Hacking Inquiry - As it happened

Tuesday 19 July 2011 23.45
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Commons Committee - Rupert Murdoch's wife Wendi (in pink) leaps to the defence of her husband
Commons Committee - Rupert Murdoch's wife Wendi (in pink) leaps to the defence of her husband
James & Rupert Murdoch at Commons Committee
James & Rupert Murdoch at Commons Committee

The Commons Committee hearings at into the hacking scandal as it happened.

You can submit comments using the tab above the video player.

Hacking scandal: Timeline of events

Updates:

2342 The protester who threw a paper plate of shaving foam at Rupert Murdoch as he gave evidence to MPs was suspended from the Britain’s Labour Party tonight.

Jonnie Marbles, real name Jonathan May-Bowles, remains in police custody.

A Labour Party spokesman said: ‘He was a member although his subscriptions were in arrears. It was despicable behaviour and he has been immediately suspended.’

May-Bowles, who describes himself as an activist and comedian, said ‘You naughty billionaire’ to Mr Murdoch as he threw the substance.

2227 One of the committee's questioners has used micro-blogging website Twitter to criticise the man who threw foam on Rupert Murdoch.

'Idiot with the pie got precisely opposite result to one he expected, since Mr. Murdoch (and Mrs. Murdoch) came out of that w/ great credit,' wrote Louise Mensch.

2206 News Corp's shares closed $0.83 higher, or 5.5%, to close in New York at $15.79.

2023 The House of Commons has officially been recalled from its summer recess for an emergency session on phone hacking tomorrow.

British Prime Minister David Cameron is expected to make a statement ahead of a debate on the issue, which comes on what would have been the first day of MPs' long summer break from Westminster.

1925 Post-mortem examinations show 'no evidence' of third-party involvement in the death of phone-hacking whistleblower Sean Hoare, Hertfordshire police said tonight.

1923 The Committee hearings have now ended. As the committee drew to a close Ms Brooks reiterated her apology and asked to be asked back after her current legal commitments had ended so she could give more honest answers.

1915 Legal firm Harbottle & Lewis has said News International has declined to release it from professional duties of confidentiality in order that the firm ‘could respond to any inaccurate statements or contentions and to explain events in 2007’ after James Murdoch said a letter written by the law firm made the company believe phone hacking was a ‘matter of the past’.

1911 Brooks confirmed that it had paid the legal fees of former News of the World editor Andy Coulson in the Tommy Sheridan case, even though he was only a witness.

‘When Andy Coulson left the News of the World, he had an agreement that all matters relating to this - his legal fees were paid. I think the same for Clive Goodman,’ she said.

She added: ‘On Glenn Mulcaire, I think his legal fees would be paid when he was a co-defendant in the civil cases.’

1908 Brooks says that 'strangely' it was under a Labour government she became a reugular visitor to 10 Downing St, and not under David Cameron's government.

1902 Ms Brooks said the decision to close down the News of the World was taken because it had lost the trust of its readers.

‘Once that trust was broken, we felt that that was the right decision. Of course, it wasn't the right decision for the hundreds of journalists who worked on there, had done nothing wrong, were in no way responsible,’ she said.

‘Every single one of them will be offered a job.’

1853 When further questioned about phone-hacking claims, Brooks said: 'It wasn’t a practice that was condoned or sanctioned under my editorship.'

1841 'It happened on my watch,' said Ms Brooks when questioned about the Dowler hacking claims.

1840 Scotland Yard has confirmed that a 26-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of assault. The substance splattered on Mr Murdoch is believed to be shaving foam, officers added.

1834 Our feed from Westminster has been restored. Watch Rebekah Brooks testimony now on RTÉ.ie/livenews or on the player at the top of this page after the Six One News (1855 approx)

1824 The Conservative Party has issued a statment on the issue of Neil Wallis, saying he may have provided 'informal advice' to Andy Coulson before the general election.

Sources in the party said the advice had 'nothing to do with the phone-hacking inquiry'. A spokesman insisted Mr Wallis was never employed by the Conservative Party.

'There have been some questions about whether the Conservative Party employed Neil Wallis. We have double-checked our records and are able to confirm that neither Neil Wallis nor his company has ever been contracted by the Conservative Party, nor has the Conservative Party made payments to either of them.'

