Afghanistan, Leveson and the economy were the topics discussed at the morning press briefing.
Asked whether there were going to be any announcements on troops pulling out of Afghanistan from the Defence Secretary, the PMS said that there was no new information on troop numbers in Afghanistan.
Asked to clarify the number of times the PM had met Rupert Murdoch since the last election, the PMS said that Downing Street had already published details of meetings and we were confident that those details were correct.
Asked to comment on the list submitted as evidence to the Leveson Inquiry by Rupert Murdoch, and potential discrepancies, the PMS said that he understood there was some revised evidence being presented that hadn’t been published yet, but Downing Street was confident that the published list was correct.
Asked to comment on media reports that there were events that the PM had attended with Rupert Murdoch that were not included on the published list, the PMS said that the government had always been clear that not everyone attending large events or summits at which the PM is present are noted and declared.
Asked to define a meeting with Rupert Murdoch, the PMS said that meetings are included in published lists, but there may be some events attended by the PM where large numbers of other people are also invited and that we did not list everyone attending those events. We were confident that what we had declared was comprehensive and correct.
Asked whether the civil service had a definition for a meeting, the PMS said Downing Street based its records on the PM’s diary, which was a comprehensive record of his activity during the day.
Asked whether a name that didn’t appear in the diary would be declared, the PMS said that there was a thorough process in place governing the PM’s diary to ensure the record was comprehensive.
Asked whether it was possible that private meetings were omitted from the diary, the PMS said that the diary was comprehensive and Downing Street were confident that declaration was correct.
Asked whether the PM could score meetings from the records, the PMS said that the process did not work like that - his diary was prepared by his office.
Asked whether the BSkyB bid was discussed at Chequers in a meeting with James Murdoch, the PMS said that the PM had been clear that he had no inappropriate conversations about the BSkyB bid with James Murdoch.
Asked whether there had been any contact between Downing Street and the Murdochs to confirm meeting dates, the PMS said that under the terms of the Leveson Inquiry that would not be appropriate.
Asked whether the PM had asked Sir Alex Allen to look into potential breaches of the ministerial code, the PMS said that the PM had not asked him.
Asked whether the PM had responded to Harriet Harman’s letter, the PMS said that he did not think there had been a response yet.
Asked whether the PM had considered the request from Harriet Harman, the PMS said that the PM had made it clear that he believed the Culture Secretary had acted properly. There was an inquiry ongoing that was looking at some of the issues in question and we took the view that we should let that inquiry take its course.
Asked whether Sir Jeremy Heywood had spoken to Lord Leveson to discuss whether the inquiry would look into breaches of the ministerial code, the PMS referred the journalist to the Cabinet Office statement.
Asked whether the PM still thought it was a good idea to set up the Leveson Inquiry, the PMS said that he did.
Asked whether the Leveson Inquiry would report to the Culture Secretary or the PM, the PMS said that he believed it reported jointly to the Culture Secretary and the Home Secretary. Asked whether the Culture Secretary should withdraw himself from that reponsibility in the process, the PMS said that we expected that certain recommendations from the inquiry would be issues for the Department of Culture Media and Sport.
Asked what the PM’s view was on the likely involvement of the Financial Services Authority, the PMS said that was a matter for the FSA. Asked whether the potential involvement of the FSA would annoy the PM, the PMS said that they were independent.
Asked if the ONS GDP figures were to be revised down, that it would be a forward step, the PMS said that the ONS did revise its GDP figures from time to time, but that he was not going to speculate on any revisions.