House of COMMONS
MINUTES OF EVIDENCE
CULTURE, MEDIA AND SPORT COMMITTEE
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Taken before the Culture, Media and Sport Committee
Mr John Whittingdale, in the Chair
Mr Peter Ainsworth
Mr Mike Hall
Mr Adrian Sanders
Mr Tom Watson
Witness: Mr Tim Toulmin, Director, Press Complaints Commission, gave evidence.
Chairman: Good morning. Before we start this morning can I welcome two new Members of the Committee, Tom Watson and Peter Ainsworth, each of whom would like to make a short personal statement.
Mr Watson: Thank you, Chairman. Just to declare a couple of interests: one is that I have a column in PA News which is remunerated and in the declaration of interests; the second, for the purposes of this case, is that I am currently in dispute with the Sun newspaper. Whilst I do not think that will affect our inquiry I do think it is important that that is on the record.
Mr Ainsworth: Chairman, I think my declaration is slightly less controversial. I am Chairman of the Conservative Arts and Creative Industries Network and, also, Chairman of the Elgar Foundation.
Q1113 Chairman: Thank you. This morning's session is a further one into the Committee's Inquiry into press standards, privacy and libel. We have decided to hold it, in particular, in response to the stories which appears in The Guardian last week. When the Committee saw those stories it did raise questions not only in relation to our present Inquiry but, also, in relation to the Inquiry which we held two years ago into self-regulation of the press. It appeared that there might have been some contradiction between the evidence given to us by Les Hinton two years ago and the stories which subsequently appeared in The Guardian. As a result of that, we asked Les Hinton whether he wished to change the evidence he had given to us. He has responded to me: "I do not wish to alter or add to my comments before your Committee. My answers then were sincere and, I hope, comprehensive." He went on to say that because he is now based in California and has engagements there he was unable to appear today. The Committee will decide who else it wishes to take evidence from once we have heard this morning's evidence, and we intend to hold a further session next Tuesday. We will obviously wish to put questions to anybody who we think may have additional information to give as part of this Inquiry. Can I welcome our first witness this morning, Tim Toulmin, the Director of the Press Complaints Commission. Tim, the Press Complaints Commission carried out its own investigation following the conviction of Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire, and also the Motorman operation. Can you tell me your response to The Guardian story last week?
Mr Toulmin: Before I do that, Chairman, if I may just put into context exactly what the PCC did two years ago, because there have been one or two inaccurate references to it. It was not an inquiry designed to duplicate the police investigation into what happened at News International; it was very much focused on the evidence that came out of that and how lessons could be learned, both about newspapers, more broadly, and the industry. We brought in the issues to do with the Data Protection Act that the Information Commissioner had been campaigning on for several years, and we conducted the exercise in two ways: we went to the News of the World and asked the new editor Colin Myler to explain to us the circumstances in which the Goodman and Mulcaire operation could be allowed to flourish and what he was going to ensure it would not happen again. Then we spoke to the rest of the industry to find out what controls they had in place to ensure that such a thing could not happen there and would not happen there in the future. Our concern, therefore, is very much with the integrity of that report and to ensure that these sorts of practices are not going on, because we have deplored them on a number of occasions. The Guardian newspaper's allegations last week, which were published with great prominence and repeated throughout the media, initially, of course, gave us cause for concern and, indeed, do give us cause for concern about the situation as it was before our report was published. However, we are going to ask further questions, initially, of The Guardian and, also, of the Information Commissioner, about whether there is any evidence we were misled during our inquiries into that report, and whether there is any evidence that the allegations relate in any way to what has happened subsequent to 2007, because the purpose of our report was to clear up this practice where it went on.
Q1114 Chairman: When you carried out your own investigations, did you have access to the Information Commissioner's information relating to operation Motorman?
Mr Toulmin: Obviously, all this was in the public domain but before your inquiry in 2007, if you remember, with Christopher Meyer, there was that very question put, and he said, at that point, that he would not release details of individual journalists because he thought it would breach their privacy because they had no charges against them. So, no, we have not seen any more information, but I wrote to the Information Commissioner's office last week to say we may have some inquiries of them and they have been in touch, and we will be in conversation later this week. If there is anything pertinent, anything new, that they can tell us, obviously, we will want to know about that, but it would be very much, so far as we are concerned, to illustrate somehow that the press have not been paying attention to the recommendations or we were in any way misled when we conducted that inquiry.
Q1115 Chairman: As far as you can see from what you have read so far, The Guardian stories relate to events which took place prior to your investigation.
Mr Toulmin: That will be one of our questions, but as far as I can tell that is the case and obviously you will be able to put that to Mr Davies after I have given evidence.
Q1116 Chairman: Was there anything in The Guardian story which contradicts what you know to date and which came as a surprise to you?
Mr Toulmin: Obviously, there were some new facts there; the fact of the Gordon Taylor settlement and the amount of money that was alleged to have been involved in that, but we did, of course, know that Gordon Taylor was one of the people who had had their 'phone messages hacked because it came out during the Mulcaire trial in 2007, and we also discovered during that trial that Max Clifford, Elle MacPherson and one or two other people had also got their 'phone messages hacked. So the way that has been repeated in the last week, I think, suggests that that is new information, which it is not, but that is not to say that there is not new information which is concerning. In particular, one of the things that concerns us, because I am not sure it has actually necessarily been clarified, is this reference to 2,000 to 3,000 people and mobile telephones. The way in which it was written in the original piece was very carefully done, and it said that "... officers had found evidence of News Group staff using private investigators who hacked into 'thousands' of mobile 'phones. Another source with direct knowledge of the police findings put the figure at 'two or three thousand' mobiles." That story was based on a source, and we would not expect Mr Davies to tell us who that source was, but what he might be able to tell us is whether that means that the News Group were soliciting information for 2,000 or 3,000 mobile 'phones which is the way in which in some quarters it has been reported, or whether it means that they used a private investigator who separately had been accessing or had made plans to access the mobiles of 2,000 to 3,000 people, which of course is an entirely different allegation, and one which - the latter one - is less severe, as far as News Group is concerned.
Q1117 Chairman: Do you believe that since you amended the Code and since measures were taken across all newspapers to ensure the journalists were aware that these kinds of practices were unacceptable, have you any evidence to suggest that this has continued?
Mr Toulmin: No, not yet. If there is any out there and anyone wants to bring any evidence before us, of course, we will look at it right away. That is a very pertinent point; we do not have that evidence yet, and of course we can only act when that evidence is brought to our attention.
Q1118 Chairman: The widespread anecdotal reports that this sort of thing has been common practice in newsrooms - do you believe that that is or was the case?
