» Monday, June 28, 2004

Derek Scott

Asked by the Evening Standard if there was an ‘orchestrated campaign’ by Downing Street to discredit the Chancellor and the Treasury, the PMS said that she presumed she was being questioned about Derek Scott’s book. Put to her that she was being asked if Downing Street agreed with the Chancellor’s statement, the PMS said that the Chancellor’s spokesman’s statement had been referring to the contents of Mr Scott’s book. She underlined that the book had been totally unauthorised and pointed out that such books were only written to make money and cause trouble and division. As far as we were concerned, however, Mr Scott’s book would not cause any division. She would also caution journalists against believing everything they read. Asked if she was confirming that the book contained descriptions of clashes between the Prime Minister and the Chancellor, the PMS said no. She was simply responding to questions being asked about the issue. Put to her that she was questioning Mr Scott’s motives in writing the book, the PMS said that people obviously wanted to stir things up, hence the questions at this morning’s briefing. Put to her that the Chancellor’s statement had been referring to more than just the book, the PMS said that she had read the statement and had taken it to refer to Mr Scott’s book.

Asked what this whole issue said about the Prime Minister’s judgement in choosing members of his staff, the PMS repeated that Mr Scott’s book had not been authorised by Downing Street. We had not known anything about it until recently when it had been put before the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Andrew Turnbull, for clearance. Asked if she was suggesting that history had to be authorised before it was considered true, the PMS said she was simply making the point that just because someone had written something did not necessarily mean that it was true. Asked if Robin Cook’s book had been presented to the Cabinet Secretary for clearance, the PMS said yes. Any book written by Ministers, officials or advisers had to go through a process involving the Cabinet Secretary. Mr Scott’s book was being looked at under the confidentiality agreement which was signed by advisers on their appointment and on leaving their post. Asked the Prime Minister’s feelings about Mr Scott in the light of his book, the PMS said that she had no intention of providing further comment on the issue which might then be used as some form of publicity when the book was published.

Asked if Downing Street believed it would be able to stop the book being published, the PMS said that the book was currently being looked as by the Cabinet Secretary. Asked if we would rather it wasn’t published, the PMS said that she had no intention of providing any further comment on the matter which could give the book more publicity further down the road. Asked what action Downing Street would take were Mr Scott to be unwilling to make any changes to his book, the PMS declined to get drawn into a discussion about hypothetical scenarios. The Cabinet Secretary was currently looking at the book. That was the position at the moment. In answer to further questions, the PMS referred journalists to the Cabinet Office for more detail about the process of publishing books written by Ministers, officials and advisers.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Search for related news

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