Brooks won friends but didn't influence people
Published 20/07/2011 | 05:00
REBEKAH BROOKS said yesterday that she was a friend of British Prime Minister David Cameron, but denied that she had influenced his appointment of Andy Coulson as his party's director of communications.
"The truth is that he is a neighbour and a friend but I deem the relationship to be wholly appropriate," she said.
The newly resigned chief executive of News International denied press reports she had spoken to him about the appointment of Mr Coulson -- or that News International had augmented Mr Coulson's salary while he worked at Conservative central office.
Asked whether she had ever spoken to Mr Cameron about Mr Coulson prior to his appointment, Ms Brooks replied: "That is not true. Never was true."
Appearing before the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee's investigation into phone hacking, the former tabloid editor said that the 'News of the World' had repeatedly assured her that allegations the newspaper used the practice were untrue. "They consistently denied any of these allegations in various internal investigations," she said.
"It was only when we saw the Sienna Miller documentation that we realised the severity of the situation."
When asked whether she had been lied to by senior employees, she declined to answer because of the criminal investigation.
She agreed that the 'News of the World' used private detectives. She said: "The use of private detectives in the late '90s and 2000s was the practise of Fleet Street and, after Operation Motorman and What Price Privacy?, Fleet Street actually reviewed this practice and in the main the use of private detectives was stopped."
Pressed by Labour MP Tom Watson, she added: "I was aware that the 'News of the World' used private detectives, as every paper in Fleet Street did. The payments. . . would have gone through the managing editor's office."
However, Ms Brooks denied she had ever met Glenn Mulcaire, the private detective exclusively contracted to the 'News of the World', who was jailed in 2007 for hacking into the royal household.
"I didn't know particularly that Glenn Mulcaire was one of the detectives that was used by the 'News of the World'," she said.
Asked whether she had any regrets, she said: "Of course I have regrets.
"The idea that Milly Dowler's phone was accessed by someone being paid by the 'News of the World' or, even worse, authorised by someone at the 'News of the World', is as abhorrent to me as it is to everyone in this room.
"And it is an ultimate regret that the speed in which we have tried to find out the bottom of these investigations has been too slow."
Referring to her comments in 2003 that payments had been made to the police, she said: "I can say that I have never paid a policeman myself. I have never knowingly sanctioned a payment to a police officer," she told the cross-party committee.
She admitted that "things went badly wrong" at the 'News of the World', but added that News International was a responsible news group. (© Independent News Service)