Mr Toulmin: I can only say that over the years I have heard rumours that it was the case, but anecdotally, again, talking to people in the industry, those who accept that it did go on some years ago, say it absolutely does not take place now, and, obviously, if it did, given the amount of scrutiny that this Committee brings to it, and the PCC, the police, people know now that they are able to complain to the courts and to the police and the appalling negative publicity that is associated with it, obviously, people would have to be incredibly reckless to carry on undertaking that sort of activity. It is difficult to know for sure, of course, because a lot of this activity will, inevitably, have been going on secretly.
Q1119 Philip Davies: Despite all the hoo-ha in The Guardian about this, it seems to me from what you are saying, and from what John Yates said at the Metropolitan Police, that as far as you are concerned and as far as the police are concerned, there is no new evidence here; it is a sort of regurgitation of what we already knew. Am I right in thinking that that is your position?
Mr Toulmin: There is a lot of what we already knew. There is a lot of stuff from the Information Commissioner's report into operation Motorman, and the two reports What Price Privacy and What Price Privacy Now, which this committee has examined in previous years. The information from that, as far as I know, relates to activity that was going on in 2002, which was way before I was Director of the PCC, and it has had a good trot around the columns before and people have looked at it. Then there was the information that came out of Mulcaire and the Goodman trial which, of course, was also published widely at the time, and our own inquiries. However, there is some new information: as I said earlier, the fact that Gordon Taylor had sued the paper and got a settlement and the amount of money. There is a suggestion as well that there was another reporter at the News of the World who was aware of what Mulcaire was doing. I think that is new and that is, obviously, something we will be chasing up with The Guardian.
Q1120 Philip Davies: Is it not the case that the News International line to take on the Goodman affair was that this was somebody who was operating as a maverick, totally independently, nobody knew what he was doing (although, clearly, somebody must have known what he was doing). This was the picture being given. Do the allegations in The Guardian not suggest that rather than this being a maverick, acting independently, there was a more widespread culture within the organisation of the News of the World which must have been evident to more people?
Mr Toulmin: I think that is the way that the allegations have been interpreted by a large number of people, and you can ask The Guardian whether it was their intention to imply that. That is certainly the impression a lot of people have got.
Q1121 Philip Davies: I am asking you if that is your impression.
Mr Toulmin: At this stage it is not, because we have had, 21/2 years ago, a comprehensive exchange with Colin Myler who conducted an internal inquiry there. If there is anything in the report and anything that you discover today that suggests that that is not true, then, obviously, that would suggest that we have been misled and, of course, we would be right on to it. We will be writing to the paper once we have as much information as we can possibly lay our hands on.
Q1122 Philip Davies: Do you think that some people might think that this is the PCC being ineffectual, closing ranks on the newspaper industry, on the journalism industry, not wanting to have a big hoo-ha because it might undermine the whole concept of self-regulation and the rationale behind the PCC itself?
Mr Toulmin: I think whatever the PCC did - if we introduced hanging and whipping and all sorts of ghastly public humiliations for editors - there will always be people that would say that. So I am quite happy to accept that. However, what people should look at is the fact that all of this, all of our activity, takes place in an entirely transparent way. We did not have to, in the way that we are constituted, conduct this exercise two years ago; we did because we thought that public confidence was likely to be undermined by the events at the News of the World in relation to Goodman and Mulcaire. The newspaper and the company co-operated with us at that time. It is worth bearing in mind that we have actually stretched the boundaries of our remit as far as possible. We are a complaints body; we are not statutory; we are like an ombudsman, really. People want us to be more like a general regulator with statutory powers and so on. That is a separate argument; the fact is we are not that body. Nonetheless, based on the industry's voluntary compliance with the Code of Practice we went as far as we could at that time in order to shine a light on how these transgressions at the paper had been allowed to arise. Of course, there is absolutely nothing in it for the PCC to cover anything up at all, or to be fobbed off in any way. If there is any evidence, as I said, that we have been misled we will be straight on to the newspaper, and we will in any case give them an opportunity to come back to us on that. Just one final point I would make: I am, as you know, just an official of the PCC; the Board of the PCC will be the body that will decide, ultimately, whether it has been misled. That Commission is meeting next week, at which all these matters will be discussed.
Q1123 Philip Davies: Finally, if I may, Chairman, it seems that The Guardian must have seen, in order to publish their story, some sealed court papers. I just wondered if the PCC had any concerns about how The Guardian may have arrived at its particular story.
Mr Toulmin: I think there are all sorts of issues there. I think the focus at the moment is on the News of the World. I think The Guardian would say that what they have done is publish a story in the public interest. We are not going to find out what the source of the story is because they have an obligation to protect their confidential sources, and that is something that we respect. So I do not think we are ever going to get to the bottom of quite what Mr Davies has or has not seen, and that is probably as it should be. The Code of Practice itself says that journalists must respect confidential sources, so we certainly would not be going down that path.
Q1124 Rosemary McKenna: Good morning. Are the PCC not concerned that there is an attitude among journalists that this is widespread? For example, on Sunday morning, on The Andrew Marr Show, in the newspaper review, both Sir Trevor McDonald and Amanda Platell, well-known journalists, actually said: "Why are we surprised?" They both actually said that: "Why are we surprised? We know this kind of behaviour goes on." Are you not concerned about that?
Mr Toulmin: I think it is very depressing that people think that it is widespread and common and that journalists routinely engage in that sort of activity. Of course it is; there is no doubt about it. From where we are sitting, there is evidence - and we have seen evidence, through the court case and there is further evidence in The Guardian - that this has gone on; anecdotally we heard that it used to be more widespread. However, action has been taken, through the courts, the police inquiry at the News of the World, the PCC's activity and your Inquiry, since all these things apparently were more common, to ensure that it does not happen again. I think we ought to focus for a large part on where we are now. Of course, it is easy to condemn historical transgressions, and there is absolutely no complacency about that at all, but ----
Q1125 Rosemary McKenna: The point is: are we sure? That is the point, is it not? Are we sure that it is historical; that it is not happening today?
Mr Toulmin: We cannot be 100% sure without having some sort of God-given powers of seeing into journalists' minds and private activity. The point is, if you have any suspicion you can go to the police, you can complain to a lawyer, you can come to the PCC, you can go to a newspaper, you can tell Nick Davies about it and he will probably write a lengthy story about how frightful journalists are. There are many ways of obtaining redress. So much scrutiny has been brought into this area in the last few years that I think we can be far more certain than we were that it really does not go on.
Q1126 Rosemary McKenna: Or that it has gone deeper underground. That is the other scenario.
