Friday 20 April 2018

VIDEO: Cameron hints he should not have hired Andy Coulson

British Prime Minister David Cameron. Photo: Getty Images
British Prime Minister David Cameron. Photo: Getty Images
Andy Coulson. Photo: Getty Images

Paul Keaveney

Prime Minister David Cameron said today he would have "taken different decisions" over the appointment of former News of the World editor Andy Coulson as his director of communications if he had "known then all the things I know now".

Speaking during a visit to Cheshire to promote new enterprise zones, he was asked whether the appointment of Mr Coulson, who since stepped down as his adviser, had raised questions over his judgment.

Mr Cameron said: "Clearly, if I had known then all the things I know now, then obviously I would have taken different decisions."

He added: "And the important thing to remember is that Andy Coulson doesn't work for the Government any more and, of course, when he was working for the Government, no-one made complaints about the work that he did.

"But let's let the police and the other investigations go to work."

Asked if it was time for him to apologise, the Prime Minister responded: "Well, I did actually say sorry in the House of Commons, very clearly. I said I was sorry for the trouble this had caused because of what had happened."

It emerged this week that News International executives were told four years ago that phone hacking was rife at the News of the World and subsequently paid a jailed employee a quarter of a million pounds after he claimed Mr Coulson authorised and then tried to hide the extent of it at the newspaper when he was editor.

Previously secret papers show that Rupert Murdoch's most senior lieutenants paid the NOTW's disgraced royal editor, Clive Goodman, £243,000 in compensation soon after he had made damaging accusations against the company and its senior staff.

These included the claims that phone hacking was widely discussed at NOTW editorial meetings until Mr Coulson "banned" mention of it. Mr Goodman also alleged in a letter to the company that Mr Coulson promised him "a job at the newspaper" after he came out of prison if he "did not implicate the paper or any of its staff" in his mitigation plea.

The hundreds of pages of documents, released by the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee, also shed doubt on key aspects of James and Rupert Murdoch's evidence to MPs last month. A firm of lawyers acting for the company claimed that parts of the Murdochs' evidence were "hard to credit", "self-serving" or "inaccurate and misleading".

James Murdoch also now admits that he misled the committee when he claimed that a payout made to a victim of phone hacking had not been influenced by a desire to keep details of the settlement confidential.

When the company settled with Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, Mr Murdoch now says: "I did not know at the time or when I gave my evidence that any part of the Taylor settlement related to the confidentiality aspect... I have [since] been informed that confidentiality was a factor in determining the amount of the settlement payment."

But it is the allegation that Mr Coulson knew about phone hacking and the financial attempts to prevent such information coming out in an employment tribunal that is most damaging.

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