'He may have provided Andy Coulson with some informal advice on a voluntary basis before the election. We are currently finding out the exact nature of any advice.'

The spokesperson insisted that apart from Andy Coulson, nobody including David Cameron was aware of the situation.

1818 Brooks denies sacking Tom Crone, who was legal manager for the media giant.

She said he had spent '99%' of his time at the News of the World - and when the paper was closed he left the company.

1813 Some further details on the attack on Rupert Murdoch from a member of the audience. Jeff Read, 43, said he heard the protester say 'You naughty billionaire' to Mr Murdoch in a quiet voice.

'He hit Murdoch with his paper plate with shaving foam on it, then stood back about three steps.

'Everyone in the room seemed stunned. The police really seemed stunned - there was no one on Murdoch's side of the room.

'Murdoch's wife got up and took the plate, and smacked the guy who did it as hard as she could. I suppose the assailant was really shocked by that.'

1807 Asked about her 2003 comments about payments to police, Brooks says 'I have never paid a policeman myself - I have never sanctioned a payment to a police officer ... I was referring to that wideheld belief, not a widespread practice.'

1803 News Corporation shares rallied today amid reports it may bring forward plans to split Rupert Murdoch's chairman and chief executive role in the wake of the phone hacking scandal.

It is understood that some News Corp board members want to promote chief operating officer Chase Carey to the chief executive role to succeed Mr Murdoch, leaving the 80-year-old as chairman.

Shares in News Corp have fallen by 17% since the phone hacking scandal erupted two weeks ago, though they clawed back some of the losses today, rising by some 5%.

NOTE: Unfortunately RTÉ only has one video channel from Westminster. So we will be losing our direct link to the Commons Committee in advance of the Six One News (to enable the feeding of a news package from London and live interviews during the programme).

You can continue to watch proceedings on the RTÉ.ie/livenews page with a feed from partner station EuroNews - or on the official Parliament Live website.

Feed should be restored by 1830. Apologies - TV News gets priority over us at this time of day!

1801 Rebekah Brooks said it was only after she saw papers lodged in a civil damages case brought by actress Sienna Miller last year that she understood how serious the situation was.

'We had been told by people at News of the World at the time - they consistently denied any of these allegations in various internal investigations.'

1757 BBC News reporting that Neil Wallis was advising Andy Coulson before the British general election

1755 Brooks says she first heard Glen Mulcaire was on the payroll in 2006. She says there were other private investigators that did know about.

1752 'The News of the World employed private detectives - like most newspapers on Fleet Street ... I was aware the NOTW used private detectives under my leadership.'

1751 'Because of ongoing criminal proceedings it is not possible for me to infer guilt,' Brooks said when asked if other senior executives knew of the phone hacking.

1745 Brooks says the first time she saw evidence of criminality was in 2009. 'I think we acted quickly and decisively.'

'I would like to add my own personal apologies to the apologies that James and Rupert Murdoch have made today ... Allegations of voice intercepts, internet intercepts of victims of crime is pretty horrific and abhorrent and I wanted to reiterate that.'

1743 Rebekah Brooks is now taking her seat at the committee

1733 Rupert and James Murdoch have concluded their evidence.

1730 Rupert Murdoch gives a closing speech to the committee. Read it in full here.

1725 The Independent newspaper's Whitehall editor Oliver Wright said: ‘If you are facing the way the Murdochs were facing, he came from the left-hand side.

‘The police were on the other side of the room and this rather overweight copper, as they tend to be round here, rushed over but Wendi (Rupert Murdoch's wife) got to him first. She hit him with what appeared to be a paper.’

1721 The alleged perpetrator was named on Twitter as Jonnie Marbles.

Marbles, who describes himself as an activist and comedian, wrote on his account before the incident: 'It is a far better thing that I do now than I have ever done before #splat.'

1720 As the man was being led away escorted by a single police officer, he refused to give his name, saying: ‘As Mr Murdoch himself said, I'm afraid I cannot comment on an ongoing police investigation.’

The man’s shirt and hair was covered in what appeared to be white shaving foam.

