Press release

Number 10 Press Briefing - Morning From 27 January 2011

From the Prime Minister's spokesperson on: phone Hacking, weather, AV bill, Gerry Adams, Nimrod and Forest Consultation.

Phone Hacking

Asked for the Prime Minister’s view on the latest developments in the News of the World phone hacking story, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) told the assembled press that he had not discussed it with the Prime Minister.

Asked if the Prime Minister would be meeting with Rupert Murdoch tomorrow, the PMS said he would not be. Asked if the Prime Minister would speak to Mr Murdoch tomorrow, the PMS said no.

On whether the police had spoken to Downing Street regarding Andy Coulson, the PMS advised people to speak to his political colleagues about Andy Coulson.

Asked if Andy Coulson was still employed by the Government, the PMS replied that he had resigned and would be leaving in a few weeks. The PMS said that this was quite a normal process.

Put that Mr Coulson was still an employee of the Government and therefore people should be able to ask questions about him, the PMS replied that if people were to ask him about any employees of the Government he would not generally comment on them.

Asked if Cabinet Ministers would be receiving any advice from Government lawyers on whether their phones had been hacked into recently, the PMS said none that he was aware of.

On why Andy Coulson was staying in his post for a few weeks, the PMS replied that it was not unusual for someone to stay on for a period of time after they had resigned.

Weather

Asked if the relevant Cabinet Ministers had been put on alert in preparation for the possibility of more bad weather, the PMS said that there were contingency plans in place and they were updated on a regular basis.

AV Bill

Asked if there were any further updates on the Bill, the PMS replied that we were in a similar position to where we were yesterday. The PMS said that we were examining our options and discussions were taking place.

Gerry Adams

Asked about Gerry Adams resigning as an MP, the PMS replied that Gerry Adams had asked to resign. He had written to the Speaker setting out his intentions and the only method available for someone wanting to resign was to take up a position such as the Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Chiltern Hundreds.

The PMS said that the Chancellor had therefore appointed Gerry Adams to that post, but Gerry Adams had not accepted.

Asked if Gerry Adams had received an apology from No10, the PMS said that we did not comment on private conversations.

On whether this process could be avoided, the PMS said that as he understood it, this was the only way someone could resign from Parliament.

Nimrod

Asked if the Prime Minister agreed with the analysis of the former defence chiefs in regard to the scrapping of the RAF Nimrods, the PMS replied that he did not. We had set out our decision on this at the time of the Strategic Defence and Security Review; not only were we dealing with a record deficit, we were also dealing with a massive black-hole in the MOD budget.

Put that former chiefs had said the scrapping of the Nimrods would cause serious damage to the UK’s interests, the PMS said that we did not accept that. The role of maritime patrol would continue to be carried out, and we would use a range of other military assets to carry that out.

The PMS added that this particular project was overspent, it had been delayed and none of the aircraft were actually operational.

Forest Consultation

Put that if charities or councils did not have enough money to buy areas of forests, wouldn’t the land be bought up by wealthy individuals, the PMS replied that we had begun a consultation today and there seemed to be a lot of preconceptions about what we were saying. The Government would not be selling off ‘heritage’ forests to the highest bidder or removing public access to land as some of the media coverage had suggested. The PMS added that we would be listening to peoples’ views on the issues and then setting out our conclusions.

Asked who would be buying the areas of forest, the PMS said that it would be a range of different organisations, such as private sector organisations, charities and community groups.

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