Tuesday, July 19, 2011

In A World of Persecution That Is Burning In Its Greed

Rupert Murdoch has said that his appearance before MPs to answer questions about phone hacking was 'the most humble day of his life.' And that was before he got a custard pie in his mush.
Murdoch's appearance is the first time the News Corporation boss has faced personal scrutiny by MPs during his forty-year media career in the UK. His son James Murdoch the small said that hacking by the News of the World was 'a matter of great regret.' He said that his firm had failed to live to 'the standards they aspired to.' Opening the hearing, committee chair John Whittingdale said that abuses had been uncovered 'which had shocked and anger the country' and it was clear that Parliament had been misled. The Murdochs initially declined to appear before the committee but changed their minds after they were issued with a summons to attend. At the culture committee, Whittingdale questioned James Murdoch on the evidence given to the committee in 2007 by News International executives, who said that there was no evidence anyone else had indulged in phone hacking apart from the royal reporter Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire. James Murdoch added the company relied on the police having closed the investigation and their repeated assertions that they had no new evidence; on the PCC report that said the same and on its own legal advice, which said there was 'no additional illegality' beyond the two convictions. The 2007 committee inquiry heard from News International legal manager Tom Crone, former executive chairman Les Hinton, former News of the World editor Andy Coulson, managing editor Stuart Kuttner and Colin Myler, the paper's then-editor. Tom Watson, the Labour MP who has pursued the hacking affair doggedly, started with Rupert Murdoch, pointing him to past comments that he had a 'zero tolerance' attitude to wrongdoing. He must have been misled, Watson said. 'I don't know – that is what the police are investigating,' replied Murdoch. He then accepted that, yes, he had been misled. Watson then asked Rupert Murdoch about a civil case involving Neville Thurlbeck, former chief reporter of the News of the World, and now a suspect in the hacking case, in which Thurlbeck was accused of blackmail. Murdoch claimed that he had 'never heard' of Thurlbeck, and added that he knows nothing about the blackmail case. Watson during a thorough and detailed questioning of Rupert Murdoch on the details of the phone hacking investigations carried out internally at News International asked, essentially, who knew what and when. Rupert Murdoch appeared to be having considerable trouble following the question and in finding appropriate answers. There were long pauses between the end of Watson's questions and Murdoch's answers. He was asked whether he was told about the DCMS conclusion that News International executives had 'collective amnesia.' At which point he laughed and said that, essentially, they were really accusing News International of lying. Watson returned to his question, was Murdoch informed of the committee's findings? Murdoch said he was not. He added that he was also never told about the crucial seven hundred thousand pounds settlement with Gordon Taylor, the former chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, which James Murdoch added was 'below the approval threshold' required to inform his father. Charlie Brooker noted around this point on Twitter: 'This has to be the most uncomfortable broadcast since that Britain's Got Talent where the little girl started crying.' It was, indeed, rather like watching somebody trying to coax incriminating answers out of a stone. A very old, very slowly spoken stone. 'When did you realise a parliamentary committee had accused your executives of collective amnesia?' Murdoch said he did not know. James Murdoch offered to answer but Watson noted that his father is responsible for corporate governance at the organisation. If he does not know the answer to questions, is that not revealing? 'Why was no one fired in April, when the company took responsibility for large-scale phone hacking?' Murdoch said that people in the company were guilty. 'We have to find them and we have to deal with them appropriately.' James Murdoch said that most of those responsible had long since left the company. 'Why did you decide to risk the jobs of two hundred people before pointing the finger at those responsible for running the company - your son and Rebekah Brooks?' Rupert Murdoch replied that he is making every efforts to find jobs for those people in other parts of the company. Did he close the paper down because of the criminality? He replied: 'We felt ashamed of what had happened. We had broken our trust with our readers.' Asked by Jim Sheridan about allegations in the Daily Mirra that News of the World journalists hacked into the phones of 9/11 victims, Rupert Murdoch said: 'We have seen no evidence of that at all and as far as we know the FBI haven't either. If they do we will treat it exactly the same way as we do here.' Asked by Tory MP Therese Coffey if the News of the World closure was 'a commercial decision,' Rupert Murdoch said: 'Far from it.' The News of the World, he added, was closed after a discussion by the whole News Corp board. On the out-of-court payment to Gordon Taylor, which some have claimed was to buy his silence on phone hacking, James Murdoch said that 'the underlying interception was not a disputed fact' and the company was likely to lose the case. In that case, the cost could have reached as much as one million pounds, he added. Sheridan asked Rupert Murdoch: 'Do you accept that, ultimately, you are responsible for this whole fiasco?' 'No,' replied Murdoch. Who, then, was responsible? Murdoch claimed that was the people he trusted, and the people they trusted. He said that he worked with Les Hinton for fifty two years and would trust him with his life. (It was not clear from this whether Murdoch was saying that he believes he has now been let down by Hinton, or whether he was saying he still trusts Hinton, but that Hinton was let down by others. The point was not clarified later.) James Murdoch said that the stain on the company's reputation from the News of the World scandal was 'a matter of huge and sincere regret.' Rupert Murdoch occasionally seemed to struggle to remember details that he was being asked for; for instance, asked about a meeting with Tony Blair he frowned, then suggests that it was arranged 'by Mr Campbell.' He added that he was invited to 10 Downing Street within days of the last election to 'have a cup of tea' and be thanked for his support by David Cameron. Murdoch also said that he visited Gordon Brown via the back door of 10 Downing Street several times. The pre-committee News Corporation strategy was becoming clear by this point, James Murdoch appeared to have been well briefed to talk as much as possible and to keep the interventions of Rupert Murdoch to a minimum. The role of James Murdoch seemed to be to 'translate' his father's curt responses into comprehensive replies. It was noted that he might as well have precede every answer with: 'What my father means to say is ...' Fortunately the committee members were having none of it: Tom Watson in particular was determined to keep the focus on Rupert Murdoch, who as the chairman and CEO of News Corporation was in charge of corporate governance. When John Whittingdale asked if there were plans for a new Sunday tabloid from News International, Rupert and James Murdoch both, at much the same time, said no. Eventually James said that there are no current plans although he did add that it has been discussed but was not a priority. Sky News's Sohpy Ridge immediately tweeted: 'James Murdoch "no immediate plans" for a new Sunday tabloid. That word "immediate" is the key one. My understanding is it is being discussed.' Grilled by Therese Coffey over some of the offensive headlines on News International titles, such as the Sun's coverage of the Hillsborough disaster in 1989, Murdoch said that the intention was never to offend people. Discussion then moved on to free press in general. On whether his paper's would now change their ways, Rupert Murdoch said Britain has 'a wonderful variety of voices,' with media outlets 'naturally competitive.' He added that Britain does benefit from having a competitive press. It makes society transparent. 'That is sometimes very inconvenient to people,' he suggested. But the country is, ultimately, stronger for that. The BBC's political editor Nick Robinson was blogging from inside the room: 'It is hard to equate the man sitting a few feet away from me with the global media mogul feared by political leaders throughout my adult lifetime.' Singer George Michael had a different take on things, tweeting: 'It must be great to be so close to your own father that he can use you as a human shield. Dad of the year.' Blogger Paul Waugh pointed out that James Murdoch's catchphrase during the session appeared to be: 'I have no knowledge of that.' James Murdoch again denied that the out-of-court settlements were intended to buy silence. 'Confidentiality agreements are normal practice in out-of-court settlements,' he claimed,, despite the large sums involved. Murdoch junior also returns to his strange linguistic habit, talking about 'the quantum of damages' instead of the 'amount.' Gobshite Tory MP Philip Davies asked if Clive Goodman and Glen Mulcaire had received any payments after their conviction. James Murdoch said that he was 'very surprised' to find out that the company had helped with both men's legal fees. He claimed that he did not know who had made such arrangements. Davies asked if the Murdochs regretted ending the News of the World to 'save' Rebekah Brooks. The two decisions were 'totally unrelated,' Rupert Murdoch said. Brooks's resignation was accepted after the second time she offered it, as she was 'in a state of extreme anguish.' Murdoch said he works a ten or twelve-hour day and 'I cannot tell you the multitude of issues I handle.' The News of the World was 'small' in this context, he added. Asked if he had 'overpaid' Gordon Taylor or Max Clifford, James Murdoch suggested he made a judgement on Taylor 'based on advice.' Rupert Murdoch said there was 'apparently' a contract with Max Clifford which was 'cancelled' by Andy Coulson. James Murdoch was asked why ex-Sky football pundit Andy Gray's reported payout of twenty thousand pounds was so much lower than those for Clifford and Taylor. He replied that losing the earlier cases would have meant 'substantial' costs, if they had gone to court and damages and legal fees had been payable. Labour MP Paul Farrelly asked if News International has been paying Glenn Mulcaire's legal fees during the course of the civil actions. James Murdoch said he did not know the exactly details but added, again, that he was 'shocked' to find some of the private investigator's fees had been paid. He added that he does not know 'the precise status' of whether the company is still contributing to Mulcaire's legal fees. Rupert Murdoch added that he would 'like to' stop all payments to Mulcaire, providing it is not in breach of a legal contract. He would 'ensure' this happens, he added. The editor the Guardian, Alan Rusbridger tweeted at this point: 'James M: I was "surprised and shocked" we were paying Mulcaire's fees. Doesn't read the Guardian then.' Laura Kuenssberg wrote on Twitter: 'One MP tells me, "its like The Wizard of Oz, when you get to the Emerald City you realise Murdoch isn't the wizard you thought."' Paul Farrelly noted that The Sunday Times said in a recent article that the 'new paperwork' discovered by News International, and disclosed to the police, named various News International figures who were 'gatekeepers' to the phone-hacking information. The article suggested that they included Alex Marunchak, Greg Miskiw, Clive Goodman, Neville Thurlbeck and Ian Edmondson. Was that correct? James Murdoch said that he did not want to answer this question 'for legal reasons.' Asked why proceedings by Goodman and Mulcaire for unfair dismissal were settled by News International, Murdoch said it is important 'not to stray' into allegations about individuals, given that police investigations were under way. Farrelly - probably the most impressive of all the MPs in terms of their finding a painful target, said it is not known whether News International was complicit in keeping back information. Rupert Murdoch replied that he does not find the situation satisfactory. Farrelly asked 'In 2009 News International told the culture committee about a search of company e-mails that showed no evidence of phone hacking. One of the people involved was Jon Chapman. Why has he left the company?' James Murdoch said that Chapman and the company 'decided to part ways.' Farrelly asked when Les Hinton first become aware of the collection of paperwork discovered by the company this year in the offices of Harbottle & Lewis which appeared to reveal evidence of wrongdoing? Murdoch said that he does not know when Hinton read it. 'Was Colin Myler aware of it?' Murdoch said he cannot speak for Myler. 'Did Tom Crone know about it?' Murdoch said he did not know. 