Mr Toulmin: All these things are hypothetical. I just do not know. I would be extremely surprised, given everything that has happened - the newspapers are fully aware of the sorts of punishments that are available - should they be caught out doing it again. I just cannot imagine. I do not understand why they would do that.
Q1127 Adam Price: Your demeanour, Mr Toulmin, this morning is admirably relaxed, but you are in a fairly unique position here, are you not?
Mr Toulmin: A fairly ---?
Q1128 Adam Price: You are in a fairly unique position, the PCC, because two of your members, are they not, are effectively accusing each other of lying?
Mr Toulmin: You mean people who subscribe to the PCC Code?
Q1129 Adam Price: The Guardian has said that they know for certain that several News of the World reporters were aware of the 'phone hacking, which directly contradicts the evidence that was given to this Committee and several statements made subsequently by News of the World executives. The News of the World, in its editorial on Sunday, accused The Guardian of being "deliberately misleading". Is this not a crisis for the industry; that two members of the PCC are accusing each other of misleading the British public, and only one of them can be right?
Mr Toulmin: Well, I, perhaps, have a slightly longer memory about these sorts of spats. These things go on between newspapers all the time, and there is nothing new about that, at all. We are in a slightly better position than you might imagine in that we do not take complaints from one newspaper about another, or one journalist about another; we tend to take the view that they can look after themselves. So various degrees of scrutiny will be brought to this. Of course there is the PCC, and I have told you what steps we are taking, and then there is, of course, this Inquiry, which is a public forum, where people will have to come and account for themselves. Doubtless, people will make their own minds up as to precisely where the truth lies here, but we have not been asked to adjudicate on that matter, as we might be slightly impartial.
Q1130 Mr Sanders: What you seem to be saying is you cannot believe what you read in the newspapers.
Mr Toulmin: Those are your words, Mr Sanders, not mine.
Q1131 Adam Price: Private Eye is not a member of the PCC.
Mr Toulmin: No.
Q1132 Adam Price: However, I am sure you are an avid reader of Street of Shame.
Mr Toulmin: I am, of course.
Q1133 Adam Price: Can I remind you of a story which appeared in Private Eye in July 2007, where they alleged that Glenn Mulcaire, subsequent to the court case, had been paid a sum in the region of £200,000 by News of the World, they claimed, to buy his silence, and they also went on to say that Clive Goodman could expect a similar payment. Were you aware of that allegation? It has not been denied by the News of the World, to my knowledge.
Mr Toulmin: Was I aware of that? I cannot quite remember that particular story, I am afraid, but it was not actually pertinent to what we were trying to do with the industry, which, as I said earlier, was building on what we knew already through the court case to make sure that things did not happen again. I do not know whether that is true or not, and that would be a question for the principals concerned.
Q1134 Adam Price: You will put that question to the News of the World?
Mr Toulmin: Well, is it relevant?
Q1135 Adam Price: It is relevant.
Mr Toulmin: Is it relevant to whether or not we were misled? Is that what you are suggesting?
Q1136 Adam Price: It is relevant in the sense that the allegation is that they were trying to buy his silence. Specifically, the News of the World denies, of course, that they are trying to suppress evidence, so it is a perfectly reasonable question to put to them. Is this true? Did they pay Glenn Mulcaire £200,000 - or somebody close to him £200,000 - subsequent to his conviction?
Mr Toulmin: If there is evidence that in doing so they tried to suppress evidence to us that would have been relevant to what we were trying to achieve, then of course it is pertinent to our inquiry. However, we are not going to chase up every rumour and bit of tittle-tattle that we read in Private Eye, because we would be even busier than we are at the moment.
Q1137 Adam Price: It is a very specific allegation, it has not been denied; surely, the public interest suggests that we have a right to know whether it is true or not. If it is not true they can deny it and then we are all clear.
Mr Toulmin: It is the sort of nugget that might be quite interesting to know, just to satisfy people's curiosity, but the question for us is whether it is pertinent or not to the report that we wrote and the inquiries that we made at the time. That is the relevance for us.
Q1138 Adam Price: I think it is extraordinary that you think that it is just an interesting "nugget". Surely, it goes to the heart of how the News of the World has approached this whole issue. The story that The Guardian wrote was about a pay-off and the sealing of court papers to prevent that information from going into the public domain. This allegation is suggesting something similar. Those allegations start to look like a pattern of offending behaviour. We need to know whether they are true, surely?
Mr Toulmin: I think it is important to recognise that there is a division of responsibility here, and the PCC's authority is rooted in the Code of Practice, which is, as you know, a voluntary document which journalists and editors sign up to. Our way into this issue is clause 10 of the Code which relates to subterfuge and undercover journalism. Our concern, therefore, is respect for that Code by journalists going forward, and, of course, if there is a complaint then we will look into that. There are all sorts of things that go on at newspapers, no doubt, that people might want to know about, or that otherwise fall under different authorities, such as the police; there are all sorts of laws and rules that apply. However, I do not think it is very fair to expect the PCC to "hoover-up" every last allegation that is made about either an individual journalist or a freelancer, and so on; it has got to be relevant and rooted in the rules that we are set up to apply. If that is the case with this payment, which we will obviously look at, then it will become pertinent, but, on the face of it, it does not necessarily sound like it is. Again, that will be a matter for our Board of Directors to consider next week when we put all the information to them.
Q1139 Paul Farrelly: Just on that point, is payment to criminals a breach of the Code?
Mr Toulmin: In some circumstances it can be, yes.
Q1140 Paul Farrelly: Just following Adam's point - and this is an allegation I am not aware of - if there was a payment, for whatever reason, to people who had been convicted of a criminal offence, would that not be something that you would investigate under the Code, if the complaint or allegation were made to you?
Mr Toulmin: If a complaint is made that a criminal was paid for a story then, of course, it is relevant - if a complaint is made - that that has happened.
Q1141 Paul Farrelly: This is a narrow view of your remit and, probably, why people might want to have you take a more proactive role in terms of standards. Re-reading your report on News International, there was a preoccupation going through it that, actually, the employment of the private investigators was somehow there to subvert the Code when, in fact, it was to go on fishing expeditions for juicy stories.
Mr Toulmin: Which would subvert the Code.
Q1142 Paul Farrelly: You started off, with the Chairman, on looking at what was new and what was not new. Can you tell me: is The Guardian's list and breakdown from the Motorman affair and the Information Commissioner that one News of the World reporter made 130 requests, another made 118, and there were three different news executives signing off allegedly illegal searches - is that new?
Mr Toulmin: That detail may be new. Again, that is probably a question for The Guardian people. The fact that News of the World journalists were using private investigators came to light during the Motorman inquiry is not new.