1714 Before the foam incident, Rupert Murdoch was asked how far he believed reporters should go in pursuit of a story.

‘I think phone hacking is something quite different but I do believe that investigative journalism ... does lead to a more transparent and open society, inconvenient as that may be to many people,’ he said.

‘And I think we are a better society because of it and I think we are a more open society than even the United States.’

He added: ‘There is no excuse for breaking the law any time. There is an excuse, if I may say so, for all newspapers when they wish to campaign for a change in the law but never to break it.’

1712 Eyewitnesses said a member of the audience sat at the back of the room stood up and walked around to the front where Rupert Murdoch was giving evidence and threw what appeared to be a paper plate covered in shaving foam at him.

As the protester was being taken from the room, Mr Murdoch's wife threw the empty paper plate at him.

1710 James Murdoch was in mid-sentence as the attacked was launched.

Wendi Murdoch, who had sat behind her husband throughout his appearance before the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee, appeared to strike back at the assailant in defence of her husband.

1709 Coverage of the committee hearing resumes after ten-minute suspension following an attack on Rupert Murdoch.

1708 Rupert Murdoch's wife Wendi jumped to his defence as the attack was launched as the final questions were being asked by MPs.

MP Chris Bryant condemned the attack in which he said the media mogul had the plate of foam pushed into his face.

1702 The detained man was wearing a checked shirt with what appeared to be paint splashed across his face.

1658 PA has reported that Rupert Murdoch was pelted with a white substance. A man has been taken away by police.

1656 Proceedings have been suspended for ten minutes. Live coverage will resume then.

1654 The coverage from the committee hearing has been cut after an apparent attack on Rupert Murdoch.

1635 Asked why he had not accepted Brooks' original offer to resign, Rupert Murdoch said: ‘Because I believed her and I trusted her and I do trust her.’

Explaining why he eventually accepted it, he said: ‘In the event, she just insisted. She was at a point of extreme anguish.’

Mr Murdoch said Hinton had ‘sadly’ offered to resign as he was in charge of News International at the height of the hacking abuse.

He refused to give details of the pay-off each will receive but said Mr Hinton's would ‘certainly be considerable’ as it would include pension packages.

James Murdoch said commercial confidentiality agreements were part of the exit package but there was nothing that would ‘stop or inhibit’ them from co-operating fully with investigations.

1631 The New York Times has produced an excellent graphic outlining the key players in the phone hacking scandal.

1623 James Murdoch said it was only as result of civil actions that it became apparent that the practice of phone hacking extended beyond former royal reporter Clive Goodman and private detective Glenn Mulcaire, who were jailed in 2007.

‘At the end of 2010 the presentation of evidence that had not been in our possession previously from this civil litigation that widened the circle definitively - or at least made it very apparent that this was very likely that the circle was wider than the two individuals, Mr Goodman and Mr Mulcaire,’ he said.

He said that he had been advised by the News of the World's then editor Colin Myler and chief lawyer Tom Crone to settle Gordon Taylor's claim for damages out of court. Mr Taylor is chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association.

‘Their advice was that in the absence of new evidence, that this was simply a matter to do with events that had come to light in 2007 in the criminal trial before and before I was there and that this was a matter in the past,’ he said.

‘The police as well had closed their case and said there is no new evidence here.’

1621: Rupert Murdoch said News Corp's rivial built hysteria around the company's bid for BSkyB.

1611 James Murdoch admits that News International is paying legal fees for convicted phone hacker Glen Mulcaire – says he was 'surprised and shocked' to discover this.

Rupert Murdoch was then asked if he would stop these payments. He said he would 'if it was not in breach of contract.'

1608 Rupert Murdoch said he rarely speaks to editors of his newspapers.

He said he sometimes calls the editor of The News of the World on a Saturday night, and nearly always calls editor of Sunday Times on a Saturday night.

‘Not to influence what he has to say at all,’ Murdoch said, but just to enquire.

‘I'm not really in touch. An editor I've spent most time with is the editor of the Wall Street Journal.

‘To say we're hands off is wrong. I work 10 or 12 hours a day and I can't tell you the multitude of issues I have to handle very day.

1601 Rupert Murdoch says he did not accept Rebekah Brooks' resignation because he trusted her and he still does.

1556 Asked if they would think more carefully about the wording of headlines in future, Rupert Murdoch said:

‘I think all our editors certainly will. I am not aware of any transgressions. It is a matter of taste.

