Press release

Number 10 Press Briefing - Morning From 13 December 2010

From the Prime Minister's spokesperson on: student protests, Sweden, Government websites/Wikileaks and misc.

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

Student Protests

Asked if the Prime Minister had any message for students who were considering protesting, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) told the assembled press that our position on protesting was always the same: people had the right to protest peacefully, but those protests should remain peaceful.

Put that the Home Secretary had suggested yesterday that police should use water cannon on demonstrators and did the Prime Minister think the Home Secretary was wrong to suggest that, the PMS replied that what the Home Some Secretary had said was that operational matters were for the police to decide.

Put that the Home Secretary had specifically said that the police should consider using water cannon, the PMS said that the Home Secretary’s position was very clear on this; these were issues for the police.

Asked what the Prime Minister’s view was on the issue, the PMS said that it was the same. Put that the decision to use water cannon was entirely a matter for the police that involved no ministerial oversight, the PMS replied that the decision on how to deal with the protests, ensure public safety and what the best strategy was for doing that, were operational issues that were best left to the police.

On whether the Prime Minister would be reluctant to see the use of water cannon, the PMS replied that the police had made clear that the way they would approach these protests was to ensure their actions were proportionate and consistent with minimum force necessary.

Put that the image of water cannon being used on the streets of London was presumably one that the Prime Minister would not welcome, the PMS said that our preference would be that protests were conducted peacefully.

Asked if the Prime Minister was alarmed by footage that had emerged of riot police not wearing any identity numbers, the PMS replied that the police were looking at the events of last week and if there was an issue, he was sure they would be investigating that too.

When asked if the Prime Minister thought that the force used by police was proportionate, the PMS said that the police were faced with a difficult situation. This was not a minority of people; there were a lot of people on the streets intent on causing problems.

Asked if more protests were expected, the PMS said that there was a lot of speculation about more protests in the coming days and the police were working on that basis.


Asked if the Prime Minister had had any discussions with the Swedish authorities, the PMS said that there had been discussions over the weekend. The Prime Minister had been briefed and brought up to speed by the Home Secretary and others. Asked if the discussions had been between the Prime Minister and his Swedish counterpart, the PMS said that they had been.

On what the need was for that conversation, the PMS said that people would have seen the speculation surrounding the case. There was police involvement in the UK and that was why the UK authorities had been in touch with the Swedish authorities.

Asked if the Prime Minister had apologised to the Swedish Prime Minister as the UK had ‘yet again been the incubator of terrorism’, the PMS said that this had been a discussion to update one another on the latest information.

Put that both Prime Ministers were working on the assumption that this attack was carried out by a ‘recent British citizen’, the PMS replied that there was an investigation ongoing and there was not a great deal more he could say at the present time.

On whether the UK had offered to assist the Swedish authorities, the PMS said that if there was any way we could support them, then we would do.

Government Websites/Wikileaks

Asked if there were any plans to protect Government websites, the PMS said that the National Security Advisor had spoken to Permanent Secretaries about the security of Government websites. The priority would be websites that dealt with information that belonged to members of the public, such as the DWP and HMRC websites.

Asked what the scale of the threat was, the PMS replied that he would not want to speculate on that.


Asked for the Prime Minister’s view on whether Pastor Terry Jones should be allowed into the country, the PMS said that it was a matter for the Home Secretary.

Asked if the Prime Minister agreed with the leader of Buckinghamshire Council who had said that ‘northerners should replace immigrants picking fruit’, the PMS said that the Prime Minister believed there should be a flexible labour market.

On whether the Prime Minister agreed with the Culture Secretary’s comments on the BBC, the PMS said he would not get into that.

Asked if the Prime Minister agreed with comments made by the Justice Secretary on the risks posed by mentally ill people being released from prison, the PMS said that our position on this was that there was always an element of risk in the system, but our priority was to do everything we could to protect the public.

Published 13 December 2010