Press release

Number 10 Press Briefing - Morning From 17 March 2011

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

From the Prime Minister's spokesperson on: Japan, Libya and Bahrain.


The Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) advised that travel advice had been updated.  Non-essential travel to Tokyo and north east Japan should still be avoided and as an additional precaution British nationals had been advised to remain outside an 80km radius of Fukushima.  This was in line with US advice.  He advised that SAGE continued to meet and monitor the situation.  Their advice would be updated as necessary and Sir John Beddington would explain the latest deliberations of the group.

Asked if the Government was a bit late issuing the travel guidance for Japan, the PMS said that the travel advice had been kept under constant review and that the advice was consistent with the latest scientific advice.  The Government was now providing further advice as a precautionary measure.

Asked if there was an estimate on the number of British nationals missing or dead in Japan, the PMS confirmed that numbers would be provided when they were sound.

Asked if he was satisfied with the advice from the Japanese authorities, the PMS confirmed that the Government was in constant contact with Japanese authorities, the US authorities and European partners to get up to date information about the situation on the ground.

Asked if the advice on Japan was confusing, the PMS said that there were two issues: the broader situation with the earthquake, and the radiation risk.  Advice provided reflected both of these issues.


On Libya the PMS advised that there had been substantive discussions on the draft resolution at the UN yesterday and that there remained a range of views in the Council.  Tabling the resolution had had the desired effect of triggering serious discussions on next steps.  The Prime Minister was closely engaged with the process.  He had been making phone calls until late last night and spoke to a series of Arab leaders to emphasise the need for Arab involvement.  What countries in that region said would have important influence on members of the Security Council.  The Prime Minister would be making more calls and the PMS said he would update lobby as and when they happened.

Asked who the Prime Minister had spoken to, the PMS said that he would provide an update when appropriate.  He confirmed that the Prime Minister had spoken to a number of Arab leaders the previous evening and that views in that region would impact the dynamic of discussions at UN Security Council.  He repeated the United States Ambassador’s comments that Arab leadership and participation was very important and that as the request for action came from them, they should be ready and willing to contribute in meaningful ways.

Asked if he expected to see Arab leaders commenting in public, the PMS said that what they said in public was less important than their position being understood.

Asked if the Prime Minister had spoken to President Obama last night or in the last 8 days, the PMS reiterated that he would provide an update on calls and that the Prime Minister had spoken to President Obama the previous week.  The Government was working closely with the US administration, and they were discussing the draft resolution.

Asked how confident he was that the Arab states would contribute in a meaningful way, the PMS said that a meaningful contribution was the objective.  He confirmed that talks would continue with those countries and that the Government was thinking carefully about how best to influence discussions at the UN.

Asked if a vote could be expected today on the resolution, the PMS confirmed that there was a good chance that there would be a vote.

Questioned on whether other countries were shifting the way the US had, the PMS said that he believed there had been some movement and that the decision to push forward with the draft resolution had made an impact, but wouldn’t speak about particular countries. 

Responding to a question on whether the UK and France could go it alone on a no-fly zone, the PMS said that we were in the middle of a UN process and would see what happened with that.

Asked if there was consensus from Arab leaders on support for a no-fly zone, the PMS pointed to the Arab league statement from the previous weekend.

Asked how important it was to get a resolution through today, the PMS said that there was a race against time with the situation on the ground becoming increasingly concerning.

Asked if there were any Gulf countries the UK wouldn’t accept military help from, the PMS said to wait and see what was decided at the UN Security Council.

Asked if Security Council members were going to use their veto, the PMS said that the objective was to see the international community come together and take action.  That required nine votes and no vetoes.

Asked if the no-fly zone was an essential part of the draft resolution, the PMS said that it was an important part and pointed to comments made by the Prime Minster when he said that there was no single answer to the problem.


On Bahrain the PMS advised that the Foreign Office had updated their travel advice.  They had recommended that those people without pressing reason to remain should leave the country.  The first option was via commercial routes.  In addition the UK Government would be chartering planes to assist departure.  There would be a charge of £260 per person.

Asked how many people were expected to take the chartered flight from Bahrain, the PMS said that he didn’t have up to date information on that but would provide an update later.

Asked how many British nationals were in Bahrain and whether the airport was safe to get to, the PMS confirmed that the airport was accessible and that there were consular staff there to help if necessary.  There were thousands of British nationals in Bahrain, but it was thought that many would have left in the last few days and weeks.