Tuesday 12 December 2017

Video: Coulson to face new grilling by angry MPs

Andy McSmith in London

ANDY Coulson faces the prospect of another public grilling by MPs in the next two months if the police do not charge him with illegal phone hacking.

Members of the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee are furious about the replies they received when they asked whether Mr Coulson still had a financial link with Rupert Murdoch's newspaper empire after he began working for David Cameron.

One member of the committee, the Labour MP Paul Farrelly, accused him yesterday of acting "like a spiv". The committee's Conservative chairman, John Whittingdale, said Mr Coulson should have been more "clear" in his answers.

When Mr Coulson was giving evidence at a public session of the committee, he claimed he had no "secondary income" when he took up his post as director of communications for the Conservative Party in July 2007. It has since emerged that he received hundreds of thousands of pounds in severance pay from his job as editor of the 'News of the World', paid in instalments to the end of 2007. Other perks from that job, such as free health insurance, were extended for three years and he was allowed to keep his company car.

Tom Watson, a Labour member of the committee who has campaigned relentlessly to expose the phone-hacking scandal, is trying to uncover whether Mr Coulson declared the payments when he applied for a pass to give him access to Parliament. Passholders are required to tell the Commons authorities who is paying them.

Mr Watson has also demanded the Electoral Commission investigate whether the arrangements amounted to a covert subsidy to the Conservative Party. This was denied by Tory sources.

Mr Whittingdale said the committee would meet early in September to decide whether to recall Mr Coulson for more questioning as the position was "complicated" by the police investigation into phone hacking. Mr Coulson was arrested in July and has not been charged.

Irish Independent

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