‘We have in this country a wonderful variety of voices and they are naturally very competitive. I am sure there are headlines which can occasionally give offence but it's not intentional.’

1555 ‘It doesn't get away from our apologies or our blame for anything but this country does greatly benefit from having a competitive press and therefore having a very transparent society.

'That is sometimes very inconvenient to people but I think we are better and stronger for it.’ – Rupert Murdoch.

1554 James Murdoch said News Corp has no immediate plans to launch a new Sunday tabloid.

‘That is not the company's priority now. This is not the time to be worrying about that.’

1548 Conservative MP Therese Coffey asked who decided that the News of the World should be shut down.

Rupert Murdoch replied: ‘It was a result of a discussion between my son and I and senior executives and Ms Brooks one morning.

‘We called the board of News Corporation, the whole board, to seek their agreement.’

Pressed on whether it was a commercial decision, he replied: ‘Far from it.’

1546 ‘We were advised, fundamentally, to tell the truth… that is mine and my father’s intention’ James Murdoch’s response when asked what kind of coaching they had received before today’s appearance.

1545 Rupert Murdoch said he had worked with Les Hinton, who quit his role as chief executive officer of Dow Jones and Co last week, for 52 years adding: ‘I would trust him with my life'.

Mr Murdoch revealed he had been invited to have a cup of tea as a thank you by Prime Minister David Cameron within days of the general election last year.

He admitted he had entered 10 Downing Street through the back door after being asked to, he believed, to avoid photographers.

‘I just did what I was told,’ he added.

‘That's the choice of the Prime Minister, or their staff, or whoever does these things.

‘I was asked would I please come in through the back door.

‘I was invited within days (of the election) to have a cup of tea to be thanked for the support by Mr Cameron.

‘No other conversation took place.’

He said he was also invited by former British prime minister Gordon Brown ‘many times’ and had also gone in through the back door.

1540 In response to comments by Paul Stephenson and John Yates during hearings earlier, 10 Downing Street has confirmed David Cameron's chief of staff Ed Llewellyn did receive an email from Mr Yates last September offering the Prime Minister an update on the inquiry.

'It would be inappropriate for police to discuss operational matters with the PM or any other minister,' said Mr Cameron's spokesman.

'Ed's response was entirely appropriate that he shouldn't be discussing operational matters with the PM.'

Reporters were told that Cameron was unable to watch any of the committee hearings live but was being briefed on them on the flight home.

1535 Rupert Murdoch was asked when he became aware that criminality was ‘endemic’ at the News of the World.

‘Endemic is a very hard, a very wide ranging word,’ he replied. ‘I also have to be very careful not to prejudice the course of justice that is taking place now.’

Questioned about the 200 journalists who lost their jobs when the News of the World was closed down, Mr Murdoch senior replied: ‘When a company closes down it is natural for people to lose their jobs.’

He said they had tried to secure employment for those people in other divisions of the company.

Explaining why the newspaper was shut down, he said: ‘We felt ashamed at what happened. We had broken our trust with our readers.’

At one point, James Murdoch stepped in to request that questions were directed to him rather than his father.

‘Mr Watson and Mr Chairman, I think it would be helpful to the committee if you would like to go through any of the particular detail about why decisions were made by the management team of News International and the precise chronology it would be more helpful if I could answer those questions as the Chief Executive of the regional business across Europe.

‘I have somewhat more proximity to it.’

Labour MP Tom Watson replied: ‘Your father is responsible for corporate governance and serious wrongdoing has been brought about in the company.

‘It is revealing in itself what he does not know and what executives chose not to tell him.’

1524 Asked why he had not sacked News of the World chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck after the Max Mosley case, when the judge found he had blackmailed two prostitutes involved, Rupert Murdoch replied: 'I have never heard of him.'

He acknowledged that a review of News International emails by former director of public prosecutions Lord Macdonald's review found evidence of 'indirect hacking, breaches of national security and evidence of serious crime'.

'He did indeed,' he said.

1523 Rupert Murdoch said he was 'absolutely shocked, appalled and ashamed when I heard about the Milly Dowler case two weeks ago.'

