British Prime Minister David Cameron emphatically denied claims that his staff tried to stop an inquiry into a phone-hacking and police bribery at the News of the World and defended his decision to hire one of the tabloid’s editors as his communications chief.
In a raucous emergency session on Wednesday in Parliament, Mr. Cameron admitted, however, that both the ruling Conservatives and the opposition Labour parties had failed to pursue key developments in the hacking case over the years.
“The greatest responsibility I have is to clear up this mess,” Mr. Cameron told lawmakers, promising that a government inquiry would investigate whether other media organisations besides News of the World also committed illegal acts over the years.
Mr. Cameron cut short his Africa trip to appear before the House of Commons, which delayed its summer break to debate issues engulfing Britain’s political and media elite and Rupert Murdoch’s global communications empire, News Corp., which owned the troubled News of the World.
Mr. Cameron’s former communications chief Andy Coulson ‘a former editor at the tabloid’ is among 10 people who have been arrested in the scandal. One person has been cleared by police.
Lawmakers want to know why Mr. Cameron insisted on hiring Mr. Coulson despite warnings and how much the Prime Minister knew about the phone-hacking investigation. Some have alleged that some of Mr. Cameron’s staff may have met with police in an attempt to pressure them to drop the investigation.
“To risk any perception that No 10 (Downing Street) was seeking to influence a sensitive police investigation in any way would have been completely wrong,” he said.
Mr. Cameron did, however, meet with News Corp. executives more than two dozen times from May 2010 to this month, meetings that were criticised in Parliament by Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, who said Mr. Cameron made a “catastrophic error of judgment” in hiring Mr. Coulson.
Mr. Cameron defended Mr. Coulson’s work in government and said if it emerged that Mr. Coulson had lied to him about his role in the hacking case he would take it seriously.
“You don’t make decisions in hindsight,” Mr. Cameron said.
Ethics of police and the press
Mr. Cameron also said the hacking affair raises questions over the ethics and values of London’s police force. He told lawmakers that he would look at ways to bring in new leadership to Britain’s police force and named six people who will assistant Lord Justice Brian Leveson’s inquiry into the culture, practices, and ethics of the press.
The scandal has captivated audiences from America to Mr. Murdoch’s native Australia, and there’s more to come; only a fraction of some 3,870 people whose names and telephone numbers were found in News of the World files have been contacted by police so far. It remains unknown how many of those names were targeted for hacking. Hindu