10:16am UK, Thursday June 14, 2012
The Prime Minister is giving evidence at the Leveson Inquiry into media ethics at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.
David Cameron will face embarrassing questions about wining and dining with Murdoch executives, including former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks, when he gives evidence at the Leveson Inquiry.
He will also be quizzed about his controversial decision to recruit Andy Coulson, the former News Of The World editor, as No 10 communications director after he had resigned from the paper over the phone-hacking scandal.
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Mr Cameron’s long awaited appearance at Leveson comes after the Government defeated a Labour move in the Commons to refer Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt for investigation.
Labour wanted the PM’s independent adviser on ministerial standards to probe Mr Hunt’s handling of News Corporation’s bid for BSkyB.
The PM will be quizzed over his meetings with Rebekah Brooks
The Government’s victory came after Mr Cameron told MPs that his adviser, Sir Alex Allan, had written to him to say that he could not “usefully add to the facts” in the Hunt case uncovered by the Leveson Inquiry into media standards.
Labour dismissed Mr Cameron’s comments as an ineffective “smokescreen” and said that the Prime Minister’s judgment in appointing Mr Hunt to a quasi-judicial role in the BSkyB bid was in question.
Senior Government insiders claim that when he appears before Lord Justice Leveson Mr Cameron will make clear that the Government will not adopt new plans for regulating the press that stifle freedom of speech.
The PM is expected to follow the tone of Education Secretary Michael Gove, a fierce critic of the Leveson Inquiry, by stressing that press freedom must be preserved at all costs.
But Mr Cameron’s evidence is likely to be dominated by five key questions:
1. Did he ask Mr Coulson about phone-hacking before hiring him? If not, why not?
2. Why was Mr Coulson not given full security vetting?
3. Why did he hand Jeremy Hunt quasi-judicial responsibility for the BSkyB bid after he had written a memo to the Prime Minister supporting it?
4. Did he ever discuss phone-hacking with Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch, Rebekah Brooks or any other News International executives? And if not, why not?
5. Did Rupert Murdoch ever pressure him to change government policy?
Mr Cameron is expected to face probing questions about his friendship with former newspaper boss Rebekah Brooks, after she said he texted her regularly and often signed off his text messages to her with ‘LOL’, which he wrongly believed stood for ‘lots of love’.
He has also been forced to confess that he rode her horse Raisa with Mrs Brooks’s husband Charlie, which was lent to her by the Metropolitan Police between 2008 and 2010, and that he went to her house in the Cotswolds for Christmas dinner.
The Prime Minister’s allies claim he wants to put the record straight, as he sees it, over the decision not to subject his former spin doctor Mr Coulson to “developed vetting” (DV) – the higher form of security clearance – after he entered Downing Street following the general election.
He has said the reason why Mr Coulson was not subject to DV was that Sir Jeremy Heywood, the No 10 permanent secretary in 2010, wanted to restrict the access of politically-appointed special advisers handling communications to sensitive material.
But Mr Heywood changed this after a terror alert at East Midlands airport in October 2010.