Conservative communications chief Andy Coulson told a committee of MPs today things went “badly wrong” when he was editor of the News of the World and that he had no recollection of a story involving football boss Gordon Taylor.
It was a NoW investigation involving head of the Professioal Football Association Taylor in 2005, under Coulson’s watch, which prompted a £700,000 legal payout in April 2008 and led to new allegations of NoW phone hacking being made by The Guardian.
Coulson resigned in 2007 as editor after royal reporter Clive Goodman was jailed along with private investigator Glenn Mulcaire for intercepting phone messages of members of the royal household.
Coulson said: “I don’t recall ever commissioning a Gordon Taylor story, I don’t remember ever reading a story about Gordon Taylor.” Coulson said that Taylor was not a “household name”.
Giving evidence today to a Culture, Media and Sport select committee Coulson told MPs he was unable to micro-manage every story that went through the News of the World.
He said reporters would work on 200 to 300 stories each week, of which around 100 would be published and his involvement was with a much smaller number. He said that the paper spent significant sums in the pursuit of stories: “More money than most newspapers”.
He told MPs “During that time [as editor] I neither condoned the use of phone-hacking and nor do I have any recollection of instances when phone-hacking took place,” adding that his reporters did not use subterfuge of any kind unless there was a clear public interest in doing so.
Coulson reiterated he believed Goodman was acting alone and that he thought it was a one-off, adding that payments of £100,000-a-year to Mulcaire were for legitimate purpose and had been recognised as such.
Coulson said that Goodman’s extra cash payments to Mulcaire went unknown and that the royal reporter deceived both himself and the managing editor.
“Things went badly wrong under my editorship of the News of the World,” Coulson said.
“I deeply regret it. I suspect I always will. I take the blame because ultimately it was my responsibility. I am not looking for sympathy and I am unlikely to get any today.”
Coulson said his resignation brought to an end his 20-year career with News International but said it was right to take responsibility for things that happen on his watch.
“I certainly did not leave on the basis that there was some way back [to work at News International],” he added.