Strategy Unit Fisheries Project Report
In answer to questions about the Strategy Unit Fisheries Project Report, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that as he understood it, it set out a possible long term strategy for improving the fortunes of the fishing industry, recognising the need to manage what were finite marine resources as well as the economic development of the communities which relied on them. He encouraged journalists to speak to DEFRA for more details.
Sutton Report/Beverley Hughes
Asked if the Prime Minister retained full confidence in Beverley Hughes following the publication of the Sutton Report today, the PMOS said yes, absolutely. He believed that Ms Hughes was a first-class Minister who had one of the hardest briefs in Government. She had made a significant difference, for example by halving the number of asylum applications. Of course, no one was pretending that there weren't difficult, complex issues facing the Government. We acknowledged that there were real challenges ahead. However, the Prime Minister continued to believe that she was an excellent Minister. In answer to further questions, the PMOS said that Ms Hughes had given a response to critics of the Sutton Report on Radio 4's The World At One today. The Report had been carried out by a senior IND official who was a well respected individual in his particular field. The conclusions of the Report were based on his considered judgements after taking all the evidence into account. Put to him that the Report's suggestion that Ministers had not known what was going on in their own Department would, in itself, suggest a high level of incompetence, the PMOS said that Ms Hughes had been absolutely upfront about what had happened. Everyone acknowledged that mistakes had been made both in terms of issuing the guidance and the oversight. As Ms Hughes had stated when the issue had first come to light, since she was the Minister with responsibility for this area, it was her job to put things right and make sure they didn't happen again. No one was claiming that what had transpired had been the best chapter in the IND's work. However, the considered findings of the Sutton Report showed that these decisions had been taken, wrongly, without reference to more senior officials. It was important to make sure that did not happen again.
Government Communications/Phillis Review
Asked if Downing Street would agree with the description of the new Permanent Secretary for Government Communications, Howell James, as a 'professional spin doctor', the PMOS said no. Mr James was a very talented communications professional. He was joining Government in a senior capacity with a breadth of experience in communications, both in a FTSE 100 company, in an important public service organisation - the BBC, in Government itself and as a partner in a private sector PR agency. The appointment had been made through open competition and by a selection panel which had included the Independent Civil Service Commissioner and the Cabinet Secretary. The universal view of the panel was that Mr James was the best candidate to do the job, and their recommendation had been accepted by the Prime Minister.
Government Communications/New Appointments
The PMOS drew journalists' attention to a press notice today announcing the appointment of Howell James as for Government Communications. The new post was the result of a recommendation in the Phillis review, which had been set up in response to the Public Administration Select Committee report following events at the Department of Transport. The Permanent Secretary would be responsible for the strategy, co-ordination and effectiveness of Government communication across Whitehall. He would also be Head of Profession, responsible for increasing the professionalism and capability of Government communications. He would be a permanent civil servant and would report to the Head of the Home Civil Service, Sir Andrew Turnbull. He would work closely with the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Cabinet Office to ensure that a co-ordinated and strategic approach was taken to communications across Government. The PMOS underlined that Howell James had been appointed through open competition by a Selection Panel. The panel, chaired by Baroness Usha Prashar, the Independent First Civil Service Commissioner, and including Sir Andrew Turnbull, had made a unanimous recommendation, which subsequently had been accepted by the Prime Minister. The PMOS said that Mr James was joining Government with a wealth of experience in communications, both in a FTSE 100 company, in a public service organisation - the BBC, within Government itself and as a partner in a private company. He was someone who was a very talented communicator who would bring considerable energy and focus to this important post.
Strategy Unit Fisheries Project Report
In answer to questions about the Strategy Unit Fisheries Project Report, the PMOS said that all parts of the UK had been visited and had been fully involved in the formation of the strategy. It was clearly a considered piece of work. He referred journalists to the Department concerned for a more detailed explanation of the background to the project.
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