'When did Rebekah Brooks become aware of it?' Murodch initially said that he cannot speak for Brooks either but, later amended that to say that Brooks bought the subject to his attention 'recently.' Farrelly noted: 'Your cannot tell us who lodged this document, or who was aware of it? That's unsatisfactory.' Rupert Murodch answered that one. He said, bluntly, Jon Chapman was in charge of the file and he has 'left the company.' Given the picture that has been painted of individuals on a newsdesk 'acting as gatekeepers for information from a private detectives,' Farrelly wondered, 'is it possible that the editors did not know what was going on?' Murdoch senior replied: 'I cannot say that because of the police inquiries.' So, who knew about the 'smoking gun' e-mails, which showed that hacking was more widespread than has previously been admitted and which were in the possession of News International's lawyers? they were asked. James Murdoch said 'I can't speak to Mr Hinton's knowledge on the document [that was discovered in May in the offices of Harbottle & Lewis]. But I don't think that as chief exec he could have been expected to read hundreds of thousands of documents.' Asked again whether Rebekah Brooks, Tom Crone or others knew about it, James Murdoch repeated that he 'can't speak to other people's knowledge in the past.' Farrelly said 'So you can't tell us who filed this document with Harbottle & Lewis, or who was aware of its contents, on this document which clearly contradicts all of the evidence given to not one but two parliamentary inquiries. I'm sure you'd agree that's unsatisfactory.' Murdoch junior said that the company 'rested on' the advice given by outside law firms, but that he 'can't speak to' who specifically knew about it at which time. 'The Harbottle & Lewis documents were looked at in the light of the new investigation, and we brought in a new counsel to advise the company on the best way to take it forward. It was serious and we took it seriously.' Addressing Rupert Murdoch, Farrelly asks: 'So we don't know who at News International or News of the World was complicit in keeping that file from the select committees, evidence that we know led to your trusted aide Les Hilton to give misleading evidence. Do you think that was satisfactory?' 'No,' said Rupert, bluntly. James Murdoch told Labour's Alan Keen that he understands 'completely' the MP's frustration that News International's original denials over hacking were 'too strong.' Keen asked if he meant 'totally untrue.' Murdoch said yes, if her preferred. Keen suggested that Rupert Murdoch's desire to protect Rebekah Brooks was 'admirable,' but asked if he now regretted that News International has become 'a family organisation.' The media mogul and billionaire tyrant replied that his son went through a proper recruitment process. So, asked Keen, 'is there too much nepotism in News Corporation?' Murdoch said that when the position as head of BSkyB became available, several people applied, including his son. James Murdoch was given the job because his father thought he was the best candidate. Conservative MP Damian Collins asked if it is correct that people in public life can expect 'total privacy.' Rupert Murdoch's brief reply: 'Nope.' Murdoch added that when the Daily Torygraph bought stolen documents on MPs' expenses it caused a huge outcry. He added that Singapore is the cleanest society in the world, as every minister is paid at least one million dollars a year and has no temptation to transgress. 'Good luck in selling that one,' Collins replied. Legal expert Joshua Rozenberg, meanwhile, was writing that James Murdoch had declined to answer several questions, notably from Paul Farrelly, on the ground that it could potentially prejudice police investigations. This seemed 'unduly generous of him.' As a witness giving evidence to a parliamentary committee, Rozenberg noted, 'he has immunity for what he says. There is no risk that he will face legal proceedings - either for contempt of court or libel - arising from anything he tells MPs. He must know that.' Rupert Murdoch said that papers should never break the law. He was brought up by a father who was not rich, but who was a great journalist. He bought a small paper and said that he would use it to 'do good.' He used it to expose the scandal of Gallipoli - something which aroused hostility in Britain. Collins asked about Murdoch's relations with politicians. To laughter from most of those present, Murdoch said that he wishes they would leave him alone. The prime minister to whom he was closest, he said, was Gordon Brown. He thought that Brown was a good man who had good values. Their wives became close. Their children played together and he said it was with genuine regret that Brown has fallen out with him, but he hopes that they will one day repair their relationship. Murdoch asked about his 'I think we handled it very well' statement. Mistakes were made and things were handled badly, he said. And then he suddenly stopped. 'I'm sorry, my son is telling me to stop gesticulating,' he said, referring to his continued thumping of the table and occasional waving his arms around. The committee laughed, for only the third or fourth time in this often tense hearing. Then, as Robert Peston subsequently noted, 'from high drama to the circus'. Just as the final MP, Louise Mensch, was beginning her questioning Rupert Murdoch appeared to have been attacked by somebody in the public gallery. The sitting was immediately suspended for ten minutes as the attacker was hustled out of the room by a couple of policemen. But not before Wendy Deng, Rupert Murdoch's wife, delivered one hell of a fisting on the chap as he got within touching distance of her husband. Confusion reigned as a man in a checked shirt was handcuffed in full view of the camera. The BBC News Channel newsreader, Sophie Long, looked wonderfully startled and talked about a 'kerfuffle' having taken place. Back at parliament Laura Kuenssberg was a bit more composed although she suggested that the 'white stuff' on the face of the, still visible, attack, 'might be a bandage' when it was, clearly, a custard pie. Nick Robinson soon confirmed that it was 'a plate of shaving foam' and that the man had attempted to hit Rupert Murdoch in the face with it whilst he shouted 'Greedy.' Robinson has tried to ask the police why the man did it, but was told 'now it's the subject of a police investigation.' James Murdoch couldn't have said it better himself, but he was still sitting in his seat looking utterly shocked and alarmed. It soon became clear that the attacker was someone who goes under the name Jonnie Marbles, at least on Twitter: 'Activist, comedian, father figure and all-round nonsense,' as he describes himself. We'll add to that, child and arsehole, I reckon. He'd been tweeting from inside the committee room for some time and thirteen minutes before the attack he announced: 'It is a far better thing that I do now than I have ever done before #splat.' What a cheb-end. Still, at this point it is worth asking an important question: How come people can't even take a small bottle of water onto a plane with them without getting a cavity search for their trouble, but someone can attack the head of News Corp, in Parliament, with a custard pie? We live in strange times, dear blog reader. It's 'despicable,' said Chris Bryant as Mr Marbles was hustled away, no doubt to Holburn nick where he'll be getting a damned good twatting in the cells of a few of the Met who were a bit pissed off that they way they've come out of today's headings (see below). 'There are serious questions that the country wanted answering, and this is no way to treat a man who is over eighty,' Bryant added. 'I guess they weren't looking for shaving foam,' he continued when asked about security failure here at Commons. Glorious understatement there, Chris. The BBC went outside where a couple of political analysts give their thoughts on proceedings for far rather like Hansen and Lawro on Match of the Day ('Unbelieveable,' 'Well, it's handbags, isn't it?') Thankfully, the session restarted after a fifteen minute break. Louise Mensch continued her questioning where she left off 'before we were so rudely interrupted.' She praised Rupert Murdoch's 'immense guts' for facing the committee. James Murdoch was asked when he became aware of the hacking of murder victims? As he responded he - genuinely - appeared to have to be prompted as to Milly Dowler's surname. Murdoch was questioned on the alleged hacking of 9/11 victims: 'It is just appalling to think that anyone associated with one of our papers would have done something like that. I am aware of no evidence of that. We have only seen the evidence in the press.' Mensch asked about any reports of phone hacking in News Corp businesses outside the UK. James Murdoch replied that he has not heard any and reiterated that employees are asked to comply with a specific code of ethics. Mensch noted that it has been reported the actor Jude Law is alleging that his phone was hacked by the News of the World whilst he was on US soil. She asked 'are you confident that no employee of yours hacked the phones of relatives of 9/11 victims.' Rupert Murdoch replied: 'We have no evidence of that at all.' Mensch then alluded to the vile and odious Piers Morgan seeming, she suggested, to boast about using hacking techniques to win a Scoop of the Year whilst he was editor on the Mirra in his book The Insider and also referred to the Daily Scum Mail editor Paul Dacre's assertion - at a select committee on Monday - that he had never sanctioned a story based on hacking or blagging (a claim which Mensch said she found 'laughable'). She asked whether journalists at the News of the World had felt 'entitled' to use hacking as it was 'part of the general culture of corruption' in the tabloid press. James Murdoch said that it was not for him to 'impugn' other titles. She asked whether, since the Murdochs say they have been 'let down' over the matter of the e-mails, they are considering suing Harbottle & Lewis. 'Any discussion of legal matters is one for the future,' replied James Murdoch. Concluding her questions, Mensch asked whether Rupert Murdoch, as 'captain of the ship,' has considered standing down as his loyal lieutenant Les Hinton recently did. He said that he has not, noting that it was 'a much bigger ship.' People working for him have 'betrayed' him and he considers himself to be 'the best person to clear this up.' Mensch again praised his 'immense courage' in staying in the room following the 'common assault' with the shaving foam. Murdoch gives a closing statement which he had wanted to read at the beginning. He said he has 'great respect' for the people of Britain. Tom Watson clearly wanted a bit more time but Whittingdale drew the proceedings to a close so Watson merely told Murdoch that his wife 'has a very good left hook.' (It was actually her right, but it's a minor detail.) Murdoch senior said he has made his 'share of mistakes' but at no time has felt as 'sickened' as he was when he found out what the Dowler family has been through. Murdoch added that he will work tirelessly to win the forgiveness of phone-hacking victims. John Whittingdale thanked the Murdochs and apologised for the 'wholly unacceptable' events. Earlier, Watson had asked whether News International would lift their half of the confidentiality agreement if Gordon Taylor would lift his in order that the full facts come to light. James Murdoch did not agree to this. And that was that. The moronic protest against Murdoch seems to have 'completely backfired,' the Gruniad's Paul Owen was soon writing. 'It has transformed Murdoch into a sympathetic figure, an old man under attack from a young one, and may have contributed to the committee's decision to allow Murdoch to read his lengthy statement in full. He ended the session having the last word, able to express his contrition to the country. The headlines tonight and tomorrow may well be about the attack on Murdoch rather than the complex and detailed issues that were discussed in the session itself.' Oily twat Piers Morgan was quick to respond to Louise Mensch's comments with an outright denial of having ever had anything to do with phone-hacking: 'I've never hacked a phone,' he wrote online, 'told anyone to hack a phone, or published any stories based on the hacking of a phone.' It was also noted that the phrase 'humble pie' was suddenly trending on Twitter. Colin Myler, the editor of the News of the World until its closure, also issued a speedy denial of the evidence given in the committee - he said that he never saw the file held by Harbottle & Lewis, which suggested hacking was more widespread than News International had previously admitted. The Torygraph blog editor Damian Thompson wrote that Rupert Murdoch's frailty 'will shock people.' And on earlier developments: 'This is beginning to sound like Watergate. Yates, whom we thought might be trashed in this interrogation, seems to have successful turned round to spotlight to shine on the front door of No 10.' More than one commentator argued that Rupert Murdoch at times appeared as 'a broken man' during the session although the odd little moment when he snapped back at one MP or another if they said something he didn't like suggest that he maybe wasn't quite so broken as all that.

