Phone Hacking

Part of Business of the House (Today) – in the House of Commons at 2:58 pm on 6th July 2011.

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Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale Chair, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Vice-Chair, Conservative 1922 Committee 2:58 pm, 6th July 2011

I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman—indeed, I can call him my hon. Friend, as a fellow member of the Select Committee. I think that an inquiry should be able to investigate any documents that are relevant to this matter.

During the Committee’s inquiry I again spoke with Mr Crone, the legal manager, and asked:

“As far as you know, no information regarding those other individuals ever reached the News of the World?”

He replied:

“I have seen no evidence of that.”

Mr Coulson said in evidence that during his editorship he

“never condoned the use of ’phone hacking and nor do I have any recollection of incidences where ’phone hacking took place. My instructions to the staff were clear: we did not use subterfuge of any kind unless there was a clear public interest in doing so; they were to work within the PCC Code at all times.”

The Committee stated in its report:

“Evidence we have seen makes it inconceivable that no-one else at the News of the World, bar Clive Goodman, knew about the phone-hacking…The newspaper’s enquiries were far from ‘full’ or ‘rigorous’, as we—and the PCC—had been assured. Throughout our inquiry, too, we have been struck by the collective amnesia afflicting witnesses from the News of the World.”

Since that time there have been a stream of revelations, and it has become increasingly clear that phone hacking was widespread and involved a large number of people. Most of that evidence, certainly in the early stages, came from the material seized by the police from Glenn Mulcaire, which they were required to divulge only when the civil cases came to court and they were asked to do so by the solicitors acting on behalf of the people bringing civil cases. The key point is that almost every piece of evidence we are now learning about has been in the possession of the police since 2006. That raises very serious questions about why it was not pursued, and why we were told repeatedly that the evidence did not exist, and why the police assured us that there was no evidence to suggest that the investigation should go any further.

All phone hacking is wrong and illegal, but there is no question but that the revelations that the phone of Milly Dowler was hacked, if that was the case, represent a new low, as do the subsequent revelations about the victims of the 7 July bombings and their families, and other murdered children. The truth of these matters is still not wholly clear and there is an ongoing police investigation, which nothing must be allowed to impede. We need to know whether the allegations are true—and if they are, who commissioned those phone hacks and who else knew about it.

There is a swirl of rumour about who might or might not have had their phones hacked, and there are also rumours about other newspapers. I must say that I suspect that, just as Clive Goodman was not a rogue reporter, so the News of the World was not a rogue newspaper. We need to get to the full facts. There needs to be a full inquiry, and the police, the Press Complaints Commission and the press as a whole need to be held to account.