Q1143 Paul Farrelly: No, but is the detail new?
Mr Toulmin: It may be new; I cannot ----
Q1144 Paul Farrelly: Do you not think it is rather important that you do satisfy yourself whether it is new or not?
Mr Toulmin: We have been through all this, of course, before, with the previous Select Committee Inquiry and with the Information Commissioner. Again, I think that where it is relevant to any suggestion that we have been misled, of course, we will need to find that out.
Q1145 Paul Farrelly: Actually, we have not been through this detail in previous inquiries --
Mr Toulmin: No, but through the issue of the Information Commissioner's report.
Q1146 Paul Farrelly: We went through a list of fine and upstanding things that Mr Mulcaire told you he had been doing for his retainer, such as credit status checks, Companies House searches and electoral roll searches. This is a different list. We have not gone through a list of allegedly breaking into the DVLA in this detail, into the police national computer - we have not gone through that in previous inquiries. You do not know whether it is new or not.
Mr Toulmin: Obviously, we were aware of what sort of activity was going on; whether precisely we knew the number of News of the World journalists that were associated with each particular offence is new, I am not sure. You will just have to ask the other people that. The point is, we did know these were the types of allegations that were made at the time, but these are matters for the Information Commissioner to prosecute, surely. This relates to breach of the Data Protection Act, allegedly. He decided, for whatever reason - and you have questioned him about this - not to take any further action.
Q1147 Paul Farrelly: I just want to come back to this because I do not agree with you, Tim, and I think people will gain a very poor impression of the PCC if that is the line you continue to maintain. Would you agree: it is the oldest trick in the spin doctor's book to say that things are an old story, and it is not just a question of whether these happened before 2007 but, actually, the detail of what went on and whether the PCC and Parliament were misled. Do you agree?
Mr Toulmin: Of course, that is hugely important. If there is any allegation either that we or you were misled it is hugely important.
Q1148 Paul Farrelly: If subsequent information has come to light through people whom you have questioned and we have questioned and the record has not been corrected, would you say that is pertinent?
Mr Toulmin: Absolutely, yes.
Q1149 Paul Farrelly: Clearly, would you also agree that the connection between Mulcaire and Motorman and Whittamore is illegality, without a public interest - or alleged illegality.
Mr Toulmin: Yes. Alleged - that is quite important. The relevant authority for dealing with these sorts of complaints, if it was under the Data Protection Act, of course, would be the Information Commissioner. Similarly, the relevant authority for the allegation about the breach of RIPA is the police, and that is why they ended up being prosecuted and convicted.
Q1150 Paul Farrelly: Could you tell us when you conducted all the training seminars?
Mr Toulmin: They were in 2007.
Q1151 Paul Farrelly: Given The Guardian's allegations, does it concern you (this goes back to my original point) that there were people attending these seminars, or arranging for their reporters to attend these seminars, who clearly knew about the Taylor affair and knew about, if it is correct, the detail of what was being commissioned from Whittamore or Motorman? Does that concern you?
Mr Toulmin: I think any breach of the Data Protection Act, any breach of the Code, any criminality on behalf of journalists, it all concerns me - of course it does - but the whole point of those seminars - seven 21/2-hour seminars at the News of the World, which all their staff had to go to - was precisely to ensure that further transgressions would not take place, and that people were fully aware of both what the Code required and, also, the law, and their lawyer was there as well, ensuring that they were fully aware of that. It should go without saying that any allegation that this behaviour has gone on at any point, at any level in the company, and anyone was aware of it, is a matter of great concern. The question for us now is: in their submission to us, 21/2 years ago, were we misled into believing that it was more of a contained problem than it was? That we have an open mind on, and that is one of the points that we are going to be looking at.
Q1152 Paul Farrelly: Can I just ask you what information you are going to be asking News International? Can I ask you a few points? Will you be asking how Mr Mulcaire was paid for his 'phone hacking activities in the Taylor and the other two cases; whether it came out of the retainer that they paid to Mr Mulcaire or did it come from a separate slush fund as was alleged to have operated at the time of Goodman? Will you be asking that question?
Mr Toulmin: I can see why you are going down that line, but I think I have to be quite clear that this is an ongoing issue. The Board of the PCC must meet and decide precisely what questions to put to the News of the World. In the meantime, we are gathering material from those people who are making the allegations. Nick Davies has kindly said he will answer our questions after he has spoken to you, and the Information Commissioner is giving us some further information as well. At that point, we will decide, as a body, what questions are right to ask to discover what we want to find out. If you have got a specific list of questions you think we should ask then, of course, we will take account of that.
Q1153 Paul Farrelly: Chairman, with your permission, might I just give you four more? I have suggested one that might be relevant. It is directly relevant to the evidence they gave you about Mr Mulcaire's retainer.
Mr Toulmin: Absolutely. We want to hear them yet.
Q1154 Paul Farrelly: Will you be asking them what submissions they made to the court in the Taylor case, and whether they were accurate or not? I think you might wish to ask for the transcripts of the 30 recordings that are alleged to have been made from Taylor's 'phone, and the journalists and executives who were involved. You might ask who knew about what dealings with Whittamore and for copies of the alleged itemised account department records, and whether those were accompanied by statements that the searches were for the public interest. You might also ask, perhaps, how far up the chain of command the settlement of the Taylor case went, and whether indeed it went to the Board of News International and perhaps ask for board records and minutes. Clearly, the record was not corrected as far as the PCC was concerned because you were not told of the case. Is that correct?
Mr Toulmin: We were not told about?
Q1155 Paul Farrelly: The Taylor settlement.
Mr Toulmin: We were not told about the
Q1156 Paul Farrelly: I have one final question, if I might, Chairman. With Mr Coulson, we made a criticism in our last report of the PCC, that you did not invite him to give evidence regardless, even though he had resigned. Since then, Tim, on our visit to the PCC you have been brave and independent enough to say that, actually, thinking back, the PCC had missed a trick in that and should have called him. Have you got any plans now to put to your Board a recommendation to call him to ask exactly what was going on on his watch and what he has denied knowledge of and what he has not denied knowledge of?
Mr Toulmin: I am happy to repeat what I said to you at the PCC when you came over, and just for the record that was that although I did not think we needed to call Andy Coulson because I do not think it would have, in fact, added anything to the information we were given by the News of the World, which had conducted its own inquiry, of course, maybe, there is an argument presentationally that it would have been better to have been to have done so, and of course, as I recall, this Committee did not call him either, although you may be about to change that as well. The focus of this is on whether we were misled. If Andy Coulson has any evidence or if there is any evidence that Andy Coulson knows about whether we were misled, he may come in as a relevant party. Again, that sort of decision, clearly, would be a matter for the Board of the Commission to decide when it reviews all this information that it will have at its disposal next week.
