From the Prime Minister's spokesperson on: Prince Andrew, Libya and Barclays.
Asked if the Prime Minister was happy for Prince Andrew to remain as Trade Envoy, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) said yes; we had been saying for some days that we fully supported Prince Andrew in his role as Trade Envoy.
Asked about the quote that came from Downing Street over the weekend that the Government ‘wouldn’t shed any tears’ if Prince Andrew were to go, the PMS said that he was not going to comment on unattributed briefings and repeated that we fully supported Prince Andrew in his role as Trade Envoy. He had made a very important contribution to UK trade through that role and continued to do so.
Asked if the Prime Minister agreed with the Business Secretary that Prince Andrew’s future was now a matter for him and UKTI, the PMS repeated that our position was that we supported Prince Andrew in his role.
Asked if there had been any meetings on a Government level about Prince Andrew’s future, the PMS said that his understanding was that there were 6-monthly meetings looking ahead to the Trade Envoy’s future engagements. You would expect there to be meetings between Government officials and Prince Andrew, which related to his role as Trade Envoy.
Asked who appointed Prince Andrew as Trade Envoy, the PMS said that he took up the role in 2001 with the agreement of the then Foreign Secretary and the Trade and Industry Secretary.
Asked what Prince Andrew contributed to the role of Trade Envoy, the PMS said that many UK businesses supported the work Prince Andrew had done over recent years. We saw trade as an important part of our Growth Strategy and the Prime Minister had been clear that the whole of Government needed to support British business in promoting exports to other countries. We thought that Prince Andrew had made a valuable contribution in this area.
Asked if there had been contact between Downing Street and the Palace today, the PMS said that we didn’t normally comment in detail on contact between No 10 and the Palace and we wouldn’t start today.
Asked who paid for Prince Andrew’s expenses in his role as Trade Envoy, the PMS said that his understanding was that the Government met Prince Andrew’s expenses.
Asked if Prince Andrew had the full confidence of the Prime Minister, the PMS said yes.
Asked if the Prime Minister had any views on the group of UK diplomats sent to Libya and how the operation had been handled, the PMS said that the Foreign Secretary had made a statement last night and would be making a further statement in the House this afternoon, outlining the range of work that was being undertaken by the Government.
Asked if the Government was embarrassed by what had happened, the PMS said that we had been clear in recent days that we were seeking to establish contact with opposition figures, which we would continue to do.
Asked why we had decided to go into Libya the way we did, the PMS said that he was not going to get into the operational aspects of this, but we had confirmed that a diplomatic team was in Benghazi and it was our intention to send a further team in due course. Our objective was to strengthen and deepen dialogue with opposition figures and to understand better the position on the ground.
Asked if the Prime Minister had backed the operation, the PMS said that the decision had been taken in the normal way; the Foreign Secretary took the decision, but the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary had obviously been talking about this issue over the past week and throughout that time our objective had remained to strengthen and deepen our relationships with opposition figures, and improve our understanding of the situation on the ground.
Asked if there had been a diplomatic presence in Benghazi before the uprising in Libya had started, the PMS said that he thought there may have been some presence there as it was Libya’s second city.
Asked why those diplomats had left, the PMS said that we took the decision to pull out our diplomatic staff the Saturday before last, given the situation on the ground at that time. We had a duty of care to our staff and we took that very seriously.
Asked what the Prime Minister’s thoughts were on the Foreign Office’s handling of the situation in Libya, the PMS said that it was a very difficult and complicated situation at the present time. We were effective in getting British nationals out and in helping lots of people from other countries. We had been doing a lot of work to support the humanitarian effort, and we had been taking a lead internationally to bring pressure on the regime. We had made significant strides on that front, for example there was a very swift response from the UN, and the quickest ever response from the EU in terms of sanctions.
Asked what the Prime Minister thought of the decision to pay Barclays Chief Executive a bonus of £6.5m, the PMS said that we didn’t comment on individual cases. Our position was clear: there were rules and regulations on bonuses set by the Financial Services Authority and they needed to be adhered to.