Asked for any information or agreed measures following the discussions in Rome, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) told the assembled press that the talks were ongoing and advised journalists to wait to see what came out of the meeting. The PMS added that the Foreign Secretary had spoken to media earlier today and had said that ‘the tempo of the military action should continue to be increased as it had been increasing in recent days….We agreed to explore together how to tighten the economic pressure on the Qadhafi regime to prevent them exporting crude oil or importing refined products.’
Asked if the Prime Minister had a view on MPs using Parliamentary privilege to circumvent the super-injunction law, the PMS replied that she was not aware of the Prime Minister expressing a view on the issue, but he had expressed a view on privacy laws and had made clear that they should be looked at.
Put that the Prime Minister had said that he felt ‘uneasy’ about super-injunctions and would he therefore feel the same way about an MP taking one out, the PMS said that the Prime Minister was making a general point about super-injunctions.
Put that it was now public knowledge that an MP had taken a super-injunction out and how did the Prime Minister feel about that, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister had not commented specifically on the matter. The PMS added that she would not comment on a specific case, but the Prime Minister had set out the Government position; there was a question about privacy and the way our system works. Judges had been using the European Convention of Human Rights to deliver a privacy law without Parliament saying so.
Asked what the Government was doing on the matter at the moment, the PMS said that the Ministry of Justice were currently looking into the issue. The PMS said that more generally, the Government was backing reform of the ECHR. Ken Clarke at a conference last week had set out the need for reform and we would be looking at that before taking on the Presidency in November.
Asked if the Prime Minister was suggesting that MPs shouldn’t resort to court orders if they had something to hide, the PMS said that the Prime Minister had said that politicians were properly challenged, but the issue regarding super-injunctions was something that should be looked at.
Asked for more detail on what MOJ were currently working on, the PMS said that the Government recognised the importance of finding the correct balance between individual rights to privacy on the one hand, with rights to freedom of expression and transparency of official information on the other.
The Government’s proposed reforms of the law of defamation were one aspect of this balancing process. Another was the Master of the Rolls review, which would examine the use of super-injunctions and other issues relating to injunctions which bind the press and we were waiting for that report. Asked when the report would be published, the PMS advised that it would be published soon.
On whether a change in the law would be possible in the UK or would any change need to be ratified by the EU, the PMS said that this issue was being looked at by the Master of the Rolls Committee. There were also broader issues regarding the reform of the European Court, which we wanted to push forward, but needed the support of the rest of Europe.
Asked about a possible minimum threshold for strikes, the PMS said she would refer journalists back to the Prime Minister’s comments in PMQs in January, where he had said that he was happy to look into the arguments being made.