Q1157 Mr Hall: You have repeated on a number of occasions this concern that you have that the PCC may well have been misled in the original investigation and that you would take that as a very serious situation to be in. If it turns out that you were misled what powers have the PCC got to do anything about it?
Mr Toulmin: I do not want to correct you but I think it is important to distinguish that there is an allegation, or there is a suggestion, that we have been misled by The Guardian, and the suggestion that it may not have been deliberate. What we are going to do is test what they said to us two years ago with what we know now, and allow them the opportunity to comment on that. We cannot anticipate whether there will be a finding that they misled us or not.
Q1158 Mr Hall: No, but what I am saying is if you were misled what sanctions have the PCC got to do anything about it?
Mr Toulmin: Of course, that is hypothetical - it will depend on who did the misleading.
Q1159 Mr Hall: It is not a hypothetical question at all; if you have been misled, what powers have the PCC got to do anything about it?
Mr Toulmin: The PCC's powers, as you know, are vested in us through the industry; it is a self-regulatory, non-statutory body. Our powers are about scrutiny, embarrassment, shining a light on people, making recommendations about what should happen, contracts of employment are written in a way to include compliance with the Code and respect for the PCC. So, of course, it is a disciplinary matter if we find that we have been misled, depending on who it is and so on. I do not want to anticipate what the PCC might say in relation to that before it has had an opportunity to review all of the evidence that is before it, and decide whether it has actually been misled or not.
Q1160 Mr Hall: You know there is a genuine concern that the PCC have got very little power in these things.
Mr Toulmin: People do make these allegations about the PCC; I prefer to ask whether or not the PCC, in terms of what it is trying to do and what it is set up to do - which is a mediator and which is to hand down rulings on specific complaints - is effective or not, and it absolutely is in that regard. I have a large, bulging file of thank-you letters from people that will attest to that, from all walks of life. Of course, if you are setting the PCC up to be some sort of general legal regulator and comparing it with something that has statutory powers then, of course, it does not have those powers. I do not think we should be ashamed to accept that.
Q1161 Mr Hall: What was News International's response to your 2007 report?
Mr Toulmin: News International, and News of the World, in particular, had already taken steps to completely ----
Q1162 Mr Hall: Is it fair to say they ignored your report?
Mr Toulmin: No, it is not fair to say that at all; they changed the way in which contracts operated ----
Q1163 Mr Hall: Was that before you reported or afterwards?
Mr Toulmin: The News of the World took that action during the time that we were making our inquiries. After the Inquiry they had all these stands, and seminars, and they changed the way in which external freelancers contribute to the paper and the way in which it supervised cash payments, and so on, and the other titles also took steps to implement our recommendations. So they certainly did not ignore us.
Q1164 Mr Hall: You put a great deal of store by the Myler internal investigation. Did the PCC do any external scrutiny of that report, or do they just accept it at face value?
Mr Toulmin: In October 2007, which was sometime after the report, the then Chairman wrote to all the newspapers and magazines that had taken part in the inquiry - so across the entire country - to get their response to it. These recommendations were designed to ensure that the situation improved. As we have talked about, the PCC's powers are given to us by consent - it cannot force people to do this - but the response we got, and we can certainly update the Committee on that because we have a file back at the office full of these things, did indicate quite a widespread acceptance of what we were saying, which was very encouraging because (to go back to what I was saying earlier) who would want this sort of scandal to arise at their newspaper again? I think anyone would want to put in place steps to ensure that there will be no repetition.
Q1165 Mr Hall: That answers my next question, really, because I was very interested in your assertion that there were so many different ways of redress that you would expect most newspapers, now, to comply to an ethical code of journalism, if you like, but we still have in the Code of Conduct (correct me if I am wrong) that if it is in the public interest almost anything goes as to how you get the information. Is that correct?
Mr Toulmin: Not quite, no. There are some public interest defences to things that would otherwise breach the Code.
Q1166 Mr Hall: Would 'phone tapping breach the Code?
Mr Toulmin: It certainly would breach the Code, yes - it would be extremely serious.
Q1167 Mr Hall: Even in the public interest?
Mr Toulmin: There would have to be very, very serious and pressing public interest, for instance, to foil a terrorist attack or something, to justify such a high level intrusion. The point I was going to make is that there are different degrees of intrusion; there are very serious intrusions, like 'phone tapping and eavesdropping on some conversations, and then there are less serious ones, more superficial ones - for instance, looking at people's Facebook profiles, or something.
Q1168 Mr Hall: Would accessing the police national computer and accessing records at the DVLA, accessing people's tax records be a serious intrusion?
Mr Toulmin: Very serious indeed, and illegal.
Q1169 Mr Hall: Would there be a justification in the public interest for that?
Mr Toulmin: I do not know. Again, that is hypothetical; it is difficult ----
Q1170 Mr Hall: It is not; if somebody accesses your tax records and they claim that they have done that in the public interest, that is not a hypothetical question. Is it right or wrong?
Mr Toulmin: With respect, it is because it would depend on what the justification was, which I do not know. What I am saying is that it is a very serious form of intrusion, and any public interest would have to be incredibly strong and impressive to justify it, and it would be illegal as well.
Q1171 Mr Hall: One last question, and I think I may have misheard you. Right at the start, in answer to the Chairman, you mentioned that there may have been a list of journalists that had been involved in these practices, but their names were not published because of their rights to privacy. Would it not be in the public interest for those names to be published?
Mr Toulmin: You might well argue that, and that is certainly something to take up with the Information Commissioner. I have been in touch with the Information Commissioner and I think his office is thinking about making some more information public during this week.
Q1172 Mr Hall: Have I got this right: we have got a list of journalists who have actually acted improperly and used the defence of public interest to find stories and then they do not want their names releasing because they do not want their right to privacy?
Mr Toulmin: No, no, that is not right, that is not right.
Q1173 Mr Hall: That is not right?
Mr Toulmin: That is not right. What is right, as far as I understand it, is that there is a list of journalists that the Information Commissioner has. However, they were not charged with any offence, so they were not in any position to defend themselves, in the public interest or otherwise, and they probably do not know that they are on this list. Nonetheless, I think you have been told two years ago that this list does exist and it may be that The Guardian have seen that list as well.
Mr Hall: Thank you.
