» Friday, December 15, 2006

BAE/Saudi Arabia

Asked if the Prime Minister had met any executives or representatives from BAe in the last three months, the PMOS replied that he was not aware that he had.

Summarising what was said yesterday on Saudi Arabia, the PMOS said that the Attorney General’s view, having gone through the evidence, was that it was unlikely that a successful prosecution resulting in conviction could be brought, even after a further period of investigation. In short, he didn’t think the case was going anywhere. Secondly there was the national security consideration. Saudi Arabia remains a vital partner in our fight against counter-terrorism. So it is important for those two reasons to be considered as part of this.

Asked when the decision was taken and could he accept that the way this story came out was, in the long run, very bad for the political party, the PMOS replied that the second question was based on the false premise of the first. Given the press sensitivity, the Serious Fraud Office announced its decision to the Financial Services Authority (FSA) at the earliest possible opportunity yesterday. The Attorney General then informed Parliament by oral statement as Mike O’Brien did in the House. Both opposition parties were briefed on the issue as early as possible in advance of the statement being made. And given the market sensitivity of the announcement, it was not possible to make it public before 4.30pm yesterday afternoon, when the Stock Exchange closed for business. That was the reason for the timing.

Asked what the Prime Minister’s view was on the commercial implications, given that the Attorney General had said this was something he could not take a view on, the PMOS replied that the Prime Minister did mention the impact of jobs this morning, leaving it aside, it was a consideration. He added that the principle reasons for the decision were that it was unlikely that there would be a prosecution, and the considerations of national security. On the second point, these were not light considerations, in both the fight against terrorism and Saudi Arabia’s role in trying to promote progress in the Middle East. These were national considerations that had to be taken into account. Put to him that the effect on jobs formed part of the Prime Minister’s thinking, the PMOS replied that he was trying to put words in the Prime Minister’s mouth. The Prime Minister said leaving aside the effect on jobs, there will be other considerations including national security. He reiterated that the matters considered by the Attorney General were as he had set out, the fact that a successful prosecution was unlikely, and secondly the interest of national security.

Put to him that the Prime Minister had always made it clear that the fight against corruption had to be at the heart of talking poverty in developing countries, and that the decision over BAe completely undermined our efforts to promote good governance elsewhere, the PMOS replied that view was ignoring the Attorney General’s opinion that it was unlikely that there would be a successful prosecution resulting in a conviction. Put to him that the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) disagreed with this and that they felt it was worth pursuing, the PMOS replied that this was the journalist’s assertion, not his knowledge.

Asked if the Prime Minister accepted that this meant the rule of law can come second to national security, and would this be a precedent that he was happy for other people around the world to look towards Britain as an example we would like to set, the PMOS replied that his reply was the same as the previous question. This view ignored the fact that the Attorney General said it was unlikely that there would be a successful prosecution.

Asked if this decision meant that jobs would now be secured, the PMOS replied that what we always hoped was that British industry prospered and that people’s jobs were safeguarded. But the reason for the Attorney General coming to this decision was as had already been set out.

Put to him that it was more usual for the Attorney General to make his deliberation on whether or not a prosecution was likely to succeed once the investigation had been completed, and wouldn’t it have been better to give the FSA time to conclude their investigation, the PMOS again pointed the journalist to exactly what the Attorney General had said. Even after a further period of investigation, it was unlikely that a successful prosecution could be brought. This was a perfectly valid judgement for the Attorney General to have made.

Asked if there were any further details as to what the security and intelligence investigation was about, the PMOS said it was in regard to the fight against terrorism. Given Saudi Arabia’s position in the world is a very important ally in the fight against terrorism.

Asked if the Attorney General looked at the case himself or asked others to look at the case, and if the security aspect of Saudi Arabia was a coincidental matter or a factor in the Attorney General’s decision, if security was a factor who did the Attorney General take advice from, the PMOS said that it was not for him to brief on the processes of the Attorney General and how he reaches decisions, in terms of national security he said he wasn’t saying it was incidental, these are judgements which are made in the round, on the balance. The PMOS went to say that reporters should report what the Attorney General has said; firstly it was unlikely that would be a prosecution, and secondly, the national interest in terms of national security had to be taken into account. Asked if the Attorney General took advice from the Prime Minister, the PMOS said he did not go into the processology of the internal workings of Government. Asked that was surely at the heart of the issue, the PMOS said no, what was at the heart of this was what the Attorney actually said about the likelihood of a prosecution.

Asked if the BAe issue had been discussed in Cabinet at all over the last couple of months and were any Ministers consulted other than the Defence and Foreign Secretaries, the PMOS said it was not the practice to discuss investigations in Cabinet.

Asked if other countries would now think they could blackmail the United Kingdom, the PMOS said he did not recognise the reporters description and he reiterated that we recognise that the Attorney General talked about the unlikelihood of a successful prosecution and also the national security interest. Those are matters that are of national interest to the country. As the Prime Minister said, he makes no apology for making decisions based on the national interest.

Briefing took place at 9:00 | Search for related news

1 Comment »

  1. > Saudi Arabia remains a vital partner in our
    > fight against counter-terrorism.


    Comment by — 17 Dec 2006 on 12:08 pm | Link

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