Labour politicians call for a second look at a phone scandal
LONDON — Senior opposition politicians are calling on the government to respond to renewed accusations that Downing Street’s chief communications officer, Andy Coulson, encouraged reporters to illegally intercept messages from the cell phones of public figures when he was editor of The News of the World.
At the same time, a number of people whose phone messages may have been intercepted by The News of the World during Coulson’s tenure are accusing the Metropolitan Police of failing to fully examine all the evidence in its criminal investigation in 2006 and 2007.
Lord Prescott, a Labour politician who was the deputy prime minister under Tony Blair and who has been named as one of hundreds of people whose phones may have been hacked, said the police had never provided him with a sufficient explanation of what happened.
“I have been far from satisfied with the Metropolitan Police’s procedure in dealing with my requests to uncover the truth about this case,” Prescott told the Observer newspaper. It was only after “repeated requests,” he said, that he learned that he might have been a victim of phone-hacking. If the police continue to fail to be forthcoming, he said, he said he would seek a judicial inquiry into their handling of the matter.
Alan Johnson, a Labour member of Parliament and a former home secretary, announced that he would review the home office papers relating to the case to see whether the matter should be brought to the Inspectorate of Constabulary, which monitors the police. His recommendation would then go to the current home secretary, Theresa May.
Prescott was responding to an article published by The New York Times Magazine online Wednesday and in print Sunday about the scandal. In 2007, The News of the World’s royal editor, Clive Goodman, and an investigator employed by The News of the World, Glenn Mulcaire, were jailed after pleading guilty to having illegally intercepted voice-mail messages of Prince William and Prince Harry and their chief royal aides.
Coulson, who was appointed editor of The News of the World in 2003, said that he had no knowledge of the hacking and that it was an isolated case, but resigned from the paper in January 2007 nonetheless.
Last year, The Guardian newspaper printed an article saying that hundreds of people might have been targeted by The News of the World and providing details about some of them, including Gordon Taylor, former chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association, who reached a settlement of 700,000 pounds with The News of the World over the hacking of his mobile phone.