The human rights lawyer, Geoffrey Robertson QC, has told the BBC that Tom Watson was the only MP among those who questioned the Murdochs who had carried out his homework. However, he believed that Paul Farrelly was the only MP who 'landed a killer punch' when he asked the father and son if News International had been continuing to pay the legal bills of Glenn Mulcaire in any way. The revelation of an enduring link between the private investigator and the company was 'sensational' said Robertson, and one that showed up the company's apology to the family of Milly Dowler, the murdered teenager whose phone was hacked by Mulcaire, as 'utterly insincere.'

Then it was Rebekah's turn. Rebekah Brooks, deflected MPs' questions about the News of the World's payments to private investigators, saying they were the 'responsibility' of the paper's managing editor. Brooks admitted using private investigators during her time as editor of the now-defunct tabloid, which she edited between 2000 and 2003, but said that it was for 'purely legitimate' purposes, such as finding out the whereabouts of convicted paedophiles. But she said that she had never heard of Glenn Mulcaire, the private detective formerly paid by the News of the World to hack into people's mobile phones, saying the first time she had heard his name was in 2006 when he was arrested for this activity. 'The News of the World employed private detectives like most papers in Fleet Street,' said Brooks. Asked if she had approved payments for the controversial use of private detectives, Brooks said: 'That's not how it works.' Brooks explained that at News International 'the editor's job is to acquire an overall budget from management' and then give this to the managing editor, who allocates it to a paper's department heads. 'Final payments are authorised by the managing editor, unless there is a particularly big item, a set of photographs or something that needs to be discussed on a wider level,' she claimed. Asked if she had ever discussed individual payments to private investigators with Stuart Kuttner, the former News of the World managing editor who left the paper in 2009, said: 'Payments to private investigators would have gone through the managing editor's office. I can't remember if we ever discussed individual payments.' Brooks, who did not specifically name Kuttner in her evidence, said that she had never met or authorised payments to Mulcaire. 'I didn't know Glenn Mulcaire was one of the detectives that was used by the News of the World, no. I had never heard the name until 2006, I did not know he was on the payroll. There were other private investigators I did know about, he was not one of them.' Brooks, who resigned from News International on Friday and was arrested and questioned by police for several hours on Sunday, admitted News International's internal investigation had been 'too slow' and described the hacking of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler's mobile phone as abhorrent. 'The idea that Milly Dowler's phone was accessed by someone being paid for by the News of the World, or worse being authorised by someone at the News of the World, is as abhorrent to me as it is to everyone else,' she said. Brooks also said she had never paid a policeman for information despite telling the select committee in 2003: 'We have paid the police for information in the past.' 'Straight after my comment about payment to police it was in fact clarified [by News International],' Brooks said. 'I clarified it again to the home affairs committee at the end of March. I can say I have never paid a policeman myself, I have never knowingly sanctioned a payment to a police officer.' She added: 'In my experience of dealing with the police, the information they give to newspapers comes free of charge.' Brooks began her evidence by adding her own apologies to those of James and Rupert Murdoch, saying that the events at the News of the World were 'abhorrent,' a word she returned to on several occasions. She noted that her lawyer was with her so that she 'does not impede those criminal proceedings' having been arrested at the weekend but she hoped, she said, to be 'as open as possible.' Brooks was asked to reject a previous statement about whether News of the World journalists had accessed mobile phone messages. Brooks claimed that until the documents from Sienna Miller's civil action emerged in late 2010, senior management had not seen any evidence relating to a current employee of the company. Brooks argued that News International had acted 'quickly and decisively' once it had discovered the extent of hacking and had tried to settle as many civil cases as possible. Asked whether she had been lied to by senior employees - she said that she didn't want to 'infer guilt' while criminal proceedings are still under way. Brooks said that the Sienna Miller documentation was the first time she had seen evidence relating to a current employee's involvement in hacking and it was also the first time News International realised the true severity of the issue. She claimed they had only seen the evidence during the civil procedures because they had not had full access to the Glenn Mulcaire files. Tom Watson asked why News International recently sacked Tom Crone, the News of the World's legal manager. 'We didn't - there wasn't a job for him when the News of the World closed,' she said. 'Someone's still looking after the News of the World legal cases, though' asked Watson. It's being handled by News International team, she replied. 'Perhaps I misunderstood James Murdoch; he seemed to imply you'd sacked [Crone],' Watson noted. Brooks said that outstanding civil cases were being dealt with a standards committee which had been set up, and another company which had handled the civil cases all along. Watson asked how extensively she worked with private investigators as editor of the Sun and the News of the World. Brooks said 'not at all' on the Sun - she added that in the late nineties private investigators were used by Fleet Street - but that was later reviewed. She added: 'The News of the World employed PIs like most newspapers.' Watson asked three times how extensively Brooks worked with them. She claimed that the News of the World used them under her editorship. Brooks argued that the information commissioner had 'looked into this.' He found that Take a Break magazine used private detectives more than the Sun. The Observer was one of the top four papers using detectives. Paul Farrelly interrupts noting that he used to work for the Observer and it was not in the top four. Brooks said it may have been in 'the top six.' Brooks claimed that she had never heard the name Glenn Mulcaire until 2006. There were other investigators that she did know about. Brooks added that she has never met Mulcaire. Asked if Mulcaire would deny it, she said: 'I'm sure he would - it's the truth.' She also said that she had not met with another private investigator - Jonathan Rees. 'He wasn't a name familiar with me,' she said - adding that she is told he rejoined the News of the World in 2005-6 after being released from prison - and that he had worked for various newspapers at the end of the 1990s. She said it 'seems extraordinary' that Rees was rehired by the News of the World, after his conviction but she did not know who hired him. News International's management committee have information on Rees and are looking into it, she claimed. Tom Watson suggested that, as chief executive of the company, that seems incredible. Brooks said she did have contact with another private investigator Steve Whittamore - she says that her use of PIs while at the News of the World was 'purely legitimate' and mostly to do with tracking down convicted paedophiles for her 'Sarah's Law' campaign. Watson suggested that Whittamore was involved in trying to get information on the Dowlers. Brooks claimed that she only became aware of that fact two weeks ago. She said that the telephone number he was trying to track down when she used him was 'a business number' and 'widely known'. Watson asked about Mulcaire. Brooks says she did not know Mulcaire worked for the paper when she was editor. 'Did you ever receive information for the paper from him?' Brooks said that now she knows what she knows, she realises he was involved with the paper from the late 1990s. At his trial the judge said he did 'legitimate work' for the paper. Returning to Rees, Watson asked 'Who hired him?' Brooks said she did not know. 'Who signed his contract?' She did not know. 'Why haven't you investigated this?' Brooks claimed that the internal investigation has 'focused on phone hacking.' Rees, she added, also worked for other people, including Panorama. She claimed not to know what he did for the News of the World. 'Isn't it incredible that, as chief executive, you did not know?' 'It may be incredible,' she claimed. 'But it is the truth.' Watson asked if did she have any regrets? 'Of course,' said Brooks. Louise Mensch asks a similar question to that which she asked of James Murdoch about hacking and blagging - she noted that another former News of the World editor Piers Morgan had 'admitted accessing phone messages while he was editor of the Daily Mirror.' Mensch asked if it was not obvious that using PIs and illegal activities were part of a Fleet Street culture? Brooks said that the failings of all newspapers in not understanding the extent of private investigators across Fleet Street has already been held to account. The 'climate' was different now. Brooks asked whether payments to the police were 'widespread' across newspapers or confined to News International? Brooks repeated that she has never paid a policeman or sanctioned a payment - her 2003 statement to MPs that she had referred to a 'widely held belief' as opposed to practice that she had any actual knowledge of, she claimed. Mensch referred again to the Daily Scum Mail editor Paul Dacre's assertion that he had never sanctioned a story based on hacking or blagging. Brooks said that she didn't see Dacre's comments but out of all the media groups, News International has been the one to 'openly welcome' an inquiry into all Fleet Street practices. She added that she didn't want to comment on other newspaper groups. Brooks stressed that News International is 'trying to put things right' and said that there should be a constant review of conduct and ethics of journalists. Brooks said after Operation Motorman all papers had to accept that they had gone to far in using private detectives. 