‘THOSE guilty of criminality must go to prison,’ said Labour MP Chris Bryant, opening the emergency debate on ‘phone hacking at the News of the World’.
It emerged yesterday that the Murdoch press had systematically paid Metropolitan Police officers to do its bidding, with Tory Prime Minister Cameron’s former press secretary, Andy Coulson, handing over tens of thousands of pounds to them.
Following Tuesday’s revelation that murdered teenager Milly Dowler’s voicemail had been tampered with, Bryant declared that the mobile phones of family members of the victims of the 7/7 bombings were hacked into by the News of the World, as well as the family members of murdered schoolgirls Holly Wells, Jessica Chapman and missing toddler Madeline McCann.
‘Scandalously it also seems the News of the World targeted some of those police officers who were at various times in charge of the investigation into the actions of the News of the World itself,’ he said.
He continued: ‘I believe if Rebekah Brooks (News International Chief Executive) had a single shred of decency she would now resign.’
He continued: ‘Nor is this just about what went on at the News of the World, it’s also about the behaviour of the Metropolitan Police.
‘Because in the course of a limited investigation that was done in 2006 that led to the conviction of Glenn Mulcaire and Clive Goodman, the police secured a vast amount of information.’
He went on: ‘A lot of lies have been told to a lot of people and when police officers tell lies or at least half truths to ministers of the crown and then parliament ends up being misled, I think that is a major constitutional issue for us to face.’
He added: ‘At the moment what hangs around is a very dirty smell and we need the Metropolitan Police to be trusted not just in London but across the whole of the United Kingdom and that’s why we must fight for this. . . After all we know for a fact that Assistant Commissioner Andy Hayman, who was in charge of the investigation into the News of the World, now works for News International.
‘We know that senior officers were wined and dined by senior executives at the News of the World at the very time and occasionally on the very day that they were making key decisions about whether any further investigation should proceed against that organisation.
‘And we know that the News of the World paid police officers for information.
‘I say that categorically, because on 11th March 2003 I asked Rebekah Wade as she then was, Rebekah Brooks as she now is, whether she had paid police officers for information, in the Select Committee of Culture, Media and Sport.
‘She said “we have paid the police for information in the past”, I said “and will you do it in the future”, she replied “it depends”.
‘Andy Coulson who was sitting next to her said “we operate within the code, within the law and if there is clear public interest then we will”.’
Bryant continued: ‘Even more worryingly, only last night we discover that News International has handed over copies of documents that appear to show that former editor Andy Coulson authorised a series of payments to police officers running to tens of thousands of pounds.’
Bryant went on: ‘My hope is that people who committed criminality at the News of the World will end up going to prison.’
He continued: ‘We have let one man have far too great a sway over our national life. ‘At least Berlusconi lives in Italy, but Murdoch is not resident in this country, he does not pay tax here and he has never appeared before a select committee of this house.
‘No other country would allow one man to garner four national newspapers, the second largest broadcaster, a monopoly on sports rights and first view movies.’
He went on: ‘There are many other questions. Who is paying Glenn Mulcaire’s legal fees now, is it News International? Was Clive Goodman paid off handsomely when he came out of prison?’
He concluded: ‘I think there is one question that does remain, which is, did the prime minister ever ask Andy Coulson what really went on at the News of the World before he appointed him to work on taxpayers’ bill at No.10 Downing Street?
‘Mr Speaker, I hope that those who broke the law at News of the World and those who covered it up will be brought to justice.’