Andy Coulson faces MPs over phone-hacking

Conservative party director of communications Andy Coulson will face fresh questions from a Committee of MPs today over allegations of illegal phone tapping at the News of the World.

Late yesterday it was confirmed that the former editor of the News of the World would appear along with current editor Colin Myler and Tom Crone, legal manager of publisher News Group Newspapers, at today’s Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee hearing.

Coulson, who resigned as News of the World editor in 2007, is likely be the key witness after Guardian alleged earlier this month that News International, of which News Group is a part, paid out more than £1m in damages to keep the illegal activity of its journalists secret.

His resignation came in the wake of his former royal correspondent, Clive Goodman, and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire being jailed for accessing the phone messages of royal aides and celebrities.

At the time Coulson denied knowing anything of Goodman’s illegal activities but he resigned on the basis that it happened on his watch. News International always maintained that Goodman was working alone.

Coulson was appointed as David Cameron’s spin-doctor later in 2007 and is now a key member of the Tory leader’s inner circle. However the Guardian’s allegations led to calls from some senior MPs and former members of the Government for Coulson to be sacked.

Giving evidence to the Committee of MPs last week, Guardian journalist Nick Davies accused News of the World’s chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck of involvement in phone-hacking.

Davies claimed to also have the names of 27 other reporters from the News of the World, and four from sister paper The Sun, who he said were implicated in the row.

The Guardian added to last week’s evidence to the committee by claiming this morning the Crown Prosecution Service did not receive key evidence which it says implicated Thurlbeck. This was an email which purports to show that a junior journalist had written up bugged telephone conversations for Thurlbeck to read.

In light of Davies’ most recent evidence it’s likely the committee will grill Coulson about the Guardian’s claims phone-hacking was much more widespread than previously admitted after Goodman was jailed.

Les Hinton, the executive chairman of News International at the time of Goodman’s jailing, told a previous culture committee hearing the paper had carried out a rigorous inquiry and that he believed Goodman was the only person on the paper who knew about the phone-hacking.

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