Q1174 Mr Watson: Tim, good morning. This is my first Committee so go easy on me, will you? I am not a journalist so I am tracking this back at my own pace, but I was struck by the Mulcaire case where the judge said there was clearly a legitimate use of private investigators in certain circumstances. Do you issue guidelines to your members about what is appropriate use of private investigators and what is not?
Mr Toulmin: We certainly issue guidance about the whole issue of subterfuge which may bring in private investigators, and our report, I think, finished in 2007 by saying: "Any allegation that private investigators are being used to use subterfuge we will have to look at and test against the public interest", just in the same way that any journalist has the Code of Practice and the other guidance that applies to them. So, yes, we do, because, by extension, if they are working for a newspaper they are falling under the terms of the Code.
Q1175 Mr Watson: Do you have any evidence that there has been a growth in the use of private investigators since 2007?
Mr Toulmin: No, no evidence at all.
Q1176 Mr Watson: Is that because there is not a list of legitimate firms that your members use?
Mr Toulmin: The evidence, so far as it exists, is anecdotal, and, again, it would be one for the Information Commissioner, probably, who has been active in this area. Stories that have emerged in the last week suggest that it is much more difficult for inquiry agents to get media work because the press have been brought into line by the various activities that have happened since then.
Q1177 Mr Watson: Do you think it might be helpful if there is a central register drawn up of the firms that big newspaper organisations use?
Mr Toulmin: I think what would certainly be helpful is a list of private inquiry agents who breach the law, because newspapers absolutely ought to know that they are using material from dodgy sources.
Q1178 Mr Watson: Is there a concern - not necessarily from yourself but across the industry - that the use of private investigators is essentially outsourcing the decision over whether an issue is in the public interest or not? Let me throw a hypothetical situation at you, that you do not like: you have got a private investigator trying to track someone down and they can choose to trespass on a property or rummage through somebody's bin to try and find information. Would it be that they would try and get permission to do that from someone that has hired them or would they be in a position where they would make that decision themselves?
Mr Toulmin: I think what is important to say there is that however they went about it, if that information was used then it will be the responsibility of the person who was using it. So the person who is using it would want to know how it was obtained, because if there was a complaint to us or to the police then it is no defence to say "I didn't know what this person was up to."
Q1179 Mr Watson: Is it your experience that the person who hires a PI to do that kind of stuff would always check how the information was obtained?
Mr Toulmin: I do not think that I have sufficient experience of that precise relationship to be able to answer you, but I think the use of private inquiry agents generally is much minimised now. So it is probably difficult to establish. One of the things that these inquiries have allowed newspapers to do is to terminate their relationships with a lot of these people.
Q1180 Mr Watson: What slightly concerns me is you say the "use of private inquiry agents ----"
Mr Toulmin: Private investigators.
Q1181 Mr Watson: "---- is minimised". However, if you do not know which companies are used and how much is spent on these companies, that would just be anecdotal, would it not?
Mr Toulmin: I think that is one of the problems with this. Again, I would just point out that there is a patchwork of responsibility here. The PCC is responsible for the Code, the Information Commissioner, who has legal powers, is responsible for the Data Protection Act, and has carried out inquiries and raids on private investigators, and would be the best person to ask about that sort of thing, at the moment.
Q1182 Mr Watson: Just one last question: you mentioned something about how contracts were operated post your report. Are Codes of Conduct built into journalists' contracts of employment now?
Mr Toulmin: Yes.
Q1183 Mr Watson: So all contracts in these companies have now been rewritten?
Mr Toulmin: It is practically universal, and, again, those that did not do it at the time of our last inquiry have gone away and done it. I think, Chairman, I might be right in saying that the Express have done it as a result of this current inquiry. So it is practically universal now.
Q1184 Mr Watson: Would you be able to let us know which organisations have not done it, if there are any?
Mr Toulmin: If there are any they are likely to be small, but I will certainly do that.
Mr Watson: Thank you very much.
Q1185 Alan Keen: The Chairman has indicated the shortage of time so I will try and be brief and just ask one question, basically, but it may take more than one answer to satisfy. Who, in your experience, holds the budgets? Is there a chief accountant that reports to the chief executive who is commercial only?
Mr Toulmin: In the newspapers?
Q1186 Alan Keen: Yes.
Mr Toulmin: It would be internal to the newspaper.
Q1187 Alan Keen: Are there budgets to do with journalism, or acquiring information, which are quite separate from the editor of the newspaper, or does the editor, in your experience, control the total budget within his domain?
Mr Toulmin: One of the things we found out from our inquiry in 2007 at the News of the World was that there was a situation where cash payments (I think we found £12,300 or something to Mulcaire from Clive Goodman) were signed off by, I think, the then managing editor at the News of the World. So that is within the newspaper. It is not clear that the editor, who was then Andy Coulson, did know about that at all. In fact, I think the police found there was no evidence of that. I think the managing editor denied that he knew what those cash payments were for - just "a source for royal stories", apparently. That is one area where things have been tightened up and it was one of the recommendation points in our report.
Q1188 Alan Keen: Has that system been adopted by most newspapers or even all newspapers; that nothing to do with acquiring information is dealt with outside the budget that would be controlled by the editor who is controlling what is printed?
Mr Toulmin: Obviously, the buck stops with the editor and the editor's relationship then with his board of management is a separate matter that would cover all budgets. I think what we did was to make clear to these papers that slack use of cash payments may - and did in this case - give rise to this lack of supervision and these legal transgressions and breaches of the Code. So, yes, we would certainly expect that newspapers and magazines would be very tight on that now.
Q1189 Alan Keen: Could you give us examples of different methods, different systems, of ownership of newspapers? Could you give us one or two different examples of where the actual owners have become interested in what is being printed and the details of the finances, the payment for the acquisition of information?
Mr Toulmin: I do not know if it is people who actually own them; that will depend, as you say, because it will be shareholders in some cases, and individuals in others and trusts in other cases - but certainly we brought in management. So we went outside the newspapers when we did this report and we brought it to the attention of the people who are the chief executive/managing directors of these companies to ensure that the whole message filtered down from on high.
Q1190 Mr Ainsworth: Just following on from that, setting aside who signed off what cheques and budget trails and paper chases, and so on and so forth, from your experience of the culture of the way that this industry works (and I am new as well, so be easy on me), I just wondered what you felt about the allegations that have been made, quite widely in the press - Stephen Glover in the Independent, for example, saying that he found it incredible that Mr Coulson did not know what was going on under his watch. What is your view about that? Have you had a complaint from Mr Coulson about it?
