Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 415-419)




  415. Thank you very much for coming to see us today. I would like to welcome Rebekah Wade and Andrew Coulson to our hearing for the first time and congratulate both of you on your new appointments. I would also like to thank Rebekah Wade for the letter you sent which, of course, I have circulated to the Committee.

  (Ms Wade) Thank you.

Derek Wyatt

  416. Could I start by saying, given the comments of the previous editor, that I have recently worked with The Sun on a very big issue and the journalist that covered the issue I was working on did it in exactly the same way as I would expect The Times or The Guardian or The Independent to do it, so I thought the professionalism of The Sun was outstanding. Can I ask, first, about the picture of the Prince last week in the News of the World and the comments of the editor of The Mirror saying there was an agreement by the PCC. How do you balance that?
  (Mr Coulson) My first point on Prince William is that I guess I am not entirely surprised but he is not an ordinary person. That said, our view on those pictures was quite clear; there clearly was no breach in terms of the PCC code. Those pictures were taken in public. As we said in the paper, we believe those pictures were inoffensive—in fact, we considered them to be quite charming in the way they promoted the human side of the royal family. Perhaps more importantly, however, St James' Palace put a comment out over the weekend to the effect that they were in breach of the agreement between St James' Palace and the press and I would take exception to that. My feeling is that an agreement really has to be two-way, and since that agreement was put in place there has been very little in the way of material provided by St James' Palace. We simply cannot get away from the fact that there is going to be interest in Prince William, and they have not yet been able to provide, particularly for the Sunday papers, any material beyond September 2001. I think really it makes a nonsense of the agreement. I would add that Prince William's 21st birthday is not far away now and my reporters are putting in regular calls to St James' Palace to find out exactly what is planned and it appears at this stage that nothing is planned, and I think that perhaps is unrealistic, to say the very least.

  417. On the understanding of the agreement between St James and the PCC, is it written or a convention?
  (Mr Coulson) It is a convention, as far as I am aware.

  418. So if it is a convention, as it were, there is no agreement?
  (Mr Coulson) No, but I think everyone understood what the spirit of the agreement was—that there would be on a regular basis—not every week, we are not expecting Prince William to send us photographs of himself every week but on a regular basis there would be material because there was an acceptance that he is the heir to the throne and there was and will be a continuing interest in the life of Prince William, and that has not happened.

  Mr Wyatt: So the fact that we have mentioned the 21st birthday could—

  Chairman: Could I interrupt? You are free to put your questions in the way you like but I have made it very clear that this Committee is not particularly concerned with public figures, politicians and members of the royal family and therefore, since a lot of members want to put questions, could you proceed?

Mr Wyatt

  419. I think people have a right to privacy, whoever they are. Given that you have raised the 21st birthday issue now, it could be that that will thereafter spark off interest in royal photos again and then we are back to this war, as it were?
  (Mr Coulson) I sincerely hope not and we said in our leader column this weekend that we did not consider this to be open season on Prince William or any member of the royal family in that way, and I sincerely hope that does not happen and that the agreement can get back on track.

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