Briefing by the Prime Minister's Spokesman on: prison parties, Lockerbie and GDP figures.
Asked if the Prime Minister thought that it was right for prisoners to have parties, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) told the assembled press that No10 had instructed the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) to make it very clear that there would be no prison parties.
The PMS said that she understood MOJ guidance to prison governors did not give carte-blanche to parties, but the Government wished to make it clear that no such events would take place.
Asked how No10 sent the instruction to MOJ, the PMS replied that there was a conversation between officials, but the Prime Minister was aware of the situation. Asked when the conversation took place, the PMS said in the past 24 hours.
When asked if the Prime Minister had full confidence in Crispin Blunt, the PMS said that he did. The important point here was that policy was discussed in the round before announcements were made.
Put that instructions were issued by No10 after the speech and did that mean some elements of the speech came as a surprise, the PMS replied that policy needed to be done by collective agreement. The PMS said that prison was a place of punishment but also there needed to be rehabilitation. Prison governors needed to use their best judgement on how that was done.
The guidance that the MOJ was providing to governors gave some latitude, meaning that there was not a complete ban on certain activities, but clearly this needed to be within certain parameters.
Asked about Indeterminate Prison Policy (IPP), the PMS replied that there was no collective agreement on whether to change IPP, so there was no change in policy agreed.
Asked about letters issued by the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee and was there any comment on present or former British Ministers being asked to give evidence by a foreign legislature in another country, the PMS replied that Jack Straw had said that he would be in contact with the Foreign Office. At this time, he had not contacted them.
Whether Jack Straw engaged with the Senate was a decision for him, but the Foreign Office stood ready to discuss these issues or any concerns he had.
In terms of the Government and Ministers appearing, we had not received an invitation. The Prime Minister had said in Washington that the Government would engage constructively with those Senate hearings.
On what form of advice the FCO were likely to give Jack Straw if he chose to seek it, the PMS said she would not preclude any advice given by the FCO.
Asked if it was down to the individual on whether to appear at one of these hearings, the PMS replied that the Government had not been invited to appear, but would consider any invitation should the issue arise. As for Mr Straw appearing, that was a matter for him.
Asked what the Cabinet Secretary’s general principle would be to Ministers having to answer to foreign legislatures on decisions made in this country, the PMS said that we would look at that if the situation arose.
On whether the Cabinet Secretary had made any decision on those Lockerbie papers, the PMS said that she could not give any guidance on timing yet.
Put that some relatives of the Lockerbie dead wanted to see an inquiry set up and was the Prime Minister at all minded to do so, the PMS said that the Prime Minister had made his views very clear on the issue of an inquiry.
The Prime Minister had spoken at length in the US on the fact that an inquiry had already been carried out. The Prime Minister had also instructed the Cabinet Secretary to look into the relevant papers to see if anything more could be released.
Asked if the Prime Minister understood why the Foreign Relations Committee would want to hear from Scottish Ministers, the PMS said that it was up to the Committee which witnesses they invited to appear before it and a decision for Scottish Ministers and the Scottish Government whether those Ministers chose to appear.
On whether the Scottish Executive should make itself accountable to the Foreign Relations Committee, the PMS said that it was entirely a matter for them.
Asked if providing papers constituted full cooperation from the Government or should Ministers appear before the Committee, the PMS said that we had not been invited to appear. The Prime Minister had spoken at length on this and the PMS referred people to his comments.
Asked if there had been any contact between No10 and the US administration on the situation since the Prime Minister had returned, the PMS said we were routinely in touch with colleagues in the US but we wouldn’t provide a running commentary on any of those discussions.
Asked if there had been any contact with BP since the Prime Minister had returned, the PMS said that the Prime Minister had not met anyone from BP since his return.
Asked if the Chancellor had commented at Cabinet on the GDP figures, the PMS said that the Chancellor had made a comment on the figures and she referred people to that.