruling it out, the PMS said it was unlikely and that the sort of aid the Libyans might require was more likely to be development orientated, than troops on the ground. 

Asked if the PM and Ban Ki-moon discussed the possibility of other non-British troops going into Libya, the PMS that these decisions were a matter for NATO. She said that Britain was contributing where it could, but to suggest that British troops would be in Libya would be getting ahead of things - that was not something that was on the cards.

Asked again if the possibility of other NATO troops going into Libya had been discussed, the PMS said that she wasn’t aware of specific details. The PM had eluded to the sort of priorities which the Libyans would be looking at in his statement, such as communications and provision of electrical power, but the PMS said there were no specifics on peacekeeping. The PMS said that this had to be Libyan led, and it was up to the Libyans as to what they needed. The PMS reminded the lobby that Qadhafi had not yet been found, and that rebel forces were not completely in control of all parts of Tripoli, or indeed all parts of Libya.

Asked about the future of the British operation in Benghazi, the PMS said that that would remain for the time being, but that we would have a further idea of the support they require over the coming weeks. Asked if they would move to Tripoli, the PMS said that such questions should be directed to the MoD.

Asked if the PM had considered recalling parliament on this issue, the PMS said that parliament had already been recalled once already, and that there were no plans to recall again.

Asked about a meeting between Sarkozy and Jalil in Paris, the PMS said she was unaware of such a meeting. Asked if the meeting referred to in the notes of the PM/Jalil call was the same meeting that Sarkozy had called for, the PMS said that the contact group was a Foreign Secretary level group that was due to meet in September that the government was looking at whether this would be brought forward. 

Asked what the PM would like to see happen to Megrahi, the PMS said that was a matter for the authorities in Libya and we could not interfere with those processes, but that the PM’s view on Megrahi hadn’t changed. Asked how the PM would feel about extradition, the PMS said that Megrahi had committed the most appalling act of terror, involving the loss of hundreds of lives, and the PM’s thoughts remained with the families of those victims. The PMS was clear that the government regretted the continued anguish, pain and suffering that Megrahi’s release has caused those families, and that the PM’s personal views were well known, ie that it was wrong that he was released. Asked if the PM would like to see Megrahi behind bars, the PMS said that the PM believed that he should not have been released. Asked what the PM makes of the request for extradition to the US, the PMS said that the PM hadn’t expressed a view on that particular issue, but that Megrahi was convicted under Scottish law, and that any other aspect of the case was down to those authorities involved in his release.

Asked what the latest was on Qadhafi’s location, the PMS said that was not known. 

Asked for more details on the help Britain would give towards the transition, the PMS said that the PM had fleshed out some details of the help already provided by Britain, such as medical supplies through the World Health Organisation (WHO), and that discussion with the UN were ongoing regarding further assistance. The PMS also mentioned that the International Stabilisation Response team - a UN-led team - went in to asses the requirements. The PMS added that Britain was ready to provide support where it could, and that it was up to the Libyans to tell us what further help they required. 

Asked how many people in government were working on Libya, the PMS said that there were a number of people across departments working in the area of stabilisation.

Asked if any messages had been sent to rebel forces regarding human rights abuses, the PMS said that the PM had mentioned that in his statement, and also in his conversation with Jalil. 

Asked about the latest cost estimate, the PMS pointed them towards the Treasury for the latest figures.

Asked what the government’s assessment of Jalil’s control was, the PMS said that maintaining law and order was one of the immediate challenges for the NTC and that Jalil was well aware of that, and addressing it. The PMS reminded that lobby that the regime had not yet fallen and Qadhafi was still at large.  

Asked if Jalil would be an interim leader, the PMS said that it was too early to discuss this, that Britain recognised the NTC as a transitional government and that we would have to wait and see what happened after that. She pointed to the recent statement made by Jalil, and added that this had to be a Libyan led process. Asked if we would intervene if they wanted elections, the PMS said we would leave it up to the Libyans. 

Asked for assurance that Britain hadn’t sent any other assets in to support the rebels, the PMS said that government had been very clear about its support via NATO, and reminded the lobby that the CDS’ spokesman gave a very full statement about what missions had been carried out. The PMS said that there had been a lot of effort via NATO, but that the government had been clear about what it was.

Asked how soon the government expected to see a new UN draft resolution, the PMS said that this had just been raised today, in conversation with Ban Ki-moon. Asked what has to happen for a new resolution process to begin, the PMS said that was part of ongoing conversations.

Asked if the government was doing anything do ensure business contracts were honoured by the new regime, the PMS said that she could not comment on commercial contracts, but that they would be looked at once Qadhafi had gone.

Asked if the PM had any concerns about the possibility of Qadhafi facing the death penalty, the PMS said that it was important that Qadhafi faced justice and that the government had been clear about its support for the International Court of Criminal Justice, but that we had to find Qadhafi first. Asked if the same response applied to his family, the PMS said that they all needed to face justice and that it was up to the Libyans to decide their fate.

Asked if any British resources would be used in the hunt for Qadhafi, the PMS said that British support was being provided via NATO, with a mission to fulfill the UN resolution. 

Asked about the presence of combat forces and Special Forces, the PMS confirmed that there was no presence of combat forces, and that she would not comment on special forces.


Asked if the PM discussed Syria with Ban Ki-moon, the PMS said that they focussed on Libya in their conversation.


Asked if PM had met with the Labour MPs asking for a review of the decision on the Hillsborough papers, the PMS said that the government had every sympathy for the families, and respected their right to see the documents first. The PMS said that the Hillsborough panel had all the documents, and they are in the best position to decide how the documents were released.

Published 22 August 2011