1522 When asked flat out if he considered himself personally responsible ‘for this fiasco’, Rupert Murdoch replied simply: ‘No.’

Asked who was, he said: ‘The people that I trusted to run it, and then maybe the people they trusted.’

Several people were ejected from the packed public area of the room as proceedings were beginning after holding up posters reading ‘Murdoch wanted for news crimes’.

1515 Rupert Murdoch said there is 'no evidence at all' that the phones of 9/11 victims were hacked.

‘We have seen no evidence of that at all and as far as we know the FBI haven't either.

‘If they do, we will treat it exactly the same way as we treat it here.

‘I cannot believe it happened from anyone in America. Whether someone from the News of the World or Mr Mulcaire took it on himself to do it, I don't know.’

Private investigator Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months in 2007 after pleading guilty to phone hacking charges in an English court.

Asked if he would commission an investigation if the 9/11 allegations subsequently proved true, Murdoch replied: ‘Absolutely.’

1512 James Murdoch said: ‘I can tell you that the critical new facts as I saw them and the company saw them really emerged in the production of documentary information or evidence in these civil trials at the end of 2010.

‘And the duration from 2007 to 2010, and the length of time it took for that to come clear and for that real evidence to be there, is a matter of deep frustration - I have to tell you I sympathise with the frustration of this committee.

‘It's a matter of real regret that the facts could not emerge and could not be gotten to, to my understanding, faster.’

He was asked by committee chair John Whittingdale which News of the World staff, apart from Clive Goodman, were involved in phone hacking.

‘There have been a number of arrests of former News of the World employees.

‘These are matters for current criminal investigations and I think understandably it's difficult for me to comment in particular on some of those individuals.’

1508 Rupert Murdoch says he never set any pre-conditions on the support his organisation gave to the Labour Party ahead of the 1997 British general election.

1505 Your father is responsible for corporate governance at News Corp - and it is revealing what he does not know’ says MP Tom Watson in response James Murdoch’s offer to help with the questions his father cannot answer.

1503 Asked whether he had been ‘misled’ by senior employees, Rupert Murdoch replied: ‘Clearly.’

It was pointed out that former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks admitted in 2003 that police were paid for information.

Rupert Murdoch senior said: ‘I am now aware of that, I was not aware at the time. I'm also aware that she amended that considerably very quickly afterwards.’

Labour MP Tom Watson said: ‘I think she amended it seven or eight years afterwards but did you or anyone else in your organisation investigate it at the time?’

Murdich replied: ‘No. I didn't know of it.

‘I'm sorry, if I can just say something and this is not as an excuse, maybe it's an explanation of my laxity.

‘The News of the World is less than 1% of our company. I employ 53,000 people around the world who are proud and great and ethical and distinguished people, professionals in their work.

‘I'm spread watching and appointing people whom I trust to run those divisions.’

1455 James Murdoch told the committee the company acted ‘swiftly’ as soon as it became aware of fresh evidence over phone hacking following a series of civil actions in 2010, particularly the case involving actress Sienna Miller.

It became apparent that more people than originally believed were victims of the practice, he added.

James Murdoch said: ‘Subsequent to our discovery of that information in one of these civil trials at the end of 2010, which I believe was the Sienna Miller case, the company immediately went to look at additional records around the individual involved, the company alerted the police and restarted, on that basis, the investigation that is now under way.’

1450 'This is not an excuse... but the News of the World is less than 1% of my company,' Rupert Murdoch tells MPs.

1445 James Murdoch said he and his father were sorry for victims in the News of the World phone-hacking scandal.

'It is a matter of great regret of mine, my father's and everyone at News Corporation. These actions do not live up to the standards our company aspires to everywhere around the world,' he said.

'It is our determination both to put things right, make sure these things don't happen again, and to be the company that I know that we have always aspired to be.'

1442 James Murdoch says News Corporation acted as swiftly and as transparently as possible.

He says critical new facts emerged at civil trials in 2010.

1440 James Murdoch says that he was 'more than prepared' to answer the questions of the committee.

The start of the keenly-awaited hearing in the Wilson Room of Portcullis House was briefly disrupted as some protesters were removed.

1439 'This is the most humble day of my life' - Rupert Murdoch.

