Put that it had been said that it was shameful that the Prime Minister was hiding in his constituency and not commenting on this issue, the Prime Minister s Spokesman (PMS) told the assembled press that he did not agree with the assumptions and accusations in the question; throughout this process we had taken the position that this was a decision for the Scottish Justice Secretary and at all times we had scrupulously abided by that position. Having taken that position in the period before the decision, it would be wrong to reverse that and take a public position after the decision. It was and remains a decision for the Scottish Justice Secretary.
Asked if there would be any Government comment on this, the PMS repeated that it was and it remained a decision for the Scottish Justice Secretary.
Put that Alistair Darling and David Miliband had reiterated those points last week but that had not stopped them condemning the heroes welcome Mr Megrahi received, the PMS said that both the Chancellor and the Foreign Secretary had spoken for the Government on the subject. Of course the Prime Minister supported the views expressed by both the Chancellor and the Foreign Secretary; he found the scenes at Tripoli airport thoroughly distasteful and fully supported what Alistair Darling and David Miliband had said. We would continue to work with the Libyan Government to make sure those scenes were not repeated.
The Prime Minister s view on this was also set out in the letter we had published over the weekend, when he had said that a high-profile return would cause further unnecessary pain for the families of the Lockerbie victims and would undermine Libya s growing international reputation.
Asked whether David Miliband had consulted with the Prime Minister before being interviewed, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister was in close touch with his Cabinet colleagues, as people would expect.
Asked if there was a case for the Prime Minister to comment on a possible backlash from the US, the PMS said that as we had explained to our international allies including the US, throughout this was a decision under our constitutional arrangements to be taken by the Scottish Justice Secretary. In conversations with the US government, the Foreign Secretary and other Ministers had been clear from the beginning that that was how any decision would be taken.
Put that Kenny MacAskill had said that he could not make a decision on whether to release Mr Megrahi under the Prisoner Transfer Agreement (PTA) because the UK Government had refused to answer questions on what the arrangements would be between the UK and US governments on Megrahi s prison sentence, the PMS replied that Kenny MacAskill had written to Ivan Lewis requesting a range of information from the UK Government in regards to the PTA and the international obligations we were under.
Mr Macaskill had a full reply from Ivan Lewis on the 3rd August and parts of that letter had been circulating in the public domain. That position still stood. Put that Kenny Macaskill had said that the UK Government had refused to respond to the specific question of the PTA and had responded in terms of a legal position, the PMS said that in regards to the international obligations we were under, Ivan Lewis responded for the Government to the Scottish Justice Secretary. It was clear in what Kenny Macaskill had said that setting aside the PTA issue, he was taking a decision on compassionate grounds and not under the terms of the PTA.
The PMS said in regards to the letter sent by Ivan Lewis, he would check with the Foreign Office whether it had been released.
Asked if the Prime Minister thought that relations between the UK and the US had been damaged by this, the PMS said that clearly the Prime Minister recognised that this was a very difficult decision and an extremely sensitive one. Kenny Macaskill had set out in detail last week, the reasoning process that he went through and we for our part had made clear that this was an issue for the Scottish Justice Secretary and a decision was taken on that basis.
Asked if the Prime Minister was aware of the meeting Lord Mandelson had had with Colonel Gadaffi s son, the PMS said that Government Ministers met a range of people and the Prime Minister was not necessarily aware of every single meeting. What was important was that Lord Mandelson had been entirely clear on the nature of that meeting and the extent of their conversation about Mr Megrahi.
Put that Ministers had felt free to criticise all sorts of decisions made by the National administration in Scotland and what made this issue any different, the PMS replied that this was a unique set of circumstances and a uniquely difficult and sensitive subject. This rested with the Scottish Justice Secretary and we needed to make our position clear throughout which we had done. Put that because it was a uniquely difficult decision, did that not make it more important to comment on, the PMS said that he had set out at the beginning why that was not the case and why having taken that position and not interfered, according to our constitutional settlement, we wouldn t do so after the decision.
