Press release

Number 10 Press Briefing - Morning From 24 January 2011

From the Prime Minister's spokesperson on: Sky, Phone Hacking, Defence, Big Society, Project Merlin, Lord Strathclyde and Downing St cat.

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


Asked whether the Prime Minister would be meeting Rupert Murdoch this week, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) told the assembled press that we wouldn’t normally give a list of the Prime Minister’s meetings at the beginning of a week, but they shouldn’t read anything into that. The process was that we published the meetings that the Prime Minister had had.

Put that it was reported that the Prime Minister had met James Murdoch over Christmas and had they discussed the Newscorp bid from BSkyB, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister met with people from the media from time to time. On the bid process, there was a very clear process laid out; the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt would make the decision and it was his decision alone.

Asked if it would be appropriate for the Prime Minister to have discussions with James Murdoch during that process, the PMS said that Jeremy Hunt took the decision, which was informed by a report from the Office of Fair Trading. The PMS added that the Prime Minister had no role in that process.

When asked if the Prime Minister’s meeting with James Murdoch was deemed to be ‘unofficial’, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister met people from the media from time to time. Asked if the meeting had been a private meeting, the PMS advised that people would need to wait for the list of meetings to be published.

Put that it was up to the Prime Minister which meetings he chose to publish, the PMS said that we had an established process on the matter.

Put that the meeting with James Murdoch at Christmas could have a very important bearing on the outcome of the decision, the PMS replied that it would have no bearing on that decision.

Phone Hacking

On whether the Prime Minister agreed with Chris Huhne that the police needed to look again at the phone hacking allegations, the PMS said that the position was that the CPS were carrying out an assessment of the material held by the Met police. That process was underway and it was up to the CPS to make a decision based on their assessment.

Asked if the Prime Minister feared that his phone had been hacked into at some point, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister’s position was that if there were allegations of illegal behaviour, then those allegations needed to be taken very seriously. In all cases, it was a matter for the police and the CPS.

Put that Gordon Brown had contacted Scotland Yard and had yet to receive a response, the PMS said that it was not for him to get into specific aspects of this; if there were allegations of illegal behaviour, it would be a matter for the police.

On whether the Prime Minister thought that the police had investigated it seriously so far, the PMS replied that we wouldn’t comment on operational issues. There was a process underway, whereby the CPS were undertaking an assessment of the information held by the Met police and they would take a view at the end of that assessment.

Asked if he was suggesting that it was wrong for the Energy Secretary to comment on the issue, the PMS said he was not suggesting that. The Energy Secretary had spoken about this on a number of occasions and he had repeated what he had said in the past over the weekend.

Put that Paul Farrelly had asked the Justice Secretary whether an independent probe could be set up, the PMS replied that if there were complaints about the Met police, the first place that those complaints should be directed to was to the Commissioner of the Met police. The PMS said there was an established procedure. If the complaint was not dealt with in an appropriate way, the matter could be referred to the Metropolitan Police Authority.


Asked if any consideration was being given to the extension of the Anglo-French Defence Pact to include Germany, the PMS advised people to speak to the MOD.

Big Society

Asked if there were any Big Society events in the near future, the PMS said he was sure there would be some, but none this week.

Asked if the Big Society was being undermined by charities saying that they hadn’t got any money, the PMS said that three quarters of charities didn’t receive any money from the Government. If people looked at Government proposals on the Work Programme and rehabilitation for prisoners for example, there would be significant opportunities for voluntary groups in the coming years.

Project Merlin

Asked whether Project Merlin had stalled, the PMS replied that conversations were ongoing, but the Treasury were leading on those discussions.

Asked about the new pay structure for Barclays and whether it could be used at RBS if it was successful, the PMS said that it would not be appropriate for him to comment on an individual company’s pay policy. The FSA needed to ensure that banks were complying with the new rules on pay.

Lord Strathclyde

Asked about suggestions that the Prime Minister’s support for marriage to be recognised in the tax system was at odds with his support for Lord Strathclyde, the PMS said he would not discuss Lord Strathclyde as it was a personal matter.


Asked if there were any plans for the Downing Street cat to return after rats were spotted in the street, the PMS said there were no plans.

Published 24 January 2011