» Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Butler Report

Asked if the Prime Minister had received a final copy of the Butler Report, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) confirmed that he had received it at lunchtime today. Asked if he had read it yet, the PMOS pointed out that he had been a bit busy today with the UK-Italian Summit. Asked how many Ministers had received an advance copy, the PMOS declined to get drawn into a discussion about processological issues. Asked how many pages made up the Report, the PMOS said that it was up to the Inquiry team to say. Questioned as to whether the Prime Minister had met Lord Butler today, the PMOS said no.

Asked if Cabinet would meet tomorrow to discuss the Report, the PMOS said no. The Prime Minister would have his usual internal meetings before going to the House for PMQs. As we had told journalists this morning, Lord Butler was expected to hold a press conference at about 12.30pm. With the Speaker’s permission, the Prime Minister would make a Statement at about 1.30pm, depending on business in the House.

Asked if it remained the Prime Minister’s view that John Scarlett should take up his post as head of MI6 in the light of speculation that he would be criticised in the Report, the PMOS said that we would respond to the Report tomorrow, not today. He added that the Prime Minister continued to have full confidence in Mr Scarlett. Asked if he was indicating that the Prime Minister would set out his view tomorrow as to whether Mr Scarlett should take up his new appointment, the PMOS said no. He had simply been making the point that he did not want to say anything today which might pre-empt either the Report or our response to it. Asked if there were any circumstances under which Mr Scarlett might not take up his MI6 post, the PMOS said that he had absolutely no intention of getting drawn into a discussion about the possible implications of the Butler report. He had reiterated the Prime Minister’s confidence in Mr Scarlett this afternoon following questions at press briefings this morning and last week. Asked why Mr Scarlett had been promoted to head of MI6 before the Butler Report had been completed, the PMOS said that an independent selection committee, chaired by Sir David Omand, had considered the nominations and had chosen to appoint Mr Scarlett. All the proper procedures had been followed, as you would expect. Put to him that another nominee had been widely expected to get the job, the PMOS said that he was unable to account for expectations. He was only able to account for what actually happened, as we had briefed at the time of Mr Scarlett’s appointment. Asked if the Prime Minister had been in contact with John Scarlett since lunchtime today, the PMOS said that it wasn’t our policy to brief on private conversations between the Prime Minister and those who served the Government. Questioned as to whether anyone had taken over as chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, the PMOS said not at this stage. However, that was purely an internal matter.

Briefing took place at 15:45 | Search for related news

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