1435 Rupert and James Murdoch are now taking their seats at the Culture, Media and Sport Committee.

1428 Mr Yates also distanced himself from claims that he secured a job for Mr Wallis' daughter at the Met, describing himself simply as a ‘postbox’.

‘I've done nothing wrong, I was a postbox for a CV from Mr Wallis' daughter where I made some notes in an email, which gives a completely equivocal interest in whether she gets employment or not.’

1420 Yates denied Fedorcio's claim that he had provided a reference for Mr Wallis.

‘I didn't hear Mr Fedorcio's evidence (but) I think that's slightly over-egging the pudding, to put it mildly,’ he said.

‘I sought assurances off Mr Wallis before the contract was let to the effect ... is there anything in the matters that (the Guardian's) Nick Davies is still chasing and still reporting on that could at any stage embarrass you Mr Wallis, me, the Commissioner, or the Metropolitan Police?

‘I received categorical assurances that was the case. That's not due diligence - due diligence is in the proper letting of a contract.

‘I had absolutely nothing to do with that, I had nothing to do with the tendering process, that was a matter for Mr Fedorcio.’

1415 Yates told the committee he had resigned because the phone hacking scandal had become a ‘huge distraction for me in my current role’.

‘I looked at the last two weeks in terms of my role as the head of counter-terrorism, I probably spent no more than two or three hours managing that level of risk,’ he said.

He added that he could not see that pressure subsiding in the near future.

1412 Speaking about the death of former News of the World reporter Sean Hoare, whose body was found in unexplained circumstances at his Watford home yesterday, David Cameron said: ‘The death of anyone is a tragedy for that person.

‘We should all think of the friends and loved ones of Mr Hoare and what has happened to him. That should be uppermost in our thoughts.’

He was challenged over Stephenson's evidence to a Commons committee today that a senior official at 10 Downing Street advised him not to tell the PM about the appointment of ex-News of the World journalist Neil Wallis as a media adviser.

Mr Cameron said: ‘I spoke to Sir Paul Stephenson on Tuesday night. We had a good discussion about the difficulties that the Metropolitan Police were facing. He had my full support in what he was doing.

‘It wouldn't be normal for the Metropolitan Police Commissioner to share a whole range of operational detail about particular operations with the Prime Minister. I wouldn't expect him to do that.

‘What I said to him privately is the same as what I said to him publicly, which is that his force should pursue the evidence wherever it goes. And that, it seems to me, is exactly what it is doing, and that is why there has been the arrests of people including Mr Wallis.’

Addressing the resignations of Stephenson and John Yates, Mr Cameron said: ‘Paul Stephenson and John Yates have made their decisions. They have made honourable decisions. I thank them for the service they have given.’

1414 Background: The New York Times has an infographic with statements made by some of the top figures in the hacking scandal

1403 What appeared to be a summary of the evidence given today by Paul Stephenson to the Home Affairs Committee inquiry into phone hacking was visible through the window of the car Rebekah Brooks was travelling in.

She is thought to have spent the morning at the offices of Bell Pottinger in High Holborn, central London.

1402 Former Met Police Assistant Commissioner John Yates has just taken his seat.

1352 Dick Fedorcio tells the committee that he only found out today that he had been reported to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

1351 Stephenson spoke of his ‘personally painful’ decision to resign in the light of the Metropolitan Police's links to Neil Wallis.

In a final statement to the committee, he said: ‘Contrary to much ill-informed media speculation, I'm not leaving because I was pushed, I'm not leaving because I have anything to fear or threatened, I'm not leaving because of any lack of support from the Mayor (Boris Johnson), the Prime Minister (David Cameron) or indeed the Home Secretary (Theresa May).

‘And until the point of informing them of my resignation, their support was very strong and afterwards their comments most generous.

'I'm going because I'm a leader. Leadership is not about popularity, it's not about the Press, it's not about spinning.

‘It's about making decisions that put your organisation, your mission and the people you lead first. It's about doing things that will make them proud of the leaders and that's much different from being popular with them.

‘It's about making decisions that may be difficult and personally painful. And that's leadership and that's why I'm going.’

1349 Former News International chief executive Rebecca Brooks was seen leaving the offices of a PR firm in central London at around 1.30pm.

