David Blunkett/Alan Budd Review
Asked if the Prime Minister had prejudiced the Budd Review yesterday with his comments about David Blunkett, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) repeated what he had told journalists yesterday which was that there was a distinction between the Prime Minister expressing his confidence and trust in the Home Secretary, and waiting for the outcome of the Budd Review. The Prime Minister is quite content to wait for the final outcome of the review, and his comments were not in any way presetting that outcome. The entire point of Alan Budd undertaking the review was that he was an independent person who would make an independent assessment of the facts.
Asked if Sir Alan Budd has the power to widen his assessment of the case if he found anything further to investigate, the PMOS replied that it was far better to allow Alan Budd to get on with his job, rather than hypothesise about that job.
Asked why the remit was cast in the way it was, the PMOS replied that the media itself had identified this as the most serious allegation. This was what was being investigated, and regarding the other allegations that were made, the Home Office had dealt with them. Both the Home Secretary and the Home Office believed that this was the allegation that needed a closer investigation, which was what was happening now.
Asked if it was normal for civil servants to attend legal meetings about private affairs, the PMOS replied that it depended on the type of meetings, but it was for the Home Office to answer regarding this matter.
Asked if the reason that the allegation being investigated was only done so because it seemed like it was the easiest one to exonerate, the PMOS repeated his answer of yesterday which was that each case should be treated individually, and Alan Budd had been charged to look into this case.
Asked to respond to Alaistair Graham’s reservations about the inquiry, the PMOS replied the Government had set out its argument in 2003 against a panel of experts. This was because it was felt that a panel might not have the relevant expertise needed for each specific case, therefore, it was felt that it was better to appoint individuals on a case-by-case basis, as their expertise would be more relevant to the issue. Most people agreed that Sir Alan Budd had the necessary skills and expertise needed for this matter.
Asked what Alan Budd’s skills were in order to deal with the Review, the PMOS said he had knew how the government machine worked, and he knew how and when to ask the relevant questions. In terms of others issues that might arise, different skills would be required. It was horses for courses.
Asked if the Prime Minister accepted it would be right to accept David Blunkett’s resignation if these allegations proved a distraction to him, even if they were proved wrong, the PMOS replied that the Prime Minister had spelt out yesterday why he believed that the Home Secretary had demonstrated that he had not been diverted from his main job by these allegations. The Prime Minister believed that David Blunkett had the focus on people’s concerns, and had formed proposals to meet those concerns.
Asked if the Prime Minister was concerned that David Blunkett would get distracted over his court case regarding a paternity issue, the PMOS said that he thought David Blunkett’s private matters were a matter for him alone. The important thing for the public to concentrate on was the issue that involved them, for example ID cards, and the Home Secretary was continuing to focus on those. He was still a very effective Home Secretary.
Asked if the Prime Minister agreed with the Daily Telegraph’s recent comments that he had effectively given Ministers a free rein to do whatever they liked, as long as the job got done, the PMOS replied that he was not going to get into hypothetical scenarios, much as he was sure people would like him to. The Prime Minister said that senior Ministers were entitled to a private life, so long as they continued to do their job.
Asked that surely the whole point about the recent allegations surrounding David Blunkett were that they had not remained private, and instead were now very public, the PMOS clarified that he was not aware of how it had become public, but in terms of their public duties, Ministers had their responsibilities which were accountable to Parliament. Their private lives were not.
Briefing took place at 11:00 | Search for related news
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