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Coulson 'not asked about severance'

Andy Coulson was not asked about his severance package from News International when he was hired as David Cameron's communications chief, it has emerged.

The payments - said to have continued for several months after he took up his new job and totalling hundreds of thousands of pounds - were regarded as "a private matter".

The disclosure by the Conservative Party raises fresh questions about the "due diligence" carried out before the ex-News of the World editor was employed.

However, a party spokesman denied suggestions from Labour that the payments could have constituted political "donations in kind" from News International.

Mr Coulson was hired by Mr Cameron in July 2007 on a reported salary of £275,000, six months after he quit as editor of the Sunday newspaper when its royal editor Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire were jailed for phone hacking.

According to the BBC, for several months after he started his new role, the spin chief was still receiving instalments of money as full settlement of his two-year contract as editor of the now defunct tabloid.

His severance package included continued access to healthcare and a company car, the corporation said.

The Prime Minister took Mr Coulson into government with him last year, putting him on the public payroll as Downing Street director of communications.

Mr Coulson quit in January as pressure over phone hacking continued to mount. He has since been arrested on suspicion of corruption and phone hacking and released on police bail until October.

The Electoral Commission has confirmed it is considering a letter from Labour MP Tom Watson questioning whether the severance pay effectively part-funded Mr Coulson's salary.


From Belfast Telegraph