She was driven away in a black Audi with screens in the windows which prevented photographers from getting a clear picture of her.

The driver also took evasive action in traffic to thwart photographers attempting to photograph her.

1336 Stephenson insisted he ‘played no role’ in the procurement of the advisory contract from Mr Wallis.

Committee chairman Keith Vaz asked Stephenson whether he had any ‘suspicions’ about links between police and journalists, despite a lack of ‘hard evidence’.

‘You are a police officer with years of experience. Surely you think to yourself, it is very odd that former News International employees, one is working with the leader of the Opposition, one is working with me?’ Mr Vaz said.

‘It is almost like a fashion accessory, that people leave the News of the World and come to work for the police or politicians... and then your officers like Andy Hayman leave the police and go and work for News International.’

Stephenson responded: ‘There was no evidence available to me - not hard evidence.’

The Commissioner also took a swipe at former Assistant Commissioner Mr Hayman, who wrote a column for The Times after leaving the Met.

‘I do not read Mr Hayman's column,’ said Sir Paul. ‘You asked me do you read his columns, and I do not.’

1331 Stephenson has revealed that ten members of the Metropolitan Police's Directorate of Public Affairs have worked at News International in the past.

1330 Stephenson was asked about a meeting he had with The Guardian newspaper in December 2009 to try to persuade staff that their coverage of phone hacking was exaggerated and incorrect.

Asked whether he had looked back ‘over the evidence and over the case’ before going to see them and tell them they were getting it wrong, he said: ‘I am the Commissioner of the Met, I have many people assisting me and I have senior grade chief constables like Mr Yates.

‘Mr Yates gave me assurances there was nothing new to the Guardian article. I think I have a right to rely on those assurances.’

He went to the Guardian because the paper continued to run the campaign, he said - something for which he has now acknowledged ‘we should be grateful’.

1326 David Cameron has promised he would get to the bottom of the problems raised by allegations of phone hacking at the News of the World.

Speaking in Nigeria, he said: ‘Parts of the media committed dreadful illegal acts, the police have serious questions to answer about potential corruption and about failed investigations, politicians have been too close to media owners.

‘These are big problems but we are a big country and we will sort them out.’

Mr Cameron said he would use a statement to the House of Commons tomorrow to give more details of the inquiry he has launched into the phone-hacking allegations.

1325 Commons Speaker John Bercow has rejected a last-ditch Labour bid to place one of its MPs on the committee set to quiz Rupert Murdoch.

Shadow leader of the House Hilary Benn asked Mr Bercow to change today's Commons timetable so Cathy Jamieson could question the News Corp boss, his son James and ex-News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks.

The trio are due before the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee from 1430 - but MPs are not due to debate whether Ms Jamieson should sit on the committee until about 7pm - meaning she would miss the session.

1320 A small but loud group of protesters gathered outside the hearing wearing Rupert Murdoch, Paul Stephenson and David Cameron masks.

One held a placard with ‘smash Murdoch's evil empire’ written on it.

The group, of around a dozen people, shouted: ‘When I say Murdoch, you say out.’

1317 The Evening Standard report has now been raised at the Committee. 'I was certainly not aware if it' says Stephenson.

Background: The Evening Standard is reporting that Neville Thurlebeck was a police informer - receiving information from the Met police computer in exchange - while also working as a crime reporter for the News Of the World.

1313 Even when the UK Information Commissioner produced a report on the undercover market in confidential police information in 2006, Stephenson said he had not regarded the issue as a priority.

'Even with that report there was no reason above the Night Stalker, who hadn't been caught for many years, the counter- terrorism operations, the murder of Stephen Lawrence - major, major cases - they were priorities for me, phone-hacking was not.'

1309 Pressed on whether he had chosen to attack David Cameron in his resignation speech, Stephenson said: ‘I cannot control the way the media spin things or interpret things.

‘I'm just saying here and now that I made no personal attack on the Prime Minister.’

He was asked why he had not disclosed that Neil Wallis worked for the Met as a PR consultant.

‘Why did I not tell the British Prime Minister before Wallis' name was connected with phone hacking? I would have no reason to,’ he said.

‘I had no reason to connect Wallis with phone hacking, I had no reason to doubt his impropriety, nothing had come to my attention, I had no knowledge of the previous inquiry and I had no reason to inquire of the previous inquiry.’

