Asked if the Justice Secretary’s oral statement this afternoon would contain any detail on the amount of the settlement, the PMS said the Justice Secretary would be confirming that we had reached a settlement; he would not be giving details of figures, due to the confidentiality agreement that had been made in the context of that settlement.
When asked which side had asked for the confidentiality agreement, the PMS replied that it was something both sides had agreed upon. On what the difference was between a settlement’ and compensation’, the PMS replied that the difference was that we were not admitting culpability.
On whether the settlement had been cleared by the Prime Minister and whose idea it had been to pursue a settlement, the PMS said that we had set out that it was our intention at the time of the Prime Minister’s statement at the start of July.
Put that the Prime Minister must have signed off the settlement itself, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister was aware of the discussions and how they were progressing, but the discussions had been led by Government officials and lawyers.
Asked about the nature of the discussions with the previous Government, the PMS said that they would have been informed of the outcome.
Asked how quickly the inquiry into all the issues would start, the PMS replied that it was our intention to allow Sir Peter Gibson to proceed with his review before the end of the year.
Put that all cases were now resolved, the PMS said that we had dealt with the cases that we needed to. Asked about the cases against MI5 officials, the PMS said that there were some police investigations, but the police were best placed to tell people where they had got to.
Put that none of this affected those investigations, the PMS said that there was a mediation process in response to these court actions and there were police investigations which were a matter for the police.
Asked how the Gibson Review could go ahead with police investigations ongoing, the PMS replied that we had said that we needed to get through this process and the police investigations.
When asked what the Prime Minister’s response was to the settlement, the PMS said that the Prime Minister had been very clear that we had to deal with this issue. For the past few years, nearly 100 employees of the security services had been devoted to these cases. The PMS said that the Government was facing years of litigation, the cost of which could have run into tens of millions of pounds and we needed to draw a line under the past and let the security services get on with the job they needed to do.
Asked if the Prime Minister thought the outcome was distasteful, the PMS said that the Prime Minister had to deal with issues as he found them and this was considered to be the best way forward.
Put that the Government would still want the Gibson Inquiry to be as public as possible, the PMS said that the commitment remained the same. Clearly there were secrecy issues here, and that was why we had constructed the Inquiry in the way we had. The PMS added that it was not possible to have a completely public inquiry, but it would be as open as possible.
Asked if the timing of the announcement had anything to do with Prince William getting engaged, the PMS replied that we had not made an announcement on this. The PMS said that the Government decided to make a statement at the point when it knew the story was going to break last night. The PMS added that we had found out about Prince William’s engagement during this morning’s Cabinet meeting.
When asked what conversations there had been with the Americans on the subject, the PMS said that we had been in close touch with them throughout. Asked if the Prime Minister had spoken to President Obama on the subject recently, the PMS replied that they had spoken about it in the past but not recently.
Asked if the Prime Minister saw this as an admission of culpability, the PMS replied that this was not.
Asked if the Gibson Inquiry would be a mixture of public and private hearings, the PMS replied that it was something Sir Peter Gibson was considering.
On whether the Prime Minister could understand the concern of people who were witnessing taxpayers money being spent in this way, the PMS replied that some people would find this unpalatable.
However, the Government was spending public money on this issue anyway, by virtue of the court cases and the legal action that had been brought against it. In addition to this, over 100 staff were dealing with this and nothing else and it would have been in no- one’s interest to let this run on for the next few years.
Briefing took place at 10:00 | Search for related news
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