Newspaper bugging story prompts urgent Commons question

July 12, 2009 at 12:52 pm 1 comment

newspapers
by James Easy

In an urgent question on Thursday, Dr Evan Harris MP (Lib Dem, Oxford West and Abingdon) asked the Home Secretary what steps he is taking “to look into the actions of the police, the prosecutors and the Information Commissioner in respect of the use by the newspapers of illegal surveillance methods.”

Speaking on the Home Secretary’s behalf the Minister for Policing, Crime and Counter-Terrorism, David Hanson (Lab, Delyn) who said “it would be wrong for me to pre-empt the police’s statement this afternoon as this is an operational matter for the Met.”

Harris continued however: ” Does he accept that I am not relaxed, the House is not relaxed and nor are the public, about fears not only of surveillance by the Government, but now of surveillance by newspapers and their agents?”

Hanson replied: “As I have said, the allegations that have been made are serious and deserve examination, and the Met will this afternoon be examining them. I will report back to the House in due course.”

Chris Huhne (Lib Dem, Eastleigh) said “If, as is reported, more than 1000 phone taps too place, it beggars belief that this involved just one journalist or that senior executives did not know what was happening-indeed, the allegation is clearly that senior executives did know.

“I welcome what the Minister has said, but does he not agree that the Leader of the Opposition, who wants to be the PM, employs Andy Coulson who, at best, was responsible for a newspaper that was out of control and, at worst, was personally implicated in criminal activity?

“The exact parallel is surely with Damian McBride. If the PM was right to sack him, should not the Leader of the Opposition sack Andy Coulson?”

Hanson decided to make no further comment on Huhne’s question, merely stating that criminal legislation provides for any offence that may have been committed.

In fact, numerous MPs pushed him on that question to which he repeatedly rebutted with “the Met will examine them and I will report back following their investigation”.

David Davis (Con, Haltemprice and Howden) took exception to these continued rebuttals, saying: “The Minister cannot brush aside as an operational responsibility something for which the Home Secretary has responsibility.

“The allegation in The Guardian is that none of the many hundreds of people whose communications appear to have been intercepted were notified by the police that they were the victim of a crime. That is a matter for the Home Secretary, so can the Minister give an answer on that point?”

Again however, Hanson gave the same “no comment” answer.

Martin Salter (Lab, Reading West) brought the issue back to Andy Coulson, saying: “I hope that you, Mr. Speaker, and the Minister will agree that this is an extremely serious matter and there are many avenues that the House and its Committees may wish to explore.

“For example, do Mr. Coulson and his employer, the Leader of the Opposition, stand by the comments that the former made to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee in March 2003 that it is acceptable to make cash payments to police officers for private information?

“Why on earth did the Metropolitan police not properly investigate and prosecute those who were working for Mr. Coulson who tapped the phones of Cabinet Ministers, Members of Parliament and other public figures?”

Hanson refused to comment on “operational matters”.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Martin Salter : News, pictures, videos, biography  |  July 13, 2009 at 11:01 am

    […] Newspaper bugging story prompts urgent Commons question i spy strangers – PeopleRank: 5 – 22 hours ago … Martin Salter (Lab, Reading West) brought the issue back to Andy Coulson, saying: “I hope that you, Mr. Speaker, and the Minister will agree that this is an extremely serious matter and there are many avenues that the House and its Committees may wish… Cited people : Chris Huhne  Damian McBride  David Davis  David Hanson  + vote […]

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