1304 Stephenson says he had 'a huge amount of faith' in his assistant John Yates and had no reason to be concerned with the initial investigation.

1301 The BBC has put together a good outline of the main players in the hacking scandal.

1254 Rupert Murdoch's car was mobbed by photographers as it arrived at Portcullis House a short time ago and then sped off again. It is not clear if he had managed to get in another way.

1250 Some background: Scotland Yard communications chief Dick Fedorcio has been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission over his relationship with hacking suspect Neil Wallis.

The IPCC said in a statement it will independently investigate the relationship between Mr Wallis and Mr Fedorcio, 'focusing on the circumstances under which the contract for senior level media advice and support contract was awarded to Chamy Media.'

1249 Stephenson said he was made aware Neil Wallis was a suspect only 'several weeks ago', adding: 'It was only early last week I was told Wallis may be arrested, it was only Thursday morning I was told he's been arrested that day.'

He was asked why he had not disclosed that Mr Wallis worked for the Met as a PR consultant.

'Why did I not tell the Prime Minister before Wallis' name was connected with phone hacking? I would have no reason to.'

1246 London's Evening Standard is now reporting that hacking suspect Neville Thurlebeck was a police informer while also working as a crime reporter for the News of the World more here

1243 Stephenson denied he had been 'impugning' David Cameron in his resignation statement, when he suggested his employment of Mr Wallis as a media adviser was less controversial than former News of the World editor Andy Coulson's appointment as Downing Street communications chief.

'I was taking no such swipe at the Prime Minister,' Stephenson said. 'I do agree with the Prime Minister when he says this was entirely different.'

1238 Stephenson says he realised he would have to go when it emerged that former News of the World deputy editor Neil Wallis had links to health spa Champneys - where he had received free accommodation and board following an operation to remove a tumour.

'When I became aware that Mr Wallis was in some way connected with Champneys I thought that was a very difficult story.

'I think it was very unfortunate for me. I had no knowledge previously. I think that, together with everything else, I thought this is going to be a significant story.'

He said Home Secretary Teresa May had been 'shocked' by the resignation.

1237 Should you be concerned, Vodafone says it has begun sending text messages to its 2.2 million Irish customers, reminding them that they can change the password required to access their voicemail from another phone.

1230 'It seems to me - and it was a very sad decision for me - but in the run-up to the Olympics if there are going to be continuing speculation around the position of the commissioner and stories continue to distract, then if I was going to do something then I had to do it speedily,' Stephenson tells MPs.

1229 There are reports that the queue to get in to Rupert Murdoch's historic appearance before the Westminster Ctte has been in place for over eight hours.

The first members of the public arrived outside Portcullis House in Westminster at 6.30am - within hours the line extended along the side of the building.

1223 The issue of the hiring of Neil Wallis is being raised again, Stephenson tells the committee that he did not tell David Cameron about Wallis because he had 'no reason to think he was associated with phone hacking.' He insists he had a minor role with the force.

1220 The head of the body which represents police officers in London says the hacking scandal has damaged morale within the service.

Metropolitan Police Federation chairman Peter Smyth said: 'As the story about phone hacking continues to develop, some senior members of the Government seem keen to focus on alleged police corruption rather than their own relationships with News International'

1218 Stephenson says 'distracting' stories about his links to the phone hacking scandal left him with no choice but to resign.

He says he had the full support of the Home Secretary and Mayor.

1216 As the committee gets underway, a Labour MP has called on the UK government's top civil servant to investigate whether David Cameron broke the ministerial code by meeting James Murdoch.

John Mann said the Prime Minister had a case to answer over attending a dinner with Mr Murdoch and his wife Kathryn on 23 December.

The event took place two days after Business Secretary Vince Cable was stripped of decision-making powers in relation to News Corporation's bid to take full control of BSkyB.

Guests also included the then News International chief executive, Rebekah Brooks.

1215 'I had to act quickly for the sake of my organisation'

1209 Asked why he made the decision to resign, Paul Stephenson 'It was my decision only and if i may say so it was against the advice of many of my colleagues - and my wife'

1205 First up is Sir Paul Stephenson. He is addressing the Home Affairs Committee.