Mr Toulmin: No. I think the whole point of the PCC is that the buck stops with the editor. It is up to the editor to foster a culture in his or her newspaper that means that journalists there respect the Code of Practice. That, again, is our concern; it is the Code of Practice which was over and above the law; of course, we would expect editors to make sure their journalists were conversant with the law, too, and obeyed it. People have raised eyebrows that Andy Coulson did not know what was going on, but he would say that having been exposed as not knowing he then resigned because he should have known what was going on. So a lot of people have said that it was surprising.
Q1191 Mr Ainsworth: Are you in the camp that says that if he did not know he should have done? Are you part of that?
Mr Toulmin: I think he clearly should have known that people were involved in conspiring to break the law but he did not, apparently, and resigned and paid a high price for it.
Q1192 Janet Anderson: Can I just follow on from that? Do you find that credible? Clearly, in your job, you have a lot of dealings with editors, you must know about the way they operate. Do you not think a national newspaper editor who was worth his or her salt and up to the job should know absolutely what is going on on their watch?
Mr Toulmin: Of course they should do, in an ideal world, and the Code of Practice should never be breached, and so on. The police were all over this story, and I think there was a statement from the police last week that said that their investigation was not half-hearted and they conducted quite a penetrating inquiry (obviously, they have legal powers that we do not have) and there is no evidence, as far as I know, linking Andy Coulson to those crimes at all. So that would include him knowing about it.
Q1193 Janet Anderson: Surely, if he had been doing his job properly, is it not one of his responsibilities to know what his reporters are up to?
Mr Toulmin: As I said before, the buck stops with the editor and he resigned and everyone accepted it was a serious oversight, to say the very least, that he did not know what was going on.
Q1194 Janet Anderson: Do you believe now that if this kind of thing is still going on editors will know about it, or should know about it?
Mr Toulmin: They certainly should know about it and they should put a stop to it if they are aware of it - of course, they should - because they will be in trouble if they know about it with not just us but with the law, and they may have private prosecutions brought against them, and all sorts of things. So, of course, it is completely unacceptable.
Q1195 Janet Anderson: Just finally, I have a book here Fake Sheikhs and Royal Trappings by Peter Burden, and there is a quote on the front from a former news editor of the News of the World: "That is what we do;" he said "we go out and destroy other people's lives." Do you think that is a proper function of a national newspaper?
Mr Toulmin: No, I do not.
Janet Anderson: Thank you.
Q1196 Mr Sanders: You have used the phrase "public interest" a lot this morning. Is public interest a set of standards?
Mr Toulmin: No, I do not think it is. It does vary considerably and it depends on the type of person involved: whether they are a public figure, whether they have misled the public; whether they are, in any way, corrupt; it depends on the extent of the subterfuge used - if there is any evidence, as we are talking about today, and so on. The public interest does varies; it is probably impossible to codify it for all circumstances because, as I say, the individuals, in terms of their public profile, will differ and whether they hold public office, but, also, their own behaviour. If they have done anything deliberately to mislead people, for instance, that would probably give a journalist a greater public interest to intrude into their lives than somebody who had not.
Q1197 Mr Sanders: So who defines what the public interest is?
Mr Toulmin: It is fluid and it gets defined on the back of specific cases. So, over time, you can look back and look at the PCC case law and look at various legal rulings as well. You can look at a broad framework which is set out in the Code which gives examples of the types of things that are included, and these things are changing all the time. It also responds to changing cultural expectations and so on. You cannot really write it into a law; it is the sort of thing that has to respond, I think, as time goes by.
Q1198 Mr Sanders: So when is it defined? At what point does somebody define what the public interest is?
Mr Toulmin: I do not think there is a point at which people do define the public interest; I think there are examples of the public interest, and there are certain circumstances in which it is justifiable to pursue something in the public interest or to use subterfuge in the public interest. There are a very, very large number of very interesting stories and pictures out there of which we are very aware, at the PCC, which do not get published because the editors concerned, having frequently talked to us about it, decide that there is not a sufficient public interest to publish the story or the pictures.
Q1199 Mr Sanders: Presumably, that is material that has been gathered in, possibly, through subterfuge, but then does not see the light of day. In a sense, if you cannot define it and set it in stone, there is a green light then for people to go out and 'phone tap and blag and engage in subterfuge under the guise that it could be in the public interest.
Mr Toulmin: That would be a fishing expedition which we have been incredibly robust in denouncing, as you might expect. We say you have got to have grounds to engage in subterfuge. You would have to have very, very serious grounds - more than a strong suspicion; you would have to probably have evidence that something was going on to use that type of subterfuge and to justify it in the public interest. These are not things that people routinely do just trawling for a story. I think that, obviously, would be a completely outrageous breach not just of our rules but, also, the law, and I cannot imagine any newspaper would sanction that sort of behaviour any more.
Q1200 Mr Sanders: Somebody would have approved the "fishing" expedition justified by "public interest".
Mr Toulmin: If there is a public interest then you would expect a senior executive on the newspaper to justify any sort of undercover activity that was that serious, yes, but you could not just do it thinking: "Adrian Sanders is quite an interesting chap; I fancy finding out what's in his bank account or ---
Q1201 Mr Sanders: People are trying all the time; I am extremely interesting! I take your point, but if, at the end of the day, what you are saying is somebody senior has to approve the investigation that is going to take place, then that brings into question, does it not, what we have been asking today in relation to cases where the people at the top have denied knowledge that these things were taking place?
Mr Toulmin: Absolutely, and it does go to the heart of what we were looking at in 2007, you are quite right, because the whole point that the News of the World made, and again this is perhaps the area that has been opened up again as a result of these allegations, is whether or not there was a conspiracy between Mulcaire and Goodman to deceive the News of the World. That was their position, so they were saying, "We didn't have the opportunity to sign off on this behaviour and we wouldn't have done had we known about it", so that is their position. Now, if there is any evidence that that is untrue, that will have obviously meant that they will have misread it.
Q1202 Mr Sanders: Your suggestion of course in the Private Eye article that Adam read out is that they may have been paid to say that in order to protect the News of the World.
Mr Toulmin: Well, is that what the suggestion is? Again, if that is an allegation ----
Q1203 Mr Sanders: It is an interpretation.
Mr Toulmin: ---- then we will look into it, but I think maybe people are reading something into that; I do not know.
Chairman: I think we need to move on to our next session. Can I thank you very much.
Witnesses: Mr Alan Rusbridger, Editor, and Mr Paul Johnson, Deputy Editor, The Guardian; and Mr Nick Davies, writer and journalist, gave evidence.
Q1204 Chairman: For the second part of this morning's session, can I welcome Alan Rusbridger, the Editor of The Guardian, Paul Johnson, the Deputy Editor, and Nick Davies, the author of the stories over the last few days. The main story which you reported was the payment by News International to two individuals of something over £1 million in settlement, but the events which you describe in the story and the subsequent follow-up, they all relate to a period considerably earlier, they relate to the Mulcaire/Goodman period and the Operation Motorman. Is that correct?