'If you thought these practices were endemic in the industry, why did you not think they were going on at the News of the World? Brooks claimed, after the What Price Privacy? report, there was a culture change in Fleet Street. Brooks said there was 'a fundamental change across most newspapers' in 2002-3 with changes to the Data Protection Act, particularly after the publication of the information commissioner's first report which exposed the trade in personal details. Jim Sheridan asked about his namesake Tommy Sheridan's perjury trial in Scotland. He said that e-mails which were believed to have been lost have now been found; Brooks said that the information commissioner has noted he is 'entirely comfortable' with News International's behaviour on the matter. Questioned on her telling News of the World staff that they would understand the decision to close the newspaper in a year's time, she talked about how the reputation of the paper had been irrevocably damaged. She added: 'Of course it wasn't the right decision for the hundreds of journalists who worked there who had done nothing wrong. We have endeavoured to find a job for every single one of them.' Challenged again on any specific revelations she knew were coming up, she said that she doesn't have 'visibility' of the Glenn Mulcaire files and so doesn't know. She estimated that the issue would take around a year to all come out. Asked whether she had contact with Andy Coulson during the Sheridan case, she said that she thinks she would have done because Coulson was working for David Cameron at the time so they would have been in touch mostly for work-related issues. On the subject of Glenn Mulcaire legal fees again: 'I think it was that his fees would be paid while he was a co-defendant in civil cases.' Damian Collins asked Brooks about the Dowler case and what involvement the editor would have. She said that the reporter would bring information to the news editor and they would discuss the veracity of information: 'There are many layers from reporter to assistant news editor to news editor. Finally the story will go to the backbench, the sub will often talk to the reporter directly, the lawyers are involved, then finally the final decision will be made by the editor where it is and how prominent it is.' She claimed that the newspaper had been in the headlines for the 'wrong reasons' for too long - but stressed hundreds of journalists there were not culpable. Iain Watson, the political correspondent of BBC News noted 'It may surprise some people that Rebekah Brooks can't remember exactly when she knew that Milly Dowler's phone had been hacked: "Last Monday, maybe the Monday before."' Brooks, astonishingly, claimed that - as obscene as it now sounds - she had believed that the press 'exercised great restraint' in both the Milly Dowler and Soham murder cases and had 'respected the privacy of the families.' She did concede that looks 'ridiculous' in hindsight: 'Clearly these allegations, if true, are appalling and contradict the statement I made.' Brooks added that she wasn't aware that the News of the World had allegedly passed information sourced from Milly Dowler's phone to Surrey Police until that allegation was made in a newspaper recently. She added: 'I don't know anyone in their right mind who would sanction or approve of listening to Milly Dowler's voicemails under those circumstances. I don't know of anybody who would think it was the right and proper thing to do.' Brooks said that she was convinced Sarah's Law was in the public interest and that was the reason for her use of private detectives. She told Paul Farrelly - who used to work at the Observer before becoming an MP - that his old newspaper would also have used private detectives during his time there. Brooks claimed the argument there was only 'one rogue reporter' involved in phone hacking was a 'reality' at the time - based on the police investigation and Goodman and Mulciare trial. Farrelly asked: 'Are there any legal ways of converting mobile numbers into addresses? When you used an investigator to do this, did you have a public interest defence?' Brooks said that when she used private detectives, it was in relation to Sarah's Law. That, she argues, was a public interest matter. 'Was the phone number you tried to obtain related to a suspect paedophile?' asked Farrelly. Brooks claimed that she cannot remember the details. But she was using private detectives at the time 'to trace paedophiles.' After the arrest of Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire, 'two myths were peddled by News International; that Goodman was a rogue reporter, and the Mulcaire was not really active. The Milly Dowler story demolished that,' noted Farrelly. Brooks said that Farrelly is saying these are myths now. But they that was not what people thought at the time. Brooks said that her own phone messages were accessed by Glen Mulcaire on a regular basis - and she had the 'same knowledge as everyone else' about it. After that, she claims, she was 'ringfenced' from the inquiry. Was Brooks on holiday at the time Milly Dowler's phone was allegedly hacked? She denied that the company had put out any statements to that effect deliberately to try to shift responsibility. She said that she was away at the time but feels that was irrelevant because, as editor, it would have happened 'on her watch.' Asked whether Andy Coulson would have been editing in her absence, she says: 'Presumably.' Asked about previous efforts by the company to respond to phone hacking allegations Brooks said that when they saw the new file it put 'a new light' on matters and they passed it on to police immediately. Farrelly referred to silence across Fleet Street about the coverage of the phone hacking allegations in 2009 - did Brooks encourage editors not to cover it? Brooks claimed that she does not recall speaking to the Daily Scum Mail editor Paul Dacre about the story but they would discuss 'industry matters' on occasion. She also denied telling London mayor Boris Johnson that she wanted Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger to 'beg for her forgiveness on his knees.' 'Absolutely not,' she replied. Farrelly asked about Jon Chapman, the legal adviser who recently left the company. Did Chapman asks Harbottle & Lewis to sit on the evidence suggesting wrong-doing. Brooks said that Harbottle & Lewis are 'a respected legal firm.' Chapman was 'a respected lawyer.' He would not have done that. 'Chapman seems to be the fall guy? Did he act alone?' Farrelly asked. Brooks said Chapman would say, if asked, that when they looked at the file, they would have felt that the Harbottle & Lewis letter saying there was no evidence of wrongdoing was correct. She said that when the story based on a hacked message from Milly Dowler's phone was run nine years ago it was a single column on page nine of the newspaper. However, questions would have been asked of the reporter or news editor, the lawyer would have checked them concerning their veracity. No-one would have said it came from an illegal voicemail interception. Brooks said that any newsroom is 'based on trust' - stories get published on trust and you rely on the people who work for you to behave 'in a proper manner.' She added that if the former Sun political editor Trevor Kavanagh came to her with a leaked story without naming his sources 'I knew it to be true' because of Kavanagh's standing and experience as a journalist. 'I don't think you will find any editor on Fleet Street that didn't feel that some headlines they had published had mistakes and I am no different to that,' she said in response to a question about whether she had any regrets about headlines that were published under her reign. How often would you speak to Rupert Murdoch? asked Philip Davies. 'I speak to him and to James far more often now that I am chief executive than when I was an editor. But I spoke to him pretty regularly,' she added. 'You said you were working to get everyone at the News of the World a job, which is admirable,' Davies claimed. 'Why did that not apply to Tom Crone?' 'He predominantly had worked as the legal manager for the News of the World, and there are legal teams for all other newspapers,' Brooks said. Davies asked whether Brooks knew that Neville Thurlbeck was a police informant. 'No,' Brooks replied before asking, 'Is that true?' 'It's in the Evening Standard,' Davies says. Brooks' eyebrows raised as Davies continued: 'It says that senior figures at NI were aware.' Brooks claimed that she doesn't really know what it means to be 'a police informant.' Davies argued that the Evening Standard is reporting that Thurlbeck was - based on court reports. Brooks argued that press and police do exchange information for public interest. 'If you are asking me about the members of the press and members of the police force, whether they have a symbiotic relationship of exchanging information in terms of the public interest, then they do. Most journalists who work as a crime editor or crime correspondent have a working relationship with their particular police force.' Therese Coffey then withdrew a question about who might yet be charged with crimes as it appeared to be a potential infringement on the ongoing police investigation. Coffey asked whether Brooks regrets any headlines she had published - Brooks replied that any editor in Fleet Street would have made some mistakes and she was no different. But having been in the spotlight herself, she said she would still defend the rights of a 'free press.' Brooks claimed that she has never been horse riding with David Cameron and has no idea where that story came from - she said that it has been suggested she owns a racehorse or some land with the prime minister: 'I do not,' she said. There's 'a lot out there that isn't true' - particularly around her relationship with David Cameron, whom she claimed was 'a neighbour and a friend' but she has never had a conversation with him privately that anyone would disapprove of. She was challenged on allegations that she vetoed other possible candidates for Cameron's media chief, and said that this is also not true - it's 'a matter of public record,' she argued that Andy Coulson was 'recommended by George Osborne.' Does Brooks 'swap gossip' with Cameron which might have been obtained by illegal means? Brooks said that any social encounters with the prime minister saw 'only wholly appropriate conversations.' And with that five hours of my life that I'll never got back concluded.