Put that there was nothing stopping the Prime Minister from commenting, the PMS said that Justice was a devolved matter and that was the nature of the political arrangement between Scotland and Westminster. Put that it seemed odd that the Prime Minister was not commenting on a position taken by a country within the United Kingdom, the PMS said that he had set out the Government s position on commenting on the decision taken by Kenny Macaskill.
Asked if the Prime Minister was letting the SNP stew over this, the PMS said that he had set out the Government s position on this and he would not get into a political conversation.
Asked if there was any more information from the meeting the Prime Minister had had with Gadaffi at G8, the PMS said that the letter was self-explanatory on the issue of Mr Megrahi. He would not give further detail on what was discussed at the meeting. This was a subject that had been raised each time Libyan Government representatives and different Ministers from the UK had met and on each occasion it was made clear that this was a decision for the Scottish Executive and Scottish ministers and not for the Government in Westminster.
The Prime Minister had taken the opportunity at the G8 Summit to say that there should not be a high-profile return if Mr Megrahi was released.
Asked if this decision had given succour to terrorists, the PMS said that he did not think it did. This was a decision taken by the Scottish Justice Secretary in accordance with the laws of Scotland.
Asked if the Prime Minister agreed with the attacks on the SNP emanating from the US, the PMS said that that was not a matter for him.
Asked why the Prime Minister felt he could comment on sporting occasions but not on something as important as the Lockerbie decision, the PMS replied that the issue of whether the Prime Minister would comment on a sporting event or other events was completely different to whether he chose to comment on a judicial decision taken by the Scottish Executive and the Scottish Justice Secretary on an issue as serious as the Lockerbie bomber.
Asked whether the British Government would be blocking business deals between Britain and Libya in order to make it look like these had nothing to do with the decision, the PMS said that we had made clear throughout that there was no connection between a decision by the Scottish Justice Secretary on judicial grounds for the compassionate release of a prisoner and any wider bilateral issues between the UK and Libya.
Asked if the Prime Minister understood the anguish of American families and was he concerned about the threat of grassroots boycotts of UK produce, the PMS said that on the first point, the Prime Minister wrote to Colonel Gadaffi in the last few days specifically because of the impact he felt a high-profile return would have, so of course he understood peoples anguish.
In answer to the second point, the PMS said he would not forecast what might or might not happen. There were people who were calling for boycotts of Scottish produce and tourism, but as we had said throughout, this was a decision the Scottish Justice Secretary had taken and he had made very clear the reasons for that decision.
Asked if the Prime Minister would be speaking to President Obama in the near future and would he discuss the issue with the President, the PMS said that they spoke on a regular basis but he would not say when their next conversation might be.
Asked when the UK Government first found out that Mr Megrahi would be released, the PMS said that we were informed of the decision by the Scottish Executive, but he would have to check on the exact timing. Asked if there had been any communication between the British Embassy in Tripoli and the Libyan Government, the PMS said that people should speak to the Foreign Office about any contact.
Asked when the Prime Minister last spoke to Alex Salmond and did he think this had been a good week for devolution, the PMS said that on the first point he did not know. On the second point, as the PMS had said, this was a uniquely difficult and sensitive subject on which a decision had been made by the Scottish Justice Secretary. We recognised that this was an extremely sensitive subject and would be extremely difficult for a large number of people, not least for the families of those people involved.
Asked what the Prime Minister s view was on the Libyan Government ignoring the plea he made in his letter to Colonel Gadaffi for a low-key return, the PMS said that as David Miliband had said last week, how the Libyan Government handled itself in the next days after the arrival of Mr Megrahi, would be significant in the way the world viewed Libya s re-entry to the civilised community of nations.
Asked for the Prime Minister s view on a public inquiry, the PMS said that as we had set out in the past, the Scottish courts had made a decision in this case. An individual was convicted, that conviction still stood and we did not think anything would be gained from a public inquiry.
Asked if it was the Prime Minister s job to comment on uniquely difficult subjects, the PMS said that he had set out what our view was on that several times already this morning. Asked if the Prime Minister had had a conversation with President Obama since the decision was made, the PMS said that he would check.
Briefing took place at 11:00 | Search for related news
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