» Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Naval Personnel

Asked when the Prime Minister became aware of the stories being sold to the press by naval personnel and if he gave permission to naval personnel, the PMS said that Rear Admiral Johns had answered the questions raised yesterday, but that it was important that people do not focus too heavily on the process. What we have here are undoubtedly difficult decisions that had to be taken in unprecedented circumstances and it is important that nobody pretends that there are any easy answers. There are strong views on both sides of the argument but what was important now was that the Defence Secretary looks into these issues in the round, and that is exactly what the review he has commissioned will do.

Asking the same question again, when did the Prime Minister know, did he take any action and if he did not intervene to stop this why not, the PMS said as the Rear Admiral had said yesterday, it was a decision that was taken by the Navy, what is now important is to look into the issues in the round. No one should pretend that there aren’t difficult decisions or strong views on both sides. Put to her she had answered a different question and asked the same question again, the PMS said that she would not get into the process of who knew what and when.

Asked why the Prime Minister did not intervene in this very controversial matter, the PMS said that what was important now was looking at the issue in the round, we recognise that this was a difficult decision taken by the Navy, there were no easy answers and we should now look at the situation, recognising the world in which we are operating in terms of the media and the vast sums of money on offer.

Asked that if the decision was made by the Navy, did the Prime Minister approve that decision, did the Prime Minister ask for more information or did the Prime Minister do nothing, the PMS said that she would not get into the process. It was not helpful to get into the ‘who knew what and when’. Asked again if the Prime Minister approved the decision made by the Navy, did he note the decision, the PMS said that the reporter had asked his question in his way and she had answered it hers.

Asked why the Defence Secretary was commissioning a review if he already knew what had happened, the PMS said that it would be best to speak to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) about the exact terms of the review but added that the review looked at more than just what happened and would look at the regulations that surround this issue in general.

Asked if there was going to be a statement to Parliament on this issue, the PMS said that it was a matter for Parliament and the Defence Secretary.
Asked if the Defence Secretary and Prime Minister has discussed looking to ban further interviews, the PMS said she did not comment on discussions between the Prime Minister and his Cabinet Ministers.

Asked if the Prime Minister agreed with the Defence Secretary that the outcome of the interviews was slightly unfortunate, the PMS said that the Prime Minister supported the Defence Secretary in the decisions that he has taken to look at this. Again no one should pretend that there are any easy answers.

Asked if the Prime Minister had been in the country and working over the weekend and Monday, the PMS said that yes he had been.

Asked if the Prime Minister was concerned about the knock-on effect this sort of thing might have on families of service personnel involved in any similar situations in the future given that the media is routinely asked by the MoD to stay away from families in these situations, the media might now be reluctant to do this for fear of being pushed to the back of the queue in the bidding war if they’re not camped outside the house popping letters through the families letter boxes, the PMS said that it was a matter for the MoD.

Asked if what No10 had said over the weekend, that the MoD had said that the Navy had made a decision of which the Prime Minister was informed, was still correct, the PMS said that it was as set out, there was no change.

Asked why the Prime Minister did not think that the whole episode demeaned the armed forces, the PMS said that there were no easy answers on either side of the argument. Either decision would have been controversial and it is therefore right that the MoD and the Defence Secretary look into the issues and it would not be helpful for her to pre-empt what that would say.

Asked what either decision meant, if one was to allow personnel to do interviews for money, what was the other, the PMS began to answer but was interrupted with the suggestion that the other would be to effectively settle on the established Queen’s Regulations. The PMS said that this was a unique set of circumstances in which the Navy were operating. Asked in what way were they circumstances unique, the PMS said the details were as set out by the Navy. Put to the PMS that it was not unique as there had been captives two years ago in the same area, the PMS said that details had been clarified over the weekend by the Navy and she would not go over the same ground. Put to the PMS that it was she who had said the circumstances were unique, the PMS disagreed. Put to her that the Navy would say that for various reasons including breaking the Queen’s regulations to get out of it, the PMS said despite the reporter’s lively choice of language, the answer remained the same.

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


  1. Another New Low for New Labour in allowing the returning hostages to cash in and demeaning the whole military in the process. Watch out for Faye Turley turning up on Celebrity Big Brother later in the year. Maybe Ant and Dec could do a Summer Special of ‘I’m a Soldier in Afghanistan – Get Me Out of Here’. A hundred grand for the winner or a lifetime pass to Tessa Jowell’s Super Casino.

    Comment by Steve in London — 10 Apr 2007 on 10:52 pm | Link
  2. Yes – it’s ‘Carry On-Hello Sailor’:

    Kenneth Williams is Tony Blair
    Charles Hawtree is Des Browne
    Sid James is Sir Ivor Smallcock, First Lord of the Admiralty.

    How our enemies in the ‘Axis of Evil’ countries must be shaking in their sandals as the ‘War on Terror’ is conducted by our tough, kick-ass politicians backed up by the dedication of the brave sailors of Shatt al Arab. ‘They gave us blankets which were prickly’ said one of them. Sounds a bit like the fate of the inmates of Guantanamo Bay, where I am sure similar atrocities happen.

    In order to try to salvage something positive from the fiasco, perhaps the money from the stories sold could be put towards better equipment for our armed forces. Some decent compasses or up to date charts of Iraqi/Iranian territorial waters would be a start.

    Comment by George N — 12 Apr 2007 on 9:51 pm | Link
  3. Browne out!! But Blair must stay on. Few, if any, of the government have had a proper job. But, more significantly , none have experience of the armed services. Not necessarily an advantage in a time of war. Blair to stay on is the answer to all of this. With a new front about to open up and an attack on Iran planned soon do we not need a great wartime leader with a proven track record? A record of getting the intelligence right, a record of being truthful with the British people, a record of good post-war planning and a clear post-war political strategy. Why not then stick with the man who has solved the Middle East problem, ended (with a little help from Bono) poverty in Africa, placed Great Britain at the heart of Europe and retained the "special relationship" with America as one of equals. I am glad to see that Gordon Brown has had his first formal meeting with George Bush. It is now essential for any prospective PM to be interviewed, vetted and given his sealed brown envelope with British foreign policy for the next 5 years.

    Comment by Tony in Glasgow — 15 Apr 2007 on 8:19 pm | Link

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