Whilst all of that had been going on, there had been other revelations. Not least that David Cameron's chief of staff, Ed Llewellyn, turned down the opportunity to be 'briefed' on phone hacking, according to former Metropolitan police assistant commissioner John Yates. Yates, who resigned on Monday, reviewed the phone-hacking evidence in 2009. He told the home affairs select committee that he offered to brief Llewellyn in September 2010, but Llewellyn said he would be 'grateful' if the matter was 'not raised.' It came as Yates clashed with the director of public affairs at the Met, Dick Fedorcio, over who was responsible for the appointment of the former News of the World deputy editor Neil Wallis. Llewellyn now appears to be under pressure after Yates revealed he was the 'senior official' who asked the Met not to brief the prime minister on the hacking scandal. The Met police commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, giving evidence before Yates, said that a senior official in No 10 had advised the Met not to inform the prime minister about the police's decision to hire Wallis. Yates then confirmed Llewellyn was the adviser in question. He said Llewellyn told him it was 'not appropriate' for him to brief the PM on the phone-hacking investigation, adding 'and I'd be grateful if it wasn't raised.' Last week it emerged that Llewellyn also failed to pass to Cameron the Guardian's warnings about the former News of the World editor Andy Coulson over hacking and his connections to Jonathan Rees, a private detective who was then facing charges for conspiracy to murder. Despite the warnings Llewellyn took the judgment that the information was already substantially contained in news reports in the public domain. Separately, Yates disputed the evidence given to the committee by Fedorcio, who had suggested that Yates was responsible for screening Wallis before his appointment to the Met. Fedorcio said that Yates 'conducted due diligence' on Wallis before his appointment, but Yates told the committee that would be 'slightly over-egging the pudding.' He said that he had sought personal assurances from Wallis before his appointment, but said that was 'not due diligence.' Yates also denied helping Wallis's daughter get a job at the Met, saying that he had 'simply acted as a postbox' by forwarding on her CV by e-mail to Human Resources, and said while he was 'friends' with Wallis, this relationship mainly revolved around attending a few football matches together. At the start of the home affairs select committee hearing Stephenson had denied that political pressure led to his resignation on Sunday, and refuted suggestions that he took 'a swipe' at the prime minister in his resignation statement. Stephenson said that the decision came after he learned of Wallis's links to Champneys, the expensive health resort where Stephenson received a free stay as he recovered from an operation. 'When I became aware that Mr Wallis was in some way connected with Champneys I thought that was a very difficult story,' he said. 'I think it was very unfortunate for me. I had no knowledge previously. I think that, together with everything else, I thought this is going to be a significant story, and if I am going to be a leader and do the right thing by my organisation I better do something quickly.' He added that the close proximity to the Olympics hastened his resignation. 'It was my decision and my decision only,' he said. Chairman Keith Vaz suggested that from Stephenson's resignation statement it 'seemed to be that you may have been taking a swipe at the prime minister,' but the commissioner refuted Vaz's statement, saying: 'I was taking no such swipe at the prime minister.' A small but loud group of protesters gathered outside Portcullis House wearing Rupert Murdoch, Paul Stephenson and David Cameron masks. One held a placard with 'smash Murdoch's evil empire' written on it. The group, of around a dozen people, shouted: 'When I say "Murdoch," you say "out."' Catchy. Yates, who became the second senior Scotland Yard officer to quit over the phone hacking scandal, called on senior executives at News International to 'face up to their responsibilities,' and suggested that they should follow in his footsteps by resigning. Yates delivered a hard hitting attack against the publisher while giving evidence to the committee around the phone hacking scandal just before Rupert and James Murdoch began giving evidence to the culture select committee on the same issue. He faced the home affairs committee for the second time in eight days following further revelations about links between the Met and News International and a day after resigning from his post – despite telling MPs last week he had no intention of doing so. Yates, the assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan police who in July 2009 made the decision not to reopen a criminal investigation into the scale of phone hacking by the News of the World, reiterated his belief that the longest finger of blame lay with the way News International failed to cooperate during the original investigation. He told the panel that he had paid a 'heavy price' for his accountability in police failures regarding the phone hacking scandal, and it was now for those at News International to take their share of the blame. 'If I had I known then what I know now, and the facts that News International delivered covered up, I would have made a completely different decision and none of us would be here today,' he said. Commenting later at the close of the session, Yates said: 'I have expressed regrets that more wasn't done about those potentially affected in 2005-06 and 2009. I paid a heavy price for it in announcing my intention to resign but I am accountable for what took place. I think we also must remember that it is not the police that have failed here in every respect, it is News International who have failed to provide us with the evidence they should have provided in 2005-06 then. I yesterday said I was accountable and I needed to stand up and be counted. I've done that. I do think it's time for others to face up to their responsibilities and do likewise.' Asked by Vaz to whom he was referring, Yates added: 'I think it's very clear. News International.' Asked if he believed there should be further resignations from News International, Yates said: 'It's a matter for them.' He also said there had not been a fair allocation of blame between the police and the Crown Prosecution Service over the legal advice received by the Met about what constituted an offence in illegal interception. Earlier in the session, he sought to emphasise the way News International had blocked police attempts to get information from them. He said that he had letters which showed that during 2005, 2006 and 2009, News International 'clearly, through legal advice, have constructed replies to letters that absolutely constrained the police's ability to get a production order.' He said the police were told by the Prosecution Service and via internal legal advice, that they if the publisher was 'seen to cooperate' and there wasn't evidence that it wasn't, then the production order could not be secured. Yates is one of four Met officers, past and present, facing an investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission over allegations relating to the phone hacking scandal. Stephenson, the Met chief who quit on Sunday, and senior ex-officers, Peter Clarke and Andy Hayman, also face investigation. Yates told the committee that he had resigned because the phone hacking scandal had become 'a huge distraction for me in my current role. I looked at the last two weeks in terms of my role as the head of counter-terrorism, I probably spent no more than two or three hours managing that level of risk,' he said. 'I see no indication at any time, either now, in the future or for some considerable period that that pressure will subside.' He denied claims made by Dick Fiasco, the head of communications at the Metropolitan police, that he had provided a reference for Neil Wallis, News of the World's former deputy editor, for contract work to assist Scotland Yard with PR. 'I didn't hear Mr Fedorcio's evidence [but] I think that's slightly over-egging the pudding, to put it mildly,' he said. 'I sought assurances off Mr Wallis before the contract was let to the effect is there anything in the matters that [the Guardian's] Nick Davies is still chasing and still reporting on that could at any stage embarrass you, Mr Wallis, me, the commissioner, or the Metropolitan police? I received categorical assurances that was the case. That's not due diligence – due diligence is in the proper letting of a contract. I had absolutely nothing to do with that, I had nothing to do with the tendering process, that was a matter for Mr Fedorcio.' Other key points from Yates's evidence: He said that it was 'possible' that he suggested to Fedorcio he should hire Wallis as a PR adviser. Yates said he could not remember exactly who suggested Wallis's name first. He played down the closeness of his friendship with Wallis. It mostly revolved around sport, he said, claiming that having first met Wallis in around 2000 he was someone whom Yates saw, at most 'two or three times a year.' The former assistant commissioner said an article in the Observer this weekend about his friendship with Wallis was 'codswallop.' Perhaps not the first word one would have thought he'd used given how much stick it got Boris Johnson yesterday. Nicola Blackwood asked Yates about his apparent statement to the first hearing that there 'may have been an element' of 'doing the minimum' in the first inquiry. Yates responded: 'Had there been any new evidence, of course we would have considered it and may have reopened the investigation, depending on the quality of the evidence. I think the "doing the minimum" statement has been taken out of context, because I was interrupted, and it's very clear from the transcript that that's what I was going to say.' Yates said that there was no time-frame laid out by Stephenson when he asked him to review the evidence in 2009. He pointed out that it was a newspaper article he was asked to review, 'not a body.' Challenged over the employment of Wallis's daughter, Yates insists: 'I have done nothing wrong.' He describes himself as having been a 'postbox for a CV. I passed on the e-mail and the CV to the human resources department. I categorically deny that I "secured a job". There's a line in the e-mail saying "Please let me know so I can manage expectations" - I was completely equivocal. I was merely a postbox.' Earlier, having been challenged over who suggested Wallis was available for employment, Dick Fiasco said that he could remember. But he did not believe it could have been Rebekah Brooks as had been suggested by the press. The committee expressed surprise that Fedorcio took Yates's word on Wallis, given the circumstances. 'I accepted the integrity of Mr Yates,' said Fedorcio. 'You thought it was a good idea for Mr Yates to do due diligence on a News of the World employee when he was investigating News of the World employees?' asked Blackwood, disbelievingly. 'I accepted the integrity of Mr Yates,' repeated Fedorcio, woodenly. 'That's not what I asked,' she argued. 'Did you know he was a close friend of Mr Wallis since 1998?' 'I knew he was a close friend,' Fiasco said.

