Prime Minister David Cameron has said there will be a public inquiry into phone-hacking and the press.
During Prime Minister’s Questions today Cameron said any inquiry would have to look at both the police handling of the original phone-hacking allegations against the News of the World and the behaviour of media organisations.
He suggested this could take the shape of two separate inquiries which could begin before the current criminal phone-hacking investigation by Scotland Yard has concluded.
Labour leader Ed Miliband said he was ‘encouraged’the Prime Minister had accepted the need for a public inquiry – and urged him to start to begin the process immediately, since the police investigation could take years to complete.
Miliband urged Cameron to appoint a senior figure to lead the inquiry, and to begin looking into the ‘culture and practice’of journalism and how the press is regulated, as well as the relationship between police and the media.
But Cameron rejected calls to refer News Corporation’s BSkyB bid to the competition commission, insisting the Government has ‘followed absolutely to the letter the correct legal process”.
He also refused to support Miliband’s calls for News International chief Rebekah Brooks to stand down.
Cameron admitted that ‘everyone at News International has got to ask themselves some pretty searching questions’but said the police should be allowed to complete their inquiries.
Miliband claimed Cameron’s response was ‘out of touch with millions of people in this country’and that hiring former NoW editor Andy Coulson as his PR chief had been a ‘catastrophic error of judgement”.
Meanwhile, Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson has issued a statement confirming payments were made by News Internatioal to a ‘small number’of Met officers.
He said: ‘As you know Operation Weeting – the investigation into phone hacking – commenced on 26 January. I can confirm that on 20 June 2011 the MPS was handed a number of documents by News International, through their barrister, Lord Macdonald QC.
‘Our initial assessment shows that these documents include information relating to alleged inappropriate payments to a small number of MPS officers.
‘Discussions were held with the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) at the time and they are content that this matter should continue to be investigated through Operation Elveden under the direction of DAC Sue Akers, in partnership with our Directorate of Professional Standards.
‘At this time we have not seen any evidence requiring a referral to the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) in respect of any senior officer.
‘Whilst I am deeply concerned by recent developments surrounding phone hacking they are a product of the meticulous and thorough work of Operation Weeting, which will continue.
‘Operation Elveden will be equally thorough and robust. Anyone identified of wrongdoing can expect the full weight of disciplinary measures and if appropriate action through the criminal courts.”