Press release

Number 10 Press Briefing - Afternoon From 7 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: Julian Assange, tuition fees and Mike Hancock.

Julian Assange

Asked what the Prime Minister’s view of the arrest of Julian Assange was, the Prime Minister’s Spokeswoman (PMS) said that the arrest was a matter for the police.

Asked what involvement Ministers had and whether there were concerns over further Wikileaks releases, the PMS said that there had been no Ministerial involvement, that it was a matter for the police, and that the Government condemned the release of classified documents but would not comment on individual releases.

Tuition Fees

Asked whether the Prime Minister had been kept informed about a Conservative rebellion over tuition fees, the PMS said that the Prime Minister was kept abreast of Government business.

Asked what was the Prime Minister’s message to those colleagues, the PMS said to speak to political colleagues, that the Prime Minister believed the policy was fair while dealing with the deficit, and that the Government was looking forward to the vote.

Asked whether the Coalition agreement allowed for Conservative MPs to vote against a Government policy, the PMS said that the Ministerial code, which should be read alongside the Coalition Agreement, set out the arrangements.

Asked whether a Liberal Democrat Minister could abstain and not be in breach of the ministerial code, the PMS said that it was set out in the Ministerial Code and the Coalition Agreement.

Asked whether a Minister who voted against the tuition fees policy would be required to leave the Government, the PMS referred to the Ministerial Code and said that she was not able to comment on party political aspects.

Asked for clarification on members voting against rather than abstaining, the PMS said that the policy had been set out and that the Coalition Agreement and Ministerial Code were clear.

Asked whether it was explicitly set out in the Coalition Agreement that Liberal Democrat ministers could abstain from the tuition fees vote, the PMS said that they had that option.

Asked whether a Liberal Democrat minister who voted against would lose their job, the PMS said that she would not preclude or speculate.

Asked whether if a minister was entitled to abstain but would be in breach of the Ministerial Code if they voted against, the PMS said that the Ministerial Code was clear.

Asked whether the Prime Minister agreed that the Government had no clarity on the issue, the PMS said that the Government did not accept that charge, that the Coalition Agreement and Ministerial Code were clear, and that the Government awaits the vote on Thursday. 

Asked who decided whipping arrangements for the vote, the PMS said that political colleagues would be in the best position to answer. 

Mike Hancock

Asked whether the Prime Minister had a view on Mike Hancock signing an Early Day Motion calling for people to stop “bleating about the World Cup and congratulate Russia”, the PMS said that the Prime Minister had set out his view, that we were very disappointed to lose the bid, and that the Prime Minister had written to Vladimir Putin to congratulate the Russians.