Asked whether the BP Chief Executive would be briefing officials at Number 10 today following reports of such a meeting in The Times this morning, the PMS told the assembled press that he would not be coming into Number 10. The PMS added that he had mentioned yesterday that the Energy Minister was meeting representatives from BP yesterday, but there were no plans for officials at Number 10 to meet with them.
Asked if the Prime Minister thought that President Obama was being heavy-handed towards BP at all, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister was concerned about the issue and it was a huge environmental tragedy. The UK government had been in close contact with the US authorities and was supportive of their efforts and BP as they continued to do everything they could to stop the leak.
Asked why there had hadn’t been any contact with BP if it was such an important issue, the PMS said that the Energy Minister was the relevant minister and he met with BP yesterday. The Prime Minister was kept informed on these issues but people would expect DECC to be the department leading on this issue.
Put that it was much more than an energy issue given that most UK pensions had BP in them and BP paid £6 billion to the Treasury last year, the PMS replied that there were other impacts that had been reported. When it came to pension funds, investments by those funds were a matter for them.
Asked if the Prime Minister thought that it was right for BP to pay out dividends, the PMS said that that would be a matter for the company.
Asked if he would characterise the Prime Minister having ‘distanced’ himself from the company, the PMS said that the ‘distancing’ comment came from a report following a lobby briefing earlier in the week and he had found it an odd reflection of the statement that he had made. The PMS had made it clear that the Prime Minister was concerned about the issue.
Put that Vince Cable had said that the Prime Minister was right to distance himself, the PMS replied that Vince Cable had said that primarily this was an issue for the US authorities and for the company.
Put that the data released by the Treasury today was unreadable, the PMS said that the Treasury had always been very clear that this data was complicated and there was a lot of it, but this was a big step forward in transparency and openness. Rather than reconstructing the data, the Treasury was taking the raw data and publishing it for all to see.
Put that the data was pointless if nobody could understand it, the PMS said that the point of transparency was to publish the data you held. There were other publications on public spending data that brought a lot of this data together and aggregated it, but this was the detailed data.
Asked what the most interesting disclosures were, the PMS replied that there were many to choose from, but advised people to speak to the Treasury for more detail.
Asked whether the Irish ship should be allowed to dock in Gaza, the PMS said that the government’s view remained the same; international law should be upheld and the UN Security Council resolution needed to be fully implemented, meaning there needed to be access for humanitarian aid. The UK government had advised against travel to Gaza given that this was a very unsafe region.