The key points from Sir Paul Stephenson's evidence included Stephenson noting that ten former members of News International have worked at the Met. Stephenson said that a senior official in No 10 did not want David Cameron to be told about Neil Wallis's connection with the phone hacking inquiry in case that compromised Cameron. When pressed, he said that No 10 did not tell him this. He found out that his view - which was that Cameron should be protected - was shared by someone at No 10. Stephenson did not name the official, but he said John Yates knew more about this. Stephenson said he regretted the fact that the Met hired Neil Wallis. Stephenson said that he only found that that Wallis's daughter worked for the Met at the weekend. He claimed that his decision to quit was an act of leadership. Stephenson said Boris Johnson and other politicians did not want him to resign. Stephenson only decided to go after the story about Champneys appeared. Nicola Blackwood asked 'Did you have any informal discussions with John Yates about his 2009 review of the phone hacking case?' No, replied Stephenson. They just had a conversation on the telephone. Labour's Alun Michael suggested that the Met operated as a series of 'baronial empires.' Senior officers could, effectively, do what they wanted. Stephenson said that might have happened in the past. But he suggested that he had addressed this problem. On the subject of the first investigation, Stephenson said that he accepts in hindsight that 'repugnant' material uncovered in the investigation should have been looked at. 'Do you accept that the Hayman/Clark investigation was not as thorough as it should have been?,' asked Vaz. Stephenson responded: 'I don't want to call it Hayman/Clark - it was run by a man of great integrity, Peter Clark.' Was he saying that Andy Hayman is not a man of great integrity?, Vaz asked, with raised eyebrow. 'I didn't say that,' replied Stephenson. 'I'm saying that the person who ran it was someone of great integrity. I do feel Mr Clark needs to answer why he set the narrow parameters of the investigation, and that is a matter for the judicial review.' There was also one genuine Inspector Clouseau moment when Stephenson, seemingly in all seriousness, asked 'Why would I have any reason to be suspicious about Mr Wallis?' This from a man who was, until the day before yesterday Britain's top policeman. You couldn't make it up.

