Press release

Press briefing: afternoon 10 June 2010

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

The Prime Minister's Spokesperson (PMS) answered questions on BP.

BP

Asked if the Prime Minister shared the Mayor’s concern that the anti-British rhetoric levelled at BP was becoming a matter of national concern, the Prime Minister’s Spokeswoman (PMS) said that the Foreign Secretary had said today that he had found no evidence of anti-British rhetoric, and neither had the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister had said that he understood the US Government’s frustration regarding this catastrophe for the environment and we wanted everything that could be done, to be done.  This was a matter for BP, which was a global company.

Put that the Prime Minister had said that he would discuss the issue with the President this weekend, the PMS said that the Prime Minister and the President would have a routine phone call this weekend, and they would discuss a broad range of issues.

Asked what the Prime Minister would say to the President about BP, the PMS said that she would not preclude what that conversation would be.

Asked if the Prime Minister shared the frustration of British pensioners, the PMS said that the Prime Minister would not comment on any particular company’s performance in the market.

Asked if anyone other than the Energy Minister had spoken to anyone from BP, the PMS said that it was right that the Energy Minister held those conversations, which were also ongoing at an official level.

Asked why the Prime Minister hadn’t spoken to anyone at BP, the PMS said that it was because the Prime Minister had confidence that the Energy Minister was the right person to be having those conversations with what was an energy company.

Put that this was now an issue for the Prime Minister, the PMS said that the Prime Minister was being kept informed. The issue was a matter for BP, and the Energy Minister was the right person to carry out those conversations with BP.

Asked if there was any reason why the Energy Minister wouldn’t give interviews, the PMS said that that was a matter for the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC).

Asked what the Energy Minister had said to the company, the PMS said that it was best to speak to DECC.

Asked if BP had asked the British government to use its influence to tone down some of the rhetoric coming from the US, the PMS said that the conversations had been about what we could do to help, and DECC had offered help.

Put that some of the comments coming from the US regarding BP had intensified, the PMS said that the Prime Minister had spoken today about this; he recognised the frustration that had been shown in the US.

Asked if the Prime Minister thought it was appropriate for a leader of another country to suggest that dividends should be stopped, the PMS said that the Prime Minister would not comment on the workings of an individual company regarding dividends.

Put that the US were threatening legal action to stop the dividends, the PMS said that the Prime Minister had spoken about this issue today and made his views clear.

Asked who UK officials had been talking to at BP, the PMS said that there had been conversations between officials in DECC and BP, and the Prime Minister was being kept updated through officials.

Asked if the Prime Minister was angry with the Mayor regarding his inflammatory comments, the PMS said that the Prime Minister would not comment specifically on what had been said on the issue. The Prime Minister had made his views clear: it was an environmental tragedy; he understood the frustrations that were being felt by many, particularly in America; and he hoped that the company could reach a solution to a problem that was causing such environmental impact.

Put that the Business Secretary had said that the US comments were extreme and unhelpful, the PMS said that she had not seen those comments, but the Business Secretary was free to make comments.

Asked if it was right that the only time the Prime Minister had spoken to President Obama was the night he took office, the PMS said that that was correct.

Asked why it had taken so long for another phone call to take place between the Prime Minister and President Obama, the PMS said that the Prime Minister had great confidence in the great offices of state that his Cabinet held, and in this instance the right department to hold conversations was DECC.

Put that the Prime Minister saw the Energy Minister as an effective substitute to pick up the phone and speak to the President, the PMS said that we had already confirmed that the Prime Minister and the President would be having a conversation over the weekend, and it was likely that BP would be one of the issues discussed.

Asked if it was fair to say that there had been no sense of urgency from the UK government, the PMS said that that was an unfair comment; the UK government was having ongoing conversations with BP, and in terms of finding a solution it was for BP to do so, working with the US authorities. We had offered assistance and conversations would continue.

Asked if the Prime Minister was worried that his comments today showed he was siding with President Obama against British pensioners, the PMS said that the Prime Minister had made clear that he shared the frustrations that had been shown around this incident, and the impact it was having was broader than just the environmental impact. There were lots of frustrations being held around this issue, and there were clearly lots of people who were angry about what had happened, as well as people who were very emotional about it, and the Prime Minister understood that.

Asked how the phone call between the Prime Minister and the President could be described as routine when they had only spoken once about a month ago, the PMS said that it would become a routine.

Asked how routinely they would talk, the PMS said that she would not get into how often the Prime Minister would have conversations with the President, but they had good relations and there would be routine conversations.

Put that the word routine suggested once a week or once a month, the PMS said that the current government had only been in office for a few weeks. The phone call at the weekend would be the start of a routine.

Put that it wasn’t a routine phone call but a crisis phone call, the PMS said that the conversation would cover a number of issues likely to include G20, Afghanistan and climate change, and BP would be one of a number of issues discussed.

Asked how long the phone call had been in the diary for, the PMS said that she would not go into detail with regards to the diary.  There had always been a plan for the Prime Minister and the President to speak, but a time had to be fitted into both diaries.