Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

Coulson faces new hacking questions

Phone hacking was 'widely discussed' at the News of the World under former editor Andy Coulson, it is claimed

Former News of the World editor Andy Coulson is facing fresh questions over his role in the phone-hacking scandal after MPs released documents claiming the practice was "widely discussed" at the newspaper.

Papers published by the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee suggest the issue frequently came up at the paper's editorial meetings until Mr Coulson banned any further mention of the subject.

Despite resigning as the paper's editor in 2007, Mr Coulson has consistently maintained he had been unaware of the practice, claiming it was confined to one "rogue" reporter - former royal editor Clive Goodman.

Labour MP Tom Watson described the latest claims as "devastating" and said they suggested previous evidence given by Mr Coulson to the committee was "at best misleading and probably deceptive".

The disclosure is also potentially highly embarrassing for David Cameron who made Mr Coulson his director of communications after he quit the News of the World.

The Prime Minister has said he would make a "profound apology" if it turned out Mr Coulson - who has already been questioned by police - had lied to him about his involvement when he gave him the job.

Labour leader Ed Miliband said the latest evidence showed what a "catastrophic" judgment it had been for Mr Cameron to take Mr Coulson with him into Downing Street. Mr Coulson subsequently left No 10 last January.

A Downing Street spokesman said it would be "inappropriate" to comment, adding: "The Prime Minister has made his thoughts on Andy Coulson clear."

In further developments, Culture, Media and Sport Committee chairman John Whittingdale indicated they would probably recall James Murdoch after his evidence to the committee was challenged by two former executives at the paper.

Former legal manager Tom Crone and Mr Coulson's successor as editor, Colin Myler, will now appear before the committee on September 6 with other senior figures from the organisation.

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