June Kelly Home Affairs correspondent noted that 'A senior lawyer has told the Home Affairs Select Committee that material which News International handed over to the police last month contained evidence of serious criminal offences. After Scotland Yard received the file they launched Operation Elvedon - the investigation into alleged corrupt payments to police officers. It is running in conjunction with the inquiry into phone hacking. The top QC, Lord Macdonald of River Glaven, (the former Director of Public Prosecutions) was employed by News Corporation to examine the material. He said that when he told the board what was in the file they were "stunned and shocked."'

The Torygraph reported that 'a source' outside the Houses of Parliament had spotted the BBC's Robert Peston lurking: 'The peace in the queue for the Murdoch hearings outside Portcullis House has been shattered – like many a BBC News bulletins these days, sadly - by Robert Peston. The BBC man (has he swapped his Wapping pass for a Commons pass today?) has been attempting to pre-record a package for the lunchtime news. It's been tough going. He's just given up after his sixth take. "This is Fleet Street, covering the rottenness at the heart of Fleet Street. Oh, no, hang on, can we go again?" It seems he is unhappy about a road crew digging up the embankment with a JCB. The noise was putting him off, he claims, so he's just stamped over and asked them to be quiet while he tries again. The clock is ticking. Let's hope Nick Robinson’s smooth broadcasting skills are available for the top of the 1pm news.'

As subsequently noted in questions to Rebekah Brooks, London's Evening Standard is reporting that Neville Thurlbeck, the former News of the World crime reporter, was working as a police informant - codenamed 'George' - while he was employed by the News of the World: 'The activities of Neville Thurlbeck, which date back to 1995, trigger new fears of collusion between the Met and the press. He gave a "substantial volume of information that was extremely useful" to Scotland Yard and the security services. In return, Thurlbeck received confidential information from the Police National Computer that helped him write stories on a Labour MP with a conviction for committing an obscene act and an alleged threat to the Queen from stalkers.'

Just as Rebekah Brooks was beginning her evidence, the BBC suddenly cut away to say that the Conservative Party is to release a statement saying that Neil Wallis 'gave informal advice' to Andy Coulson before the general election last year. Laura Kuenssberg pointed out that this makes it harder for David Cameron to 'draw a line' under the hacking scandal. The just breaking news prompted a Conservative Party spokesman to say: 'There have been some questions about whether the Conservative Party employed Neil Wallis. We have double checked our records and are able to confirm that neither Neil Wallis nor his company has ever been contracted by the Conservative Party, nor has the Conservative Party made payments to either of them. It has been drawn to our attention that he may have provided Andy Coulson with some informal advice on a voluntary basis before the election. We are currently finding out the exact nature of any advice. We can confirm that apart from Andy Coulson, neither David Cameron nor any senior member of the campaign team were aware of this until this week.

Cameron came under fresh pressure to reveal whether he sought Cabinet Office approval prior to meeting James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks (and Jeremy Clarkson, for that matter) at Christmas in the midst of the News Corp bid for BSkyB. Downing Street is due to reply on Tuesday to written questions asking Cameron whether he sought civil service advice on the wisdom of going ahead with the meeting at such a sensitive time. The pressure came as No 10 disclosed a further meeting between Brooks and Cameron at his birthday party. Downing Street on Friday gave what was intended to be a complete list of Cameron's meetings with senior newspaper executives and whether they were social or business related. The list revealed that Cameron had met Brooks, News International chief executive, four times since he became prime minister. No 10 said the birthday party was not on the list because it had 'only just been recalled' that she was present. This despite the fact that it was widely reported at the time. The list showed twenty six meetings or events involving News International figures, nine involving Torygraph Media Group, four for Associated Newspapers, publisher of the Daily Scum Mail and Scum Mail on Sunday and four involving the Evening Standard. Government ministers are due to list their parallel engagements with newspaper executives in the next few days. Ivan Lewis, the shadow lack of culture secretary, has been pressing Cameron for months to give details of the meetings between Brooks and Cameron, to be told the decision on the takeover was a matter for the lack of culture secretary, the vile and odious rascal Hunt, alone. Cameron has not said whether he discussed the issue with the vile and odious rascal Hunt at any point. Cameron met Brooks for dinner at her Chipping Norton home on 23 December, and the following day had a family picnic with the Brooks family. The picnic was disclosed by the motoring correspondent Jeremy Clarkson in his Sunday Times column. He insists the discussion at dinner contained no mention of any political or business matter. Lewis said: 'David Cameron's promise of greater transparency over meetings with media executives will ring hollow unless he comes clean about the nature of the discussions which took place at his dinner with Rebekah Brooks last Christmas. His judgment is in serious question, and so is the nature of the conversations he had with his friend Rebekah Brooks. The dinner came just days after he handed responsibility for the BSkyB deal from Vince Cable to Jeremy Hunt. Did he discuss this with Rebekah Brooks over dinner?' So far Cameron has only given one partial answer, writing to Lewis on 17 February: 'I have no role in the process. This is a decision for the culture secretary in a quasi-judicial role based on available evidence. It is a decision for him alone. Therefore the first I heard about the decision was when it was announced.' Lewis has again written to Cameron to ask whether he received any advice from the cabinet secretary as to whether his meeting with Brooks was in line with the ministerial code. Cameron also came under pressure from Labour MPs for failing to apologise for appointing Andy Coulson as his communications director. Labour sought to contrast the way two senior policemen, Sir Paul Stephenson and John Yates, resigned over the appointment of the former News of the World deputy editor Neil Wallis, and Cameron's refusal to apologise for appointing the paper's former editor Coulson. Ed Milimolimandi, the Labour leader, said: 'It is also striking that Sir Paul Stephenson has taken responsibility and resigned over the employment of Mr Coulson's deputy, while the prime minister hasn't even apologised for hiring Mr Coulson. We need leadership to get to the truth of what happened. But David Cameron is hamstrung by his own decisions and his unwillingness to face up to them.' Theresa May, the home secretary, insisted there was 'no comparison' between the appointments of Wallis and Coulson. She said: 'There is a very real difference between the Met and the government. The Met are responsible for looking at alleged wrongdoing by the News of the World. It is important there is a line between the investigators and the investigated.' Cameron reportedly spoke to Stephenson on Monday in an attempt to calm relations between the two.

