Press release

Number 10 Press Briefing - Morning For 18 July 2011

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

From the Prime Minister's spokesperson on: Africa Trip, Sir Paul Stephenson and Metropolitan Police, Phone Hacking and Reserve Forces.

Africa Trip

Asked why the Prime Minister (PM) decided it would be appropriate to go to South Africa now, the Prime Minister’s Spokeswoman (PMS) said that the PM was clear in his press conference that is was important to bang the drum for British Business in Africa, as he had in China and India.  It was important for the PM to press ahead on all fronts, but the PMS also pointed out that he was not out of touch with what was going on in the UK.

Asked why the PM has cut the trip short, the PMS said that the trip had been kept under review and that, although there were issues in the UK, the PM had wanted to go for some of the trip to keep certain meetings, such as his meeting with President Zuma, and to push British business in Africa.

Sir Paul Stephenson and Metropolitan Police

Asked if the PM had any warning about Sir Paul Stephenson’s resignation, the PMS confirmed that he had not.

Asked if the PM was angry about Sir Paul Stephenson’s statement questioning his judgement, the PMS said that the PM had responded to that question in his press conference.

Asked if the PM had confidence in John Yates, the PMS said that the Home Secretary had addressed that issue on the Today Programme.  The PMS added that while the investigation was ongoing the Government had confidence in all serving police officers.

Asked if the Home Secretary had put pressure on Sir Paul Stephenson to resign, the PMS said that the Home Secretary had asked for more details on his contract with Neil Wallis, but that the resignation was his own personal decision.

Asked if the Government felt that the Metropolitan Police had been open about the contract with Neil Wallis, the PMS said that the Home Secretary’s statement and the ongoing inquiries will look at the details more closely.

Asked what conversations went on between the PM and the Mayor of London about Sir Paul Stephenson, the PMS said that she was unaware of any specific discussions but that the PM and the Mayor spoke regularly.

Asked how to characterise the Government’s relationship with the Metropolitan Police, the PMS said that they did an important job for the people of London; protecting the public; and that the PM had a great respect for them.  But they were facing some issues, like their relationship with the media, and that would be looked into by the inquiry.

Asked if the Government was working well with the Metropolitan Police, the PMS confirmed that it did, as did the Home Secretary.

Asked what the difference was between the relationship between Sir Paul Stephenson and Neil Wallis, and the relationship between the PM and Andy Coulson, the PMS referred them to the PM’s response at the press conference.

Phone Hacking

Asked for more details on the assurances given by Andy Coulson, the PMS said that the PM had received personal assurances and given him a second chance.  The PMS added that all employees undergo a vetting process.  Asked who would oversee the vetting procedure, the PMS said that this was a routine process undertaken by the Civil Service.

Asked if Craig Oliver had been in contact with Andy Coulson, the PMS said that she was not a spokesman for Craig Oliver, they could ask him directly.

Asked if there had been any contact between the PM and Andy Coulson since he was arrested, the PMS said that there had not been.

Asked why the normal Select Committee process - of reporting to Parliament and Parliament responding - had been interrupted, the PMS said the PM would not be providing a running commentary on the Select Committee, rather an update on recent events, they should wait to hear what the PM said in his Statement.

Asked if the PM would have been compromised in any way if he had known about the Neil Wallis contract, the PMS said that the PM had made his position clear in the press conference, and that he would add to it in his Statement.

Asked about Jeremy Clarkson’s comments that the PM had been on a walk with Rebekah Brooks, the PMS said that the PM was being transparent, in line with the criteria advised by the Cabinet Secretary.

Asked if the transparency list included social meetings, the PMS said that it included all meetings with Editors, Proprietors and Senior Executives, regardless of the purpose of the meeting.  The PMS added that there would be updates to the list coming out as soon as possible.

Asked if every Minister that had a meeting with Daniel Finklestein would have to declare it, the PMS said that they would if he fell into the criteria.

Asked if the PM agreed with the DPM when he said that cross media ownership laws need to change, the PMS said that there was a judge led inquiry looking at this issue, as well as reviews by the Competition Commission and DCMS.

Asked if the PM agreed with Alistair Burt that News Corp is not a fit and proper owner of BSkyB, the PMS said that it was a matter for OFCOM, but that the PM had previously made comments on News Corp saying that it should concentrate on getting its own house in order.

Asked if the PM agreed with Liam Fox saying that MPs are in danger of overreacting to this, the PMS said that this issue was of great importance to the public and to MPs, and that it would be debated fully in response to the PM’s statement.

Reserve Forces

Asked if the PM was happy that the army would be made up of 30% ‘Dad’s Army’, the PMS referred them to the Defence Secretary’s comments on the radio this morning, where he had ‘poo-pooed’ that description of the Reserve Forces, and referred them to the Defence Secretary’s statement due to be given in his Statement.