Thursday 8 December 2016

Heat switches to Cameron as Coulson visit comes to light

Andrew Porter in London

Published 16/07/2011 | 05:00

BRITISH Prime Minister David Cameron was facing fresh questions about his judgment last night after Downing Street revealed that Andy Coulson had stayed with him at country residence Chequers three months after he had resigned because of the 'News of the World' hacking scandal.

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Number 10 admitted that Mr Cameron had invited Mr Coulson for a 'thank-you lunch' on the last weekend in March. The former editor of the newspaper had resigned in January as the UK prime minister's head of communications just as the hacking scandal began to escalate.

Mr Coulson's overnight stay at the Buckinghamshire retreat came just 10 days before two senior 'News of the World' executives from Mr Coulson's time at the paper were arrested as part of Operation Weeting, the police phone hacking investigation into launched in January.

Last week Mr Coulson was arrested by police investigating allegations of phone hacking and police bribery during his time as editor.

Warnings

Disclosure of the meeting will add to the pressure on Mr Cameron who has struggled to escape criticism over his backing of Mr Coulson, who he employed in government despite a series of warnings that the phone hacking scandal could embarrass him.

Documents released by No 10 last night also expose how since taking office Mr Cameron has had personal meetings with both Rupert Murdoch and his son James.

Last night's disclosure of Mr Cameron's meeting with Mr Coulson came as:

Š Paul Stephenson, the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, faced more questions over his decision to hire former 'News of the World' deputy editor Neil Wallis as a personal adviser. The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, questioned if the phone hacking inquiry had been jeopardised as a result.

Š News International placed adverts in national newspapers in which Rupert Murdoch apologised unreservedly for the phone hacking scandal.

Š Mr Murdoch met the family of Milly Dowler, and said his newspaper had fallen short of the standards his father and mother would have expected.

Mr Cameron said on Wednesday that if Mr Coulson had lied to him over his involvement in phone hacking, then "it would be a matter of deep regret and it would be a matter for a criminal prosecution".

Labour last night again questioned Mr Cameron's judgment for continuing to stay close to Mr Coulson despite worrying questions about his time as a News International editor.

The list published by Downing Street last night reveals that Mr Murdoch was the first media figure Mr Cameron met with after he became prime minister in May last year. Rebekah Brooks, who until yesterday was chief executive of News International, was the first newspaper executive to visit Chequers in June 2010.

In total there have been 15 meetings with News International and News Corporation editors and proprietors since May 2010. (©Daily Telegraph, London)

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