Newsnight's political editor Michael Crick is leaving the BBC programme after nineteen years to rejoin Channel Four News. As Channel Four's new political correspondent, Crick will replace Cathy Newman, who was recently promoted to become the third main presenter on the programme alongside Jon Snow and Krishnan Guru-Murthy. Crick returns to Channel Four News after being a founding member of the news team in 1982, starting as Washington correspondent, a role recently given to the BBC's Matt Frei. Crick joined the BBC in 1990, beginning on Panorama before moving to Newsnight in 1992. He has won two Royal Television Society awards for his coverage of the 1988 US presidential election and for a Panorama episode on the life and lies of Jeffrey Archer. At Channel Four News, Crick will work alongside political editor Gary Gibbon covering all the major political developments and stories. He is the second Newsnight journalist to join the programme, after Jackie Long was appointed social affairs editor. Jim Gray, the Channel Four News editor, said: 'It's thrilling to have an established, experienced name like Michael join our team. He has a remarkable track record of finding things out that people don't want unearthed. He is a formidable investigative journalist. With him in this role, and Gary continuing to lead our coverage as political editor, we have the perfect political team in place.' Crick added: 'Channel Four News has a reputation for an in-depth, analytical and cheeky approach to politics, and I look forward to delivering exactly that. Whilst I am sad to leave Newsnight after nineteen happy years, I have always admired Gary Gibbon's journalism and it's fantastic to be returning to my ITN roots to join him and the rest of the Channel Four News team.' Morland Sanders, currently a correspondent for ITV's Tonight and Radio 4, is due to join Channel Four News as North of England Correspondent. The broadcaster is also currently searching for the first ever dedicated weather presenter in its twenty nine-year history.

The BBC has confirmed that it has cut a sex scene from an upcoming episode of Torchwood: Miracle Day. The moment featured Captain Jack (John Barrowman) sleeping with a barman and is expected to be shown in the US on cable network Starz, the Sun reports. However, the scene will be cut from the UK broadcast as it was allegedly deemed inappropriate for a primetime slot on BBC1. 'It wasn't that it was a gay scene that worried people, but just the fact that it was such an explicit sex scene full stop,' a 'source' allegedly said. 'You can get away with scenes like that on American cable channels, but you can't on primetime BBC1. Even though the show airs after the watershed, it has a lot of young fans who would have been shocked at the graphic nature of the sex.' A BBC spokesperson confirmed that the scene will not be shown in the UK, adding that a violent moment will also be cut later in the series. 'The UK and US versions of Torchwood are slightly different,' the spokesperson said. 'However, these differences do not change the story in any way and the strong storylines are first and foremost to the series.' Barrowman, who has previously said that Jack has 'full-on boy sex' in the show, recently admitted that he would like to make a Torchwood movie.

The Hour's Romola Garai has admitted that she finds it strange that people are nostalgic about the 1950s. Garai, who plays Bel in The Hour, explained that there were a lot of problems during the era. 'I find a lot of the 1950s nostalgia, especially in terms of women, very dubious,' she told the Daily Torygraph. 'This is a very morally conservative time, not a great time for women. Particularly when people say it was a time of optimism. Well, Britain was post-war, rationing only ended two years before our show is set - it was a bomb site. Britain was still desperately trying to cling on to its empire. It was a dark time, I think. So I hope that The Hour explores that kind of ambiguity because I think it's easily overlooked.' Garai, who described herself as a feminist, also revealed that she was interested in the lives of women during the 1950s. 'What I found fascinating was that it was a time when women were entering the workplace, but not married women,' she said. 'So your career was a choice and those women chose their career over partnership, companionship, children. It was a massive amount of sacrifice.' She added: 'I have always been interested in gender politics, so I'm not that keen on doing things that don't represent a truth about women.'

Oily Jeremy Kyle has signed up to present a new game show on ITV. The talk show host has landed the role on High Stakes, the Sun reports. The show is described as a game of 'knowledge, risk and tension.' Contestants, who can win half a million smackers have to choose the right six steps on a grid and avoid certain numbers. 'I am hugely excited to be hosting this brand new quiz show,' the oily Kyle said. 'It's a totally new format.'

US songwriter Jerry Ragovoy, who wrote songs for The Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin and Elvis Presley, has died aged eighty. The Grammy award-winning musician died last week at the Lenox Hill Hospital in New York following complications from a stroke. Some of his famous songs included The Stones' 1964 hit 'Time Is On My Side' and Erma Franklin's 'Piece of My Heart' which subsequently covered by Big Brother and The Holding Company. He also wrote songs under the pseudonym of Norman Meade. Born in Philadelphia as Jordan Ragovoy, the musician entered record production in 1953, working with The Castelles. 'Piece of My Heart', first recorded by Franklin in 1967 was famously recorded by Janis Joplin's band a year later. BB King, Louis Jordan, Dusty Springfield and Aretha Franklin also recorded songs written by Ragovoy. He worked as a producer for artists including Diana Ross and Dionne Warwick. In 1973, Ragovoy walked away with his first Grammy for best score from an original cast show LP, for his production work on Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope. Speaking to the Los Angeles Times newspaper, Jim Steinblatt, a spokesman for the performance rights group ASCAP, said: 'Jerry was a giant of soul, R&B and rock songwriting and record production. His songs were far better known than he was.'

'Lucifer' and 'Messiah' are two of more than one hundred names to have been rejected by New Zealand's name registrar over the past two years. The list of one hundred and two names which were turned down also includes single letters 'C', 'D', 'I' and 'T', reports the AAP. Titles like 'Knight', 'King', 'Judge' and 'Mr' and punctuation including '.', '*' and '/' were also prohibited. The Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages has been taking baby names more seriously after it emerged that it had approved boy names like 'Violence' and 'Number Sixteen Bus Shelter' in 2008. In that same year, a family court judge allowed a nine-year-old girl to legally change her name from 'Talula Does the Hula from Hawaii.' The girl was said to be 'traumatised' because of the name. The judge said at the time: 'It makes a fool of the child and sets her up with a social disability and handicap.'

A teenager reportedly rang 999 after his parents banned him from playing on his Xbox, Durham Police have revealed. The force said it has dealt with nearly seven thousand hoax and silent calls in the past year, stopping officers from dealing with genuine emergencies. Police took more than fifty nine thousand calls between 1 April 2010 and 31 March this year, with fewer than half being logged as priority calls. A police spokesperson said: 'People use the number as a free phone book.' Chief Inspector Stu Exley said: 'The 999 system is for use in an emergency, for example when life is at risk or a crime is in progress. But it seems a lot of people cannot get this into their heads, and use the number almost as a free phone book. The police said the hoax calls were worse during school holidays, but were not only committed by children. Calls have included people shouting abuse at the communications handler and then hanging up, a hoax bomb claim and teenagers "dared" by their friends to ring 999 and ask for the police.'

The latest Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day features a bunch of old hippies. I'm having a Bob Harris moment here. 'Heavy.'

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