Press release

Number 10 Press Briefing - Morning From 22 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: Cabinet, Libya and inflation.

Cabinet

The Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) said that the Foreign Secretary gave an update at this morning’s Cabinet on the overall situation in Libya and the continuing diplomatic efforts to develop and maintain the coalition.  The Defence Secretary gave a military update, and the International Development Secretary gave an update on the humanitarian situation.  There was also an update from the Foreign Secretary on developments in the wider region, as well as a discussion on the latest situation in Japan.

Libya

Asked how broad the discussion on Libya was at Cabinet and if there were any discussions on technical details, the PMS said that it was a broad discussion covering all the aspects of the current situation in Libya, and Government policy on Libya.  It was an opportunity for Cabinet members to ask any questions they had.

Asked if the legitimacy of targeting Gaddafi was raised at Cabinet, the PMS said that it wasn’t discussed at Cabinet, but our position on this was clear.

Asked if the Attorney General had been asked to provide specific guidance on targeting Gaddafi, the PMS said that he would not get into the business of commenting on process in any detail.  The point we had been making yesterday was that the coordination of policy on Libya would be conducted by the National Security Council Sub-Committee on Libya, which was now meeting daily.  The Attorney General was present at those discussions.

Asked what the situation was regarding the transfer of command to NATO, the PMS said that there was a meeting at NATO today on that issue.  Our position was as set out by the Prime Minister in the House yesterday: we wanted to see the machinery of NATO used to coordinate military operations.

Asked if there was the possibility of a hybrid NATO command with other players, the PMS said that he didn’t want to pre-empt the discussion at NATO today.

Asked if conversations with Germany and Turkey were taking place regarding NATO command and if there had been any conversations with China on their calls for a ceasefire, the PMS said that the Foreign Office was in close contact with all international partners.  There was nothing to report in terms of conversations between the Prime Minister and those countries.

Asked for details on the humanitarian effort, the PMS said that work was ongoing and teams were in place at the borders.  We had been contributing funding to the international agencies’ effort and were also thinking about next steps. 

Asked if the Chief of Defence Staff was at Cabinet this morning, the PMS said no.

Asked what plans were underway to prevent a partition of Libya, the PMS said that this wasn’t the way to view the situation.  The Prime Minister was keen to draw a distinction between the situation in Libya and the situation in Iraq.  Ultimately what happened next was a matter for the people of Libya.  We had a specific operation to protect civilians and implement a no-fly zone (NFZ).  Clearly we were thinking about possible scenarios and what would happen next, which we would want to discuss with our international colleagues, including members of the Arab League (AL).

Asked if there had been any contact with possible future leaders in Libya, the PMS said that the position hadn’t changed: contact with opposition figures was being lead by Foreign Office staff who worked at the Embassy in Tripoli.

Asked how long we were able to use the Italian’s bases for, the PMS said that NATO would be discussing these issues today.  We were obviously working closely with a range of countries, including the Italians.

Asked if progress was being made on Arab countries’ involvement, the PMS said that the Foreign Secretary had talked at Cabinet about the continued efforts to develop and maintain a coalition of those countries.  There was a lot of work ongoing at the Foreign Office to make sure that happened.

Asked if there had been questions at Cabinet about the mission, the PMS said that Cabinet was completely united on the Government’s policy on Libya, but this was a very significant issue and it was right that Cabinet got the opportunity to discuss it. 

Asked if the Prime Minister had said anything at Cabinet about Libya, the PMS said that the Prime Minister opened the discussion and summarised at the end.  Essentially it was an update for Cabinet.

Asked if the cost of the mission in Libya discussed at Cabinet, the PMS said no, it was a bit early to be talking about cost.

Inflation

Asked if the Prime Minister had any comment on today’s inflation figures, the PMS said that monetary policy was a matter for the Bank of England.  One of the reasons we were seeing high inflation at the moment was because of what was happening to global commodity prices.  At his last press conference the Governor of the Bank of England had said that he expected to see inflation above target this year, but then fall back next year.

Asked if the Prime Minister had full confidence in the Governor of the Bank of England, the PMS said that he found it surprising that every time inflation figures were published we were asked to express confidence in the Governor; it went without saying that the Prime Minister had full confidence in the Governor of the Bank of England.