THE DAVIES AFFAIR: How much did Downing Street know about that night on Clapham Common?

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The Independent Online
DOWNING STREET admitted yesterday that the Prime Minister did know about the background to the incident on Clapham Common before Ron Davies arrived at No 10 to offer his resignation.

Under close questioning, the Prime Minister's official spokesman also confirmed that Tony Blair had summoned Mr Davies to Downing Street after being alerted about the incident by the Home Office, which had received a report from the police about the cabinet minister.

In one of the toughest grillings so far faced by Alastair Campbell, it emerged that Mr Blair had been briefed before Mr Davies' arrival about the circumstances, which are only now emerging. "The Home Office told us that they had been informed of this incident... The Prime Minister was aware that was what Ron was coming to see him about."

That appeared to contradict the No 10 briefing last week that the press had been given "all the salient facts".

The briefing showed that Mr Blair was decisive in calling Mr Davies to No 10. It also appeared to explain why Mr Blair accepted Mr Davies' resignation when he claimed he was the victim of a crime. But it also gave an insight into No 10's economy with words, which has allowed the affair to keep running.

Question: Was Downing Street briefed about the facts of what happened on Clapham Common? Spokesman: "The Home Office was informed that Ron had been involved in a criminal incident."

Question: A week ago the spokesman had said the press had `all the salient facts'. Did this not contradict that version of events? Spokesman: "We were informed that Ron Davies had been involved in an incident; that it involved a black male. The police inquiry is a matter for the police. What I was briefing you on last week was on what Ron Davies told the Prime Minister."

Question: There were suggestions Ron Davies had given the police four different versions. Was Mr Blair aware of that? Spokesman: "I didn't know there were four versions..."

Question: Was there anything in the Home Office report to Mr Blair that suggested gay sex? Spokesman: "The reason why we said that all the obvious questions were put was based upon the fact that Ron Davies had been involved in ... a criminal act on Clapham Common."

Question: But the criminal activity was in Brixton? Spokesman: "We were told that a criminal incident had happened in Brixton. We know that Ron had been out on Clapham Common and we knew he had been involved in a crime of which he was the victim."

Question: Last week, we did not just ask you about what Ron Davies told the Prime Minister, we asked you what you knew? Spokesman: "I was answering questions based on what Ron Davies had told the Prime Minister."

Question: You knew [there was an incident]? Spokesman: "Yes. The Home Office had informed us that Ron had been involved in this incident and that it was a crime... As I said last week, there are parts of this story that we don't fully understand to this day."

Question: There were sex allegations about it taking place on Clapham Common? Spokesman: "We were aware of the rumours about sex and drugs."

Question: You said to us there were no salient facts available to you that were not available to us? Spokesman: "That remains the case. Ron has left the Government. I know no more than I have read in the papers. It is my job to brief as we see it. The rest is for the police inquiry."

Question: So even from Mr Davies' account, the Prime Minister had enough to accept his resignation? Spokesman: "Absolutely. Yes. Ron came here to resign based upon a series of events... we accept some of the answers are not terribly clear. What we knew is there had been a crime, that it occurred after Ron had been out on Clapham Common."

Question: But you said he had the salient facts? Spokesman: "That remains the case. The facts formed the Prime Minister's judgement and it is upon what Ron told him in that meeting."

Question: Did the Prime Minister [know] before or at the end that Mr Davies had given different versions of the events to the police? Spokesman: "Ron told us the same version throughout."

Question: There was a reference to the Cabinet Office getting involved in digging around? Spokesman: "That was after the Prime Minister had seen Ron. And the Prime Minister didn't use those words. There was obviously a necessity to try to establish the facts."