» Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Police Inquiry

Put to him that in a response this morning the PMOS had said that he did not think anybody from No10 was involved with the story in the Guardian, and asked whether in this reply he drew any distinction between civil servants and political appointees, the PMOS replied that the answer to the last point was no.

Asked if he would be saying anything else on this today, the PMOS replied that he would not be. One thing he would repeat from this morning’s briefing was that we believed that leaks like this were unhelpful and we would much prefer not to have to say anything ever, but let this investigation simply go on. That has been our consistent message and was our preferred position.

Asked if he was in a position to tell Lobby details of the problems that we had with the BBC’s story, given that the injunction had now been lifted, the PMOS replied that the reason that we had to voice our position yesterday was because there was a danger of a fundamental misconception becoming accepted fact. Therefore that was why we set out our position as we saw it yesterday. He was not going to get into explaining the precise reasons, because to do so would be to get into the detail of the investigation. This was precisely what we were trying to avoid.

Asked if it would be right to say that the fundamental misconception was that there was an email exchange from Ruth Turner to Jonathan Powell, the PMOS replied that he had noticed that the Attorney General last night in his statement referred to a document, he did not refer to an email.

Asked for the reason behind the decision to drop the injunction, was it simply the reality that the subject had been made public, the PMOS replied that at the risk of not answering the question at all, first and foremost the injunction was nothing to do with No10. The injunction was requested by the Met Police and granted by the Attorney General. The first that he knew about the story was when ITN’s political correspondent called at 22:10 on Friday night. That was the simple fact and could not be reiterated often enough, because there was a real danger that the public misunderstood that point. Given that was the fact, it was entirely a matter for the Attorney General and the police to discuss these matters rather than for us to offer any comment whatsoever. It was nothing to do with us, we simply had to respond to the fundamental misconception which we thought was in danger of becoming accepted fact yesterday.

Asked if the inaccuracy was that the document or email went to Jonathan Powell, the PMOS replied that as we had said yesterday, we disputed the version of events as presented by certain outlets.

Asked if there was more than one inaccuracy, the PMOS replied that he had said inaccuracies, but he would not discuss the details of those inaccuracies, because to do so would be to get into the detail of the investigation, which would be wrong.

Asked if they should read between the lines that a document "destined" for Jonathan Powell might not have been sent, the PMOS replied that he would not be getting into the details of it. He would simply say that the Attorney General said in his statement last night that firstly it was a document, and secondly the fact that he gave an injunction should neither confirm nor deny that a document was to be sent or received.

Put to him that one of the reasons that was being floated was that the police were waiting to interview someone else from No10, and asked if this was the case, the PMOS replied that he would not get into the business of confirming or denying whether people had been interviewed, but the simplest way to answer the question would be to say that he had noticed no unusual activity.

Asked to characterise the Prime Minister’s mood today, the PMOS replied that the Prime Minister had delivered a speech this morning to a group of luminaries in the arts and cultural world, who received it very enthusiastically. Although Lobby might find this difficult to believe as the speech did not receive a single centimetre of coverage. Summarising the Prime Minister’s mood, he was getting on with the job. There were issues the Prime Minister wanted to address, and one of them was to underline the Government’s commitment to the arts and maintaining the position of the arts in this country, because he believed that it was of benefit to the country.

Asked when Lord Levy last carried out an official duty as Middle East envoy, and when his next duty would be, the PMOS replied that we did not detail precisely Lord Levy’s activities. Part of the role of the private envoy was, believe it or not, private. All he would say was that Lord Levy did accompany the Prime Minister to on his last trip to the Middle East as anybody who was at the press conference in Ramallah would remember.

Briefing took place at 15:00 | Search for related news

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