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No. 10 Afternoon Press Briefing From 20 Nov 2007

Briefing from the British Prime Minister's Spokesman on: HMRC

Afternoon press briefing from 20 November 2007

HMRC (HM Revenue & Customs)

Asked when the Prime Minister was first told about the situation at HMRC and if the Chancellor at any stage offered to resign, the Prime Minister's Spokesman (PMS) began by explaining to journalists that as the Chancellor's statement was ongoing it was difficult to comment on any specifics around this issue. However, she could confirm that the Prime Minister was informed once the Chancellor had been informed i.e. the Chancellor told the Prime Minister straight away. The Chancellor was going into the chronology of events in his statement. In answer to the second question, no.

Asked again if the Chancellor had offered to resign, the PMS said it was her understanding that the Chancellor had not offered to resign.

Asked if the Prime Minister had been told on 10 November, the PMS replied that the answer to that question and other specifics on chronology were being set out in the statement by the Chancellor.

Asked if the HMRC problem was discussed in Cabinet this morning, the PMS said that Cabinet was informed that a statement of this nature would be made today.

Put that they did not discuss Northern Rock at Cabinet, the PMS said that that was correct.

Asked for specifics on what was discussed at Cabinet regarding HMRC, the PMS made it clear that she was not going to add anything to what she had already said.

Asked if the Prime Minister had full confidence in the Chancellor, the PMS replied yes.

Asked if the Prime Minister had full confidence in other Treasury Ministers, the PMS replied yes; the Prime Minister had full confidence in his full Government team.

Asked if the Prime Minister regretted that Paul Gray had to resign, the PMS said that matters regarding Paul Gray and HMRC were being dealt with at that moment in the House of Commons and it would therefore be inappropriate for her to comment further.

Asked why the Chancellor had not offered to resign, the PMS said that she was not a spokesperson for the Chancellor.

Asked for the Prime Minister's view on the HMRC situation, the PMS said that obviously the Government and the Prime Minister took the protection of personal data, in whatever form, extremely seriously and that was why the Prime Minister fully supported the actions that would be set out by the Chancellor in terms of HMRC particularly, but also why he had undertaken measures to strengthen public information protection.

The PMS went on to remind people about the Prime Minister's Liberty speech last month in which he asked the Information Commissioner to carry out a review of the framework in the UK to ensure the security of personal data. This was an issue which the Prime Minister considered to be very important.

Put that the Prime Minister and Paul Gray were at Remembrance Day a day after the 10 November and that the Prime Minister presumably knew at that point, it was asked if they discussed the matter, the PMS said she would have to make enquiries.

Asked what Paul Gray's package would be, the PMS said that those details would be set out by the Cabinet Office in due course.

Asked if the Government was seeking any further resignations from HMRC as the Chancellor had clearly identified people who had breached procedures, the PMS said that it was not for her to get into HMRC personnel issues; journalists had the statement from the Chancellor. She did not think there was any further information on that aspect of the issue that she could point people towards.

Asked on what grounds the decision was taken not to make the situation public, the PMS said that those decisions and the chronology of those decisions were being dealt with in the House of Commons at that moment but that she understood that this was frustrating for journalists.

Put that it was a bit surprising that the PMS could not tell journalists about this statement in advance and that that implied that a fairly last minute decision was taken to make the statement today, the PMS said that she had not been in a position to tell journalists that this was happening this morning.

Asked whether that meant that the PMS did not know, the PMS repeated that at this morning's lobby she was not in a position to tell people that it would be happening.

Put that Paul Gray had signalled that he was intending to resign before and that presumably this could not have been a last minute decision, the PMS said that she was not going to get into any of those types of discussions.

Asked if it was fair to assume that the Prime Minister was party to the decision when to make this announcement, the PMS said that as you would expect with all major Government business, the Prime Minister's office was consulted and kept informed.


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