Somalia, MOD Ships and Emma Harrison were discussed at this session.
Asked why the Prime Minister (PM) was holding a conference on Somalia given the improvements in the situation over the past 12 months, the Prime Minister’s Spokesperson (PMS) said that it was an incredibly important foreign policy issue, and whilst things may have improved over the past year, the country still faced incredible challenges. The right thing to do was to try to deal with the problems before they got worse. The PMS pointed out the reason for hosting the conference, and bringing together the international community and countries in that region, was to try to work constructively to support stability in the country. When pressed on this question, the PMS responded that one of the reasons things had improved was due to the presence of the African Union troops, and the UK Government had been instrumental in pushing a UN resolution to expand them.
Asked whether there would be any funding announced following the conference, the PMS replied that he wasn’t going to give any more detail on announcements that might come out of the conference. Asked whether the UK would be increasing the level of military advice or training, the PMS pointed out that there had been some involvement over the past year and UK forces had been involved in supporting and training Ugandan forces.
Asked whether the PM would rule out the use of UK military action against piracy, the PMS replied that we were focussed on pursuing a different strategy to military action. The reason for the conference was to deal with this kind of issue in a different way. The PMS pointed out that the UK did have naval assets in that region dealing with the threat from piracy, and there had been some supporting role for Ugandan troops who form part of the AMISOM group. Asked whether a Marshall plan would be something to expect from the conference, the PMS said that he wouldn’t put it in quite those terms, but there were problems holding Somalia back and preventing it from becoming more stable and more secure. He pointed out that that would mean looking at political issues, security issues, and economic issues. Asked whether it was too soon to expect any trade agreements from the conference, the PMS agreed.
Emma Harrison and A4E
Asked why the PM thought Emma Harrison was the best person for the job when her company had been investigated several times since 2005, the PMS said that the reason why she had been appointed to the role of helping with pilot schemes was because of her expertise. He replied that any detail on investigations would need to be referred to the Department of Works and Pensions (DWP), but that it was an ongoing investigation and the PM had already made his position clear. When pressed for detail regarding next steps after the investigations, the PMS replied that it wouldn’t be right to pre-empt the outcome of the investigation.
Ministry of Defence Ships
Asked whether the PM was disappointed that a UK firm didn’t win the MoD contract to build ships, the PMS replied that his understanding was that no British firm had submitted a final bid, but British companies would still benefit from associated contracts.