Wed, Sep 08, 2010 - Page 6 News List

British PM’s media chief under pressure over phone tap row

AFP , LONDON

British opposition lawmakers called for British Prime Minister David Cameron’s media chief to quit on Monday over fresh allegations that he knew about illegal phone tapping by reporters when he was a tabloid editor.

Police meanwhile said they were prepared to look again into the scandal at the News of the World — which three years ago saw its royal editor jailed for hacking — after fresh revelations about the row in the New York Times.

Andy Coulson, Cameron’s communications chief, quit as editor of the News of The World in 2007, saying he took “ultimate responsibility” for the phone tapping scandal, but denying he knew anything about the illegal activities.

A recent report by the New York Times, however, quoted a former reporter at the tabloid, Sean Hoare, as saying Coulson did know about the tapping — and also suggesting that police failed to investigate the case fully at the time.

Amid pressure from opposition Labour politicians to re-open the case, including ex-deputy prime minister John Prescott who believes his phone may have been tapped, police said they would investigate any new evidence.

“This is the first time we have heard of Mr Hoare or anything he has to say,” Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner John Yates told the BBC on Monday.

He added: “We have always said that if any new material, new evidence, was produced we would consider it.”

Meanwhile, Coulson’s spokesman said he was ready to meet police voluntarily to discuss the claims.

“Mr Coulson emphatically denies these allegations. He has, however, offered to talk to officers if the need arises and would welcome the opportunity to give his view on Mr Hoare’s claims,” the spokesman said.

The case sparked angry exchanges in the House of Commons on Monday, where ex-Labour home secretary Alan Johnson said it was “extraordinary” that Cameron had employed Coulson — and said he should be sacked.

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