Press release

Number 10 Press Briefing - Afternoon From 16 December 2010

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

From the Prime Minister's spokesperson on: Ministerial gifts, Afghanistan review, Defence Secretary, energy, drugs, coastguard, Defence procurement and MPs expenses.

Ministerial Gifts

Asked what rules there were on Ministerial gifts, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) said that for Ministers the threshold was £140, but for officials the amount was lower.

On whether the gifts were owned by the State, the PMS said that he would send out the guidance. Asked to respond to the accusation that politicians were ‘awash with gifts and hospitality’, the PMS replied that when for example, there were international meetings, it was quite normal for heads of state to exchange gifts.

When asked if Ministers would ever turn down a gift, the PMS said that gifts tended to be accepted and there was an option that enabled Ministers to purchase gifts at the market price.

Afghanistan Review

Asked about the US review of strategy, the PMS replied that people would need to wait until the President made his statement. On the process behind the announcement, the Prime Minister discussed the review with President Obama at the NATO Summit in Lisbon. The National Security Adviser, Peter Ricketts had also been in Washington recently, speaking to US counterparts on that review.

Defence Secretary

Asked if the Prime Minister had encouraged the Defence Secretary to go to Sri Lanka, the PMS replied that the Defence Secretary was going in a private capacity. On whether the Prime Minister tried to discourage him, the PMS said that he had not.

Asked if he accepted that there was a risk of confusion when dealing with a regime like the one in Sri Lanka, that they might choose to interpret a private visit differently to the way the Government would, the PMS replied that the Defence Secretary had had a very longstanding interest in Sri Lanka, since his time as a Foreign Office Minister and had visited that country on a number of occasions.

Asked if the Defence Secretary was there to further the Government’s aims in Sri Lanka, the PMS said that it was a private visit.


On whether the Prime Minister thought it was fair that consumers would have to pay more for their electricity because of a policy that they had not been consulted on, the PMS replied that the announcement today was a consultation.

We had ageing infrastructure in this country and it needed to be replaced. The proposals being set out today were intended to provide some certainty against which the private sector could invest and renew our energy infrastructure, something that we would have to do in the future.

Put that green energy was a white elephant and was inefficient compared to more traditional electricity generation, the PMS said that that was not the Government’s view. The Government had environmental objectives and it intended to set policy to meet those.


Asked if the Government agreed with Bob Ainsworth’s comments, the PMS said that it did not. Asked why, the PMS replied that the Government thought drugs were harmful and it did not think legalising them was the answer to minimising that harm.


Asked if the Government thought that the shake-up in the coastguard agencies would put lives at risk, the PMS referred people to what Philip Hammond had been saying today.

Defence Procurement

Put that there was currently a two year quarantine period on people who worked for the MOD going to work for Defence companies and was Defence a special issue when it came to the ‘revolving door’, the PMS said that people should speak to the Cabinet Office on the Business Appointments rules. These rules were well established and there was a process for considering peoples jobs after they left the civil service.

The PMS added that the rules took into account the amount of knowledge people had in their civil service posts that could be used in future jobs.

Asked if it was time for the rules to be revisited, the PMS replied that we did not have any plans to do so at the present time.

MPs Expenses

Put that IPSA issued a statement saying that it was trying to protect taxpayers money and not the interests of MPs, the PMS said that the House had expressed a view on that issue.