Belfast Telegraph

Monday 14 July 2014

Sitting extended for hacking debate

David Cameron

David Cameron has signalled that parliament's summer break is to be delayed after Britain's top police officer became the latest casualty of the phone-hacking scandal.

The Prime Minister said the Commons was likely to sit on Wednesday so he could "answer any questions that may arise".

But, in the wake of Sir Paul Stephenson's bombshell resignation as Metropolitan Police commissioner on Sunday, he denied there was any comparison to be made with his own position and defended his decision to visit Africa while the crisis raged.

Speaking at a joint press conference with South African president Jacob Zuma in Pretoria, Mr Cameron said: "I think it right for Britain to be engaged with South Africa and to be engaged with Africa as a whole. There is a huge opportunity for trade, for growth, for jobs, including jobs at home in the UK. I think it is right for the British Prime Minister to be out there with British businesses trying to drum up exports and growth that will be good for both our countries."

Mr Cameron added: "The situation in the Metropolitan Police Service is really quite different to the situation in the Government, not least because the issues that the Metropolitan Police are looking at, the issues around them, have had a direct bearing on public confidence into the police inquiry into the News of the World and indeed into the police themselves."

Mr Cameron's defence came after Sir Paul announced his departure, admitting that the furore over his links with former News of the World deputy editor Neil Wallis risked damaging the Met.

However, the commissioner also delivered a barb at Mr Cameron by suggesting his decision to hire Mr Wallis as a media adviser was less controversial than the appointment of the newspaper's former editor Andy Coulson as Downing Street communications director.

Downing Street said Mr Cameron is planning to make a statement updating MPs at 11.30am on Wednesday. However, there will not be a Prime Minister's questions session afterwards. A spokeswoman for the premier also revealed that a new list of his contacts with senior media figures will be released later after some "omissions" were identified.

The Culture Select Committee later announced that Rupert and James Murdoch will be giving evidence at 2.30pm on Tuesday. Ms Brooks will appear by herself from 3.30pm, the committee confirmed. Ms Brooks's solicitor Stephen Parkinson, of Kingsley Napley, said the Metropolitan Police put no allegations to Ms Brooks during nine hours of interviews on Sunday, and he described the decision to arrest her as causing "enormous reputational damage".

Ed Miliband said Prime Minister David Cameron has a "whole series of unanswered questions" to address about his relationship with Ms Brooks and the Murdochs, Ed Miliband insisted today. The Labour leader said there was a "sharp contrast" between the "honourable" decision by Met commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson to resign and Mr Cameron's repeated refusal to admit he made an "error of judgment" by employing ex-News of the World editor Andy Coulson.

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