Asked to clarify Lord Levy’s role and title, the PMOS replied that Lord Levy remained the Prime Minister’s Middle East envoy. The journalist was pointed to the Prime Minister’s remarks in Ramallah in December, which summed up why the Prime Minister believed that Lord Levy fulfilled a valuable role. But we would not be providing a running commentary on details such as who he had met. Asked further on Lord Levy’s role, the PMOS replied that the role was one of engaging people involved in the Middle East and the Middle East Peace Process. As the Prime Minister had said in Ramallah, in a very difficult situation we relied on people who could talk to all sides. Lord Levy was one of those people.
Asked whether reports were true that Lord Levy had discussed economic issues such as opportunities for British industry with the leader of Kazakhstan, the PMOS replied that he would not be getting involved in providing a commentary on who Lord Levy saw. Asked further whether Lord Levy’s role was restricted to the Middle East or was it broader, the PMOS again replied that he would not be providing a commentary.
Put to him that Gordon Brown had commented on the inquiry and therefore would we be making any further comment, specifically the suggestion of a cover-up, the PMOS replied that both in public and in private we had not been providing a commentary on this. The problem this posed was that it was therefore difficult for those involved to answer allegations, precisely because that was an ongoing police investigation. That was not a comfortable position to be in, but because it was a police investigation, we took a decision very early on that we would not provide a commentary.
Asked whether the Prime Minister would go as far as to say that there had been no cover up, the PMOS replied that he was not going to provide the journalist with a headline on this. Repeating what was said last week, we had fully cooperated with the police at all times.
Asked whether the Prime Minister considered Lord Levy to be an "individual of the highest integrity" as he had said about Ruth Turner in a statement following her arrest, the PMOS referred the journalist to the Prime Minister’s comments in Ramallah.
Asked if he was wholly confident that the police were in no way providing information in a way in which they should not be, the PMOS replied that, with respect, this was not a question for him to answer, and probably some members of the Lobby could answer better than him.
Put to him the Gordon Brown had said that once the police were aware of all the facts they would be satisfied, and was this the Prime Minister’s view, the PMOS replied that the Prime Minister had set out his view of the way in which people had behaved from the start. Going into that further would be getting into a commentary on a police investigation. The investigation should be allowed to take its course without a commentary of any kind, particularly by those who were at the heart of it, even if that was not comfortable, as the individuals against whom allegations had been made could not answer back. That was the problem about the commentary in the press. Despite the coverage, we had taken a view that we would not be sucked into giving a commentary.
Asked who paid Lord Levy’s travel and expenses in his role as envoy, the PMOS replied he did not know the details but what was important was that nothing had changed. He would check the exact details.
Asked to clarify an earlier answer that there should be no running commentary by those at the heart of this investigation, and specifically did this include the police, the PMOS replied that the police investigation was a matter of finding out the facts and whether a criminal offence had been committed. It was generally the view that police investigations should go on in private rather that in public. What he was not going to get involved in was speculating about who the source of these stories was. This would not be right.
Asked for the Prime Minister’s response to the Liberal Democrat charges that there was a "whiff of Watergate" about the investigation, the PMOS replied that he would not be getting involved in party political matters. But people needed to remember that if allegations were made, there needed to be evidence. The problem that we faced was that we could not comment on such allegations whilst the police investigation was ongoing.
Put that Tony Wright had said last night that it was time for the investigation to be brought to a conclusion, and asked was this a view that the Prime Minister shared, the PMOS replied that to respond to that question would be to provide a commentary.
Asked to clarify the statement issued on Thursday night ruling out a second computer system, and did this preclude the possibility of people working in No10 communicating over a Labour network with Blackberries, the PMOS replied that it was not for him to discuss the party side, except to underline that there was only one system. The police had full access to that system and there had been no complaints from them.
Asked again to clarify whether it was possible for people to access another email system from their computer in Downing Street, the PMOS replied that his understanding was this was not possible because of security concerns. Asked again if it was possible for people to access the Labour Party’s network from a computer in Downing Street, the PMOS replied that the Labour Party themselves had made it clear that this was not the case.
Asked again to clarify that the police had been given full access to Downing Street hardware, the PMOS replied that we had been giving full cooperation and the police had been given full access to the system in its entirety.
Asked if it was the case that all Downing Street files were backed up to a hard storage facility, and was there a physical back up of the system somewhere in Downing Street or was it held outside, the PMOS replied that the journalist was stretching his IT knowledge to breaking point.
Asked if it was possible to access the internet from the Downing Street system, the PMOS replied that it was. But it was not possible to engage with other systems, for instance it was not possible to access personal internet bank accounts.
Briefing took place at 15:00 | Search for related news
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