Press release

Number 10 Press Briefing - Afternoon From 3 March 2011

From the Prime Minister's spokesperson on: Libya, multiculturalism, special advisers and the Post Office.

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


Asked if there had been any further calls today with President Obama, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) said no.

Asked what the Prime Minister made of Robert Gates’ comments, the PMS said that there was nothing further to add to what the Prime Minister said yesterday in the House of Commons: it was our duty as a Government to think about all eventualities.

Put that the UK’s closest ally was less than lukewarm on the idea of a no-fly zone, the PMS said that we were considering the options.

Put that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) appeared to say that they had presented options to the Prime Minister on Tuesday, the PMS said that there was lots of work ongoing across Whitehall, but we would not get into commenting on individual pieces of work.

Asked what the options were, the PMS said that there was a great deal of uncertainty about what would happen in Libya.  We were clear about our priorities, which were getting British nationals out of the country; working with the international community to bring pressure on the regime; stepping up our efforts to deal with the emerging humanitarian crisis and beyond that planning for all eventualities.  We would not get into speculating what could happen.

Put that according to US reports a no-fly zone would require more than one aircraft carrier and asked if we could provide even one, the PMS said that we were talking to our international colleagues.

Asked for the Prime Minister’s view on the possible contribution from Hugo Chavez and the Arab League, the PMS said that ultimately it was a matter for the Libyan people, but we thought that Gaddafi should go.

Asked what contact the Government had had with rebel groups who could form an alternative government, the PMS said that the Foreign Secretary had spoken to the former Interior Minister.  The Foreign Office would be able to provide more details.

Put that the Chair of the Defence Select Committee said that we should rethink the Ark Royal and Harriers decisions, the PMS said that we had set out our plans in the Strategic Defence and Security Review.

Asked if following contact with the former Interior Minister there were still plans to arm rebels, the PMS said that we were talking to groups to establish what was happening on the ground.  This work was being led by our Embassy staff who were now stationed in London.  The first stage of this work was to get a much better understanding of what was going on.

Asked if there were any developments from Europe, the PMS said that we were talking to other countries, which we would update people on later.

Asked if there had been any indication from the former Interior Minister in terms of what he wanted the outside world to do, the PMS said that the Foreign Secretary had talked with the Minister about the current situation on the ground, the impact on Libyans and the provision of international humanitarian assistance.  General Obidi asked the Foreign Secretary about planning for a no-fly zone.  The Foreign Secretary said that the UK was deeply concerned about the violence and was in the process of contingency planning for all eventualities, including a no-fly zone, in close conjunction with its allies.


Asked if the Prime Minister stood by his view that multiculturalism had failed, the PMS said that the Prime Minister had set out his views in his speech in Munich.

Asked if it contradicted the views of the Deputy Prime Minister, the PMS said that it was an important debate and a complicated issue, which they were both focused on.  The Government was reviewing the Prevent Strategy and we would set out our conclusions shortly.

Asked if the Deputy Prime Minister had shown his speech to the Prime Minister, the PMS said yes, the Prime Minister saw it in advance as usual.

Asked if the Deputy Prime Minister’s speech represented the Government’s view, the PMS said that the Government would set out its policy once the Prevent Strategy review concluded.

Special Advisers

Asked if the Prime Minister was horrified about behaviour of Special Advisors (SdAds) brought to his attention by the Cabinet Secretary, the PMS said that there were very clear rules in place and that the Prime Minister expected SpAds to adhere to them.

Asked if any action had been taken, the PMS said that we did not discuss correspondence between the Prime Minister and the Cabinet Secretary.

Post Office 

Asked how taking away a £20m contract from the Post Office fitted in with the Government’s commitment to protect local businesses, the PMS said that cheques made up one per cent of annual turnover, and a new contract had to be put in place.  We needed to ensure we got value for money for the taxpayer.

Published 3 March 2011