Phone Hacking

Part of Business of the House (Today) – in the House of Commons at 4:21 pm on 6th July 2011.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey Conservative, Suffolk Coastal 4:21 pm, 6th July 2011

First, let me apologise to hon. Members who might wonder why I have been called, given that I left the Chamber earlier. I went to see the Third Reading of my private Member’s Bill in the other place; unfortunately, there seemed to be a mini-debate on Lords reform first.

I absolutely share hon. Members’ feelings of being appalled at the revelations and allegations being made today. Of course I extend my sympathy to the victims, including Beverli Rhodes, a 7/7 survivor whom people might have heard on LBC this morning saying that she was concerned that her phone had been hacked.

There are several issues to discuss, but I am afraid I might break the somewhat cosy consensus that has developed so far. There is no question but that the police investigation has been shown to be unsatisfactory, as we have seen from previous reports of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee. However, there are some things we can do straight away. The whole business of dancing on the head of a pin regarding whether certain hacking is illegal could be dealt with by a simple change to clause 1 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. I have confidence that Deputy Assistant Commissioner Akers will make some progress with Operation Weeting, but I also understand that it might be appropriate to bring in an external force to help with that.

Mr Watson has brought in some new allegations about News International today. I agree that News International has not helped itself with its drip-drip feed of information and, perhaps, casual approach to investigation internally. I do not know whether the actions were deliberate or whether there were simply people there who were out of control. What I do know is that News Corp did finally react, and has brought in people to do an investigation, which is the right thing to do alongside the police inquiry.

I believe that a witch hunt against Rebekah Brooks is being developed. I do not hold a candle for her—I met her once last year at a Conservative party conference and I am sure that she has been at Labour party conferences before—but I am worried about this aspect. This is not the time to hold back evidence, and I hope that my hon. Friends will present evidence rather than simply say that Rebekah Brooks was the editor at the time. Let me give the analogy of a sales director I know of from my previous commercial experience who was pressurising his sales people to keep up with their quotas and find new business. He was not aware that two people were indulging in what could be called illegal practices—basically, bribing people—and it is right that we found that out, but I am not saying it was right for that sales director to be told they personally had to resign.