Press release

Number 10 Press Briefing - Afternoon From 16 March 2011

From the Prime Minister's spokesperson on: Libya, Nick Griffin petition, Sentencing Council, Bahrain and the Health Bill.

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


Put that the Foreign Secretary had just said that a no-fly zone could go ahead without a UN resolution and asked if he was going off message, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) said that he hadn’t seen the Foreign Secretary’s comments but presumed he had been referring to past precedents.

Asked if the UN Council meeting tonight was the international community’s last chance to make a decision on how to tackle the problems in Libya, the PMS said that until the meeting had got under way it was difficult to guide people on any conclusions.  It was important to remember that this was the first meeting that people were coming to with instructions from capitals, so it should be seen as the beginning of the process, not the end.

Asked what the Prime Minister’s mood was regarding Libya, the PMS said that the Prime Minister was focused on trying to move the debate forward, which was why we had put something on the table yesterday.

Put that during PMQs the Prime Minister had called for the UN to show leadership and asked if he was frustrated, the PMS said that the Prime Minister had been making the same point he made last week: governments and leaders needed to be thinking about what could lie around the corner and preparing for that.

Asked if the Prime Minister still thought it was a good idea to propose an arms embargo, the PMS said that it was still our policy, and that what we had brought to the table yesterday suggested ways to strengthen that embargo.

Nick Griffin petition

Put that Nick Griffin from the BNP was delivering a petition to No 10 tomorrow and asked if the Prime Minister had been made aware of this in advance and how he felt about it, the PMS said that he wasn’t sure if the Prime Minister knew.  People were entitled to deliver petitions to Downing Street and the process was handled by the police.  As the PMS understood it six people were allowed access to Downing Street to deliver the petition and the usual security checks were in place.

Sentencing Council

Asked if the Prime Minister was concerned about sentencing guidelines from the Sentencing Council that meant fewer people would be imprisoned for assault, the PMS said that the Sentencing Council was an independent body and it was responsible for setting out sentencing guidelines.  Those guidelines were a point of departure for the judiciary, and it was for courts and judges to set out punishments for individual cases.

Asked if the Prime Minister was happy for those who had been convicted of assault not to go to jail, the PMS said that any assault was a serious offence and tough punishments needed to be available to courts to deal with offenders effectively.


Put that there had been calls for Prince William and Kate Middleton to keep the King of Bahrain off their wedding invite list, the PMS said that invitations to the Royal Wedding were a matter for the Palace, not the Government.

Health Bill

Asked what the Prime Minister had meant at PMQs today when he talked about ‘anti-cherry picking amendments’ in the Government’s health reforms, the PMS said that the Prime Minister had been talking about the fact that there would not be price competition in healthcare.  The point about cherry picking was the idea that private sector providers would come in and choose the most profitable services.  We had ruled out price competition so there would be fixed prices for particular treatments and the providers would be chosen on the basis of the quality of the service they provided.  The objective was to drive up quality.

Asked if it was right to say that it was the first time EU competition law had been imposed on the NHS, the PMS said that his understanding was that there was nothing in the bill that changed the position on competition law.

Published 16 March 2011