David Blackburn

Phone hacking fag-ends

Phone hacking fag-ends
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Yesterday, in his statement to the Commons, David Cameron responded to a question from Labour MP Helen Goodman about Andy Coulson by saying:

‘He was vetted. He had a basic level of vetting. He was not able to see the most secret documents in the Government. I can write to the hon. Lady if she wants the full details of that vetting. It was all done in the proper way. He was subject to the special advisers’ code of conduct. As someone shouted from behind me, he obeyed that code, unlike Damian McBride.’

The story has developed since then. Channel Four have been told by unidentified sources that Coulson’s lack of top level clearance would have impaired him from doing his job, and Michael Crick has been digging around and found that Damian McBride and Alistair Campbell received the highest grade of vetting. In itself this doesn’t mean anything: perhaps Coulson went about his work without needing to be privy to classified information. Even so, you imagine Cameron would prefer this story to disappear as soon as possible without further coverage.

Two other questions from yesterday’s session have inspired further inquiry. First Nick Raynsford claimed that senior government officials have been hacked: the Cabinet Office has asked Raynsford to provide more information. Also, Tory MP Geoffrey Cox claimed that Lords Goldsmith and MacDonald were in possession of sensitive information about phone hacking in 2006, but did not proceed with it. The Home Affairs Committee will examine the allegations.   

These snippets are diverting, but there is a sense that the phone hacking media storm may finally have blown itself out.

PS: In response to the commenter SinoSimon, it’s worth pointing out that Lord Goldsmith has vigorously denied the allegations made by Geoffrey Cox, which appear to have been based on a Guardian story published on 5 April 2010. He said that ‘there is no truth at all in the suggestion that he authorised or instructed police to narrow their investigations in relation to phone hacking.’

It’s also worth pointing out that the Director of Public Prosecutions has operational control of the Crown Prosecution Service, who would be responsible for these matters, not the Attorney General.