Press release

Number 10 Press Briefing - Morning For 5 September 2011

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

From the Prime Minister's spokesperson on: Europe, Libya, Scotland, banks, abortion and energy.

Europe

Asked about the prospect of a new EU Treaty and if the Prime Minister (PM) saw it as an opportunity, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) said that there weren’t any proposals at the moment but that the Coalition had a clear position on Europe, set out in the Coalition document.  He said that the Chancellor had also written an article setting out the position on the Eurozone.  The PMS added that we would be guided by what was in Britain’s national interest.  The priority at the moment was that Europe grew and that would be the focus of discussions with European colleagues.

Libya

Asked if the PM would address the issues raised around intelligence and the UK’s relationship with the Libyan Government, the PMS said that the PM would cover those allegations in his statement.  He added that the Government had made it clear that it would address such issues by setting up the Gibson Inquiry.  Although its primary focus was Guantanamo case, it was open to consider other cases when serious allegations were made. 

Asked if Ministers or officials knew about the documents released in Tripoli, the PMS said that these papers related to the previous Government and that current Ministers wouldn’t have access to them.

Asked if the PM was concerned about the close relationship between the former Libyan Government and the intelligence services, the PMS said he would not comment on intelligence matters, but that we had to work with different Governments all around the world, even if they didn’t share our standards, to fight terrorism and protect our citizens. 

Asked if the fact that the papers were found in Moussa Koussa’s office had any bearing on him being able to leave the UK so easily, the PMS said that Moussa Koussa was a private individual who was able to travel to and from the UK freely.  The Government was clear about the circumstances around him coming to the UK at the time.  He would not have any immunity from prosecution in the UK, and his departure had been important in weakening the regime.  Asked if he would be returning to the UK and if the PM had any regrets about how we handled him, the PMS said that at the time Moussa Koussa did speak to the police but was not arrested, and that where he travelled and when was a matter for him.

Asked if the Gibson inquiry needed to change its terms of reference, the PMS said that the focus of the inquiry was the Guantanamo cases, but that it was open to the inquiry to consider other cases that it considered important.  The PM had demonstrated the importance he attached to these issues by setting up the Gibson inquiry in the first place.

Asked if the British Government should stop sharing intelligence, the PMS said that he would not comment on intelligence matters.  He said we had been very clear about the way we approached these issues by setting up the Gibson inquiry.  We also published guidance for intelligence personnel, which dealt with the treatment of detainees. 

Asked if the Gibson inquiry was the right way to thoroughly look into the issues raised given that it had not made any progress to date, the PMS said that the Gibson Inquiry had to take account of specific cases that were subject to legal proceedings, but that it would be well placed to look at this kind of case.

Asked if the Government had concerns about rebel leaders’ links to terrorism, the PMS said that the Government was working closely with the National Transitional Council (NTC) who had clearly set out their approach to stabilisation in Libya. They were supported by many countries around the world, and we would judge them by their actions.

Asked if the PM regretted the nature of the relationship between the UK and Libyan Governments, the PMS said that it was still unclear what the allegations amounted to. The Gibson inquiry was well placed to consider the issue properly.

Asked if Gibson inquiry was likely to give priority to the Libya issues, the PMS said to wait until the PM’s statement. 

Scotland

Asked for the PM’s thoughts on the poll on Scottish independence, the PMS said that the PM’s position on the Union was clear, and he would be making his case in the coming months and years.  Asked if the PM would be leading the campaign, the PMS said that there was no date for a referendum yet and that there would be many campaigns, but the PM would be out expressing his view when it came to it.

Banks

Asked if the PM wanted to water down the ICB proposals on the banks, the PMS said that we would wait to see what the proposals were.  The commission had not yet reported.

Abortion

Asked if it was usual that a Minister wrote to colleagues about a vote, the PMS said it was normal practice for a Minister to write a letter to colleagues to set out the Government’s position, and added that the Health Ministers had been clear about their position on the issue of abortion.

Energy

Asked it the PM was concerned about the rising household energy bills, the PMS said that the PM was concerned about the succession of announcements from energy companies about energy bills increases, but that this reflected rises in the world energy markets. 

Asked about a leaked memo to the PM on this issue, the PMS said that we didn’t comment on leaks.  There was a separate issue concerning the Government’s energy policy and its impact on prices.  The Government had set out a policy, designed to ensure that we keep the lights on and keep prices low for consumers over the long term. 

Asked if prices would go up as a result of policy changes, the PMS said it was difficult to set out what would happen to energy prices over the next ten or twenty years, but that we needed an energy policy that achieved our objectives - security of supply, greener energy and keeping prices low for consumers.  The impact on prices was not clear, for example, reliance on scarce fossil fuels in the future would push up prices.