Briefing by the Prime Minister's Spokesman on: BP, Big Society, Academies Bill, Afghanistan and misc.
Asked if the Prime Minister would be meeting with US senators during his trip to America who had called for a BP inquiry, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) said that the Prime Minister would be meeting with a number of senators.
Asked what the Prime Minister would say about the inquiry into BP, the PMS said that the decision to release Megrahi was taken by the Scottish government. The Prime Minister thought it was the wrong decision, and as such understood people’s concerns.
Put that the Prime Minister had said this morning that he didn’t know what BP did in terms of lobbying, the PMS said that the Prime Minister was making the point that this happened under the last government and companies made lots of representations to the government. The important thing was how the decision was then taken. The Foreign Secretary had set out the position over the weekend; there were discussions around the prisoner transfer agreement but that was not relevant to the Megrahi release, which was a decision taken by the Scottish government.
Asked about a newspaper report yesterday which said that the cash for the Big Society was found by switching money from the Green Investment Bank, the PMS said that the article was wrong; the cash was coming from dormant accounts.
Asked if the Academies Bill was being pushed through too quickly without proper scrutiny, the PMS said that the Secretary of State had been setting out the position this morning; the reality was that an academy is not an entirely new concept, there were already academies in existence. We were talking about allowing the best schools to become academies quickly. Parliament would get the chance to debate this properly.
Asked what outcomes the Prime Minister was hoping for from the international Afghanistan conference in Kabul, the PMS said that he would not pre-empt the outcome of the conference, but that it was important to remember this was the first time Afghanistan was hosting a significant international event of this kind, which in itself was very positive.
Asked about withdrawal in 2014, the PMS said that the 2014 date came from the 5-year time horizon set out in the original McChrystal strategy and President Karzi’s inauguration speech in 2009. This was a 5-year time horizon for getting the Afghan national army and security forces to take control of the security situation.
Asked if the Prime Minister agreed that wearing the burka could be empowering, the PMS said that the Prime Minister thought that it was a matter of personal choice and that we wouldn’t be legislating.