Press release

Number 10 Press Briefing - Afternoon From 2 November 2010

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

From the Prime Minister's spokesperson on: Greek mail bombs, Aviation Security, tuition fees and voting in prisons.

Greek Mail Bombs

Put that a parcel bomb had been found in Chancellor Merkel’s office and would Downing Street be carrying out a security check, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) told the assembled press that we wouldn’t comment on security issues.

Put that threats had been made against both the French President and the German Chancellor and would it not be safe to assume that the British Government was looking into this threat, the PMS said that we had security arrangements in place.

Aviation Security

Asked who took the decision to inform the Prime Minister of the security alert at East Midlands Airport at 2pm last Friday, the PMS replied that decisions were taken by the police. The PMS said that police at the scene assessed the situation and they made a judgement to refer the incident to the Home Office and to Downing Street.

The PMS said he did not know at what time the police had made the decision, but that 2pm was the time when both the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister knew.

Asked if the Prime Minister thought he had been told at the appropriate time, the PMS replied that the investigation was still ongoing and needed to run its course. There was a discussion about the weekend’s events at COBRA yesterday and where there were lessons to be learned we would learn them.

Put that Baroness Neville Jones had said in the Lords that some Ministers were informed at 8am on Friday and did the PMS know which Ministers she was referring to, the PMS said that he had not seen the record of what she had said. The PMS said that the Home Secretary had made a statement on this yesterday and he would not be getting into any more detail than that.

Put that if Ministers knew at 8am, then it would not have been the decision of the police not to tell the Prime Minister, the PMS said that there were police on the scene at the airport, investigating some suspect packages. The police made a judgement to refer the issue to the Home Secretary and to Downing Street. That message, as the Home Secretary had said in the House, came through at around 2pm.

Put that a Minister had made a choice not to tell the Prime Minister for six hours and did the Prime Minister think that was good judgement, the PMS said that judgements were being made based on what was happening. The PMS added that as had been reported, the package in question underwent significant examination and it had taken some time before the facts were established.

Asked if there would be a review into that particular issue, the PMS replied that it would be something the National Security Advisor would look at. As a matter of course in these cases, it was right to look back at what had happened, make sure everything happened in the right way, and learn lessons where appropriate.

Tuition Fees

Asked whether the subject of tuition fees was discussed at Cabinet, the PMS said that it had been. There was a discussion on the policy and there would be an announcement tomorrow.

Asked whether any students from low income families would be deterred from going to university due to any new policy, the PMS said that the Secretary of State had set out very clearly in his response to the Browne Review the objectives of the policy.

Voting in Prisons

Asked about the Prime Minister’s own backbenchers disagreeing with the decision on voting in prisons, the PMS replied that we had not made a decision as yet. There were some court cases underway and we would consider those cases when coming to a decision on the best way forward.