Lord Prescott considers taking phone-hack legal action

Lord Prescott will decide today whether to take legal action to see if he was the subject of News of the World phone hacking.

His decision comes after former NoW reporter, Sean Hoare, was questioned last night over claims Tory communications chief Andy Coulson asked him to hack into messages when he was editor of the Sunday paper.

The allegations, which appeared in an article in the New York Times, reignited the phone hacking row earlier this month.

Hoare, 47, was interviewed under caution at the London office of his solicitor, David Sonn. He was not arrested.

The former deputy prime minister has submitted a request to see files compiled by private investigator Glenn Mulcaire who was jailed over the scandal in 2007.

The latest developments came as a Westminster sleaze watchdog announced it would consult parliamentary and legal experts on whether hacking MPs phones is a “contempt of parliament”.

MPs voted last week to refer allegations to the standards and privileges committee.

After a preliminary meeting, the cross-party body of MPs said it would not consider any specific claims until it had looked into the wider issues.

The decision to refer the case was led by Labour MP Chris Bryant who is among a group of people to issue judicial review proceedings over the row.

Bryant told the Commons last week he was one of the MPs who had contacted the Metropolitan Police and been told he was on a list of those allegedly targeted by Mulcaire.

But he said he suspected that was the “tip of the iceberg” and hacking extended not just to Labour MPs but also to Liberal Democrats and Tories.

And he branded the practice “a contempt of Parliament, a severe breach of parliamentary privilege” which could compromise their right to speak freely.

Lawyers representingBryant, former Scotland Yard deputy assistant commissioner Brian Paddick and journalist Brendan Montague have asked the courts to decide whether police handled the case properly.

Tamsin Allen, a partner at law firm Bindmans LLP, said: “Our clients have still not been told the whole story about how their names came to be in the papers seized during the phone hacking investigation in 2006 and why they were not warned that their privacy might have been compromised.

“The court will now determine whether or not the Metropolitan Police breached its public law and human rights obligations in the way it handled this investigation and its aftermath.”

A spokesman for Lord Prescott said: “He will speak to his lawyers and then decide what action to take.”

The NoW has always insisted Mulcaire and former royal editor Clive Goodman were acting alone.

The paper has rejected claims in the NYT that there was a wider culture of phone-hacking at the paper – something which Coulson also denies.

The new investigation comes after an inquiry by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, chaired by Tory MP John Whittingdale.

Whittingdale has backed the fresh probe, saying some of the new claims “appear to contradict some of the evidence that we received”.

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