After this morning’s shock Daily Mail splash on Patrick Rock’s arrest, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman was grilled on the case at the noon lobby briefing. He repeatedly told journalists that the matter was immediately referred to the National Crime Agency.
But why was the arrest, which took place on in the early hours of 13 February, not briefed to the press – until it leaked last night? The spokesman said:
‘Well, hold on. Number 10 immediately referred this to the National Crime Agency. Of course, this is all directly linked to a police investigation and I don’t think we would proactively comment on that… I think that when… I think it is no surprise that we would not comment proactively on police investigations…When a question was put to us, we responded, obviously subject to the constraints of there being an ongoing police investigation.’
But why didn’t Downing Street announce that the deputy director of the Policy Unit had resigned?
‘There’s a direct link to a police investigation, that’s the explanation… I don’t think people would expect us to proactively comment on things that were directly linked to police investigations.’
He was also asked why Rock’s colleagues were told that he had been off sick. The spokesman replied:
‘I don’t think that that was the case. It’s not correct to say that Downing Street staff have been told that.’ Asked again what colleagues were told about why he wasn’t there, the spokesman said he was ‘not going to get into an internal staffing matter’.
The spokesman also confirmed that a ‘complaint around alleged inappropriate behaviour was made’, but wold not give details on the outcome of that complaint, saying it would be ‘quite inappropriate’ and that the matter was dealt with ‘very seriously’. When he was asked whether anyone else in Downing Street had been arrested, he said:
‘Absolutely not to my knowledge, no.’