Mr Rusbridger: That is correct. First of all, I have delayed my holiday to come here today, so I hope you will not mind if I am out of here by about five to one, otherwise I am going to miss my holiday, but I wondered if it would help if we structured this so that I spoke and then Nick spoke; I think it would put some of this in context, if that is agreeable to you.
Q1205 Chairman: Yes, that is fine.
Mr Rusbridger: With your permission, I would just like to make some general comments about The Guardian story, again with the constructive suggestion for a way through, and Nick will then speak about his story and the basis for it. As a few general points about the story that we ran, it was not a campaign to oust anybody, it was not a campaign to reopen a police inquiry or for more prosecutions or to force anybody to resign and we have not called for any of those, and I would like to emphasise that, as a paper, we do believe in effective self-regulation and we do not want a privacy law which stated that. When you come to effective self-regulation, it seems to me that effective self-regulation can only work if these paper groups are truthful and open with the regulator. I can think of one or two groups, for example Associated, who have conceded past patterns of behaviour and put a stop to them, and the question is whether News International have been similarly frank. Therefore, for me, the three key questions are whether self-regulation was effective in this case, whether the PCC had the full and accurate picture at the time they decided against rigorously investigating the Goodman/Mulcaire case themselves, and whether, given the reassurances at the time and as further facts came out, they and perhaps you should have been kept informed of those new facts. The company has engaged in an aggressive attempt to discredit The Guardian story. A press release last Friday was notably evasive about the central disclosure about the £1 million settlement in three hacking cases, hiding behind their own confidentiality, and it has included a series of cleverly drafted denials of allegations that were not actually made by The Guardian. We reject the assertion by the Chief Executive-elect of News International in a letter to you that we misled the public far less deliberately, and I think News International have, with some success, tried to position us as a span between two newspapers. Why was the secret settlement significant? Because it undermined the assurances given both to you and the PCC about the sole reporter and the sole detective, the so-called 'rotten apple' defence. Les Hinton: "After a full and rigorous inquiry, Clive Goodman was the only person at News of the World who knew what was going on"; Colin Myler of the PCC: "Goodman's hacking was aberrational, a rogue exception, an exceptionally unhappy event in the 163-year history of News of the World involving one journalist"; Stuart Kuttner, the Managing Director of News of the World on Radio 4: "It happened once at the News of the World". That is why this case is significant, because the evidence in the Gordon Taylor case, though concealed from the public and from you and from the PCC, showed evidence that this was not a practice restricted to, or known about by, one reporter and one private detective, and in a minute Nick Davies will help you more on that. News International have known about the involvement of other journalists, including at senior level, for at least a year. It is believed the case was settled last September, the initial case involving Gordon Taylor, so that begs the question why they did not tell the PCC, the regulator, or the Committee of the new facts that have come to light. Now, the press release they issued on Friday from a major public company said, "It is untrue that the News of the World executives knowingly sanctioned payments for illegal intercepts". That is why, I think, this is a significant story and I hope and believe that any newspaper or broadcaster would have published that if presented with that evidence. If not, it does not say much for press plurality in this country. A secondary element was the claim by two sources familiar with the case that the files showed that thousands of individuals may have been targeted and/or hacked and/or 'blagged', and Nick Davies will address that because they are his sources. We do know that there was a sophisticated machine at work 70 hours a week earning one private investigator £100,000 a year plus bonuses and, if it had not been intercepted by the police, it might still be going, so, if the numbers are smaller, it was not due to any virtue on News International's behalf. Before I hand over to Nick, I want to suggest a way forward. It is common ground that journalists on many newspapers and for many years have been making widespread use of dubious methods. I think it is common ground that, in some circumstances, where there is a high public interest those methods may be justified. I think what is less clear are the rules or ethical framework by which editors might reach these difficult decisions, and they should by difficult decisions and not easy decisions, as they seem to have been in some cases, and this comes back to the question of public interest which you have just been discussing with the Director of the PCC. As a profession, we currently operate by a reasonable definition of the 'public interest', but it is notoriously difficult to pin down. The press are not the only people in this world who are considering how you codify or guide behaviour, and I have recently been struck by the thinking of Sir David Omand, the Government's former Security and Intelligence Co-ordinator, in a recent IPPR pamphlet because there he says that the intelligence services wrestle with this problem about the fact that finding out other people's secrets is going to involve breaking everyday moral rules. That is what they acknowledge in the intelligence services and I think that maybe some elements of the press have forgotten that. Omand's suggestions for the five guidelines are: one, there must be sufficient sustainable calls, it needs to be justified by the scale of the potential harm; two, there must be integrity of motive, ie, it must be justified in terms of public good; three, the methods used must be in proportion to the seriousness of the business in hand using minimum intrusion; four, there must be proper authority, it must be authorised at a sufficiently senior level with appropriate oversight; and, five, there must be a reasonable prospect of success, ie, no phishing expeditions. I think that is a good tick-list for editors. I think that what we are talking about is so serious that it should be the last, not the first, resort, it should be highly in the public interest, it needs to take into account the potential harm this intrusion can do, the intrusion should be proportionate, there should be no phishing expeditions and it ought to be overseen. I will pass those guidelines round in a second. I think the public would be greatly reassured if it felt ----
Q1206 Chairman: This is a very long opening statement.
Mr Rusbridger: I am within one sentence of finishing and then I am going to hand over. If editors worked to this code, I hope, as a Committee, that you might find some merit in the suggestion and I will put it before the PCC. Now, there have been calls for us to produce more evidence and at this point I shall hand over to Nick Davies.
Q1207 Chairman: Can you make it relatively brief because we have quite a lot of questions.
Mr Davies: I have quite a lot to tell you, but I will do my best. Sir, you have to understand I am a reporter and, any time a reporter works on a story about a powerful individual or a powerful organisation, human sources get nervous and a gap emerges because these sources will say, "This is what's happening, but you mustn't quote me" or, "Here is a document. You can read it, but you mustn't say you've seen it". That gap is very common between what the reporter knows at first hand and what he or she can disclose in public, and some of this story has been in this gap. Now, something has changed. On Friday evening, News International put out a statement which was deemed by one particularly important source to be "designed to deceive" and, as a result, I have now been authorised to show you things that previously were stuck in that gap, and I am talking about paperwork, so what I want to do is to show you, first of all, copies of an email.
Q1208 Chairman: If you wish to admit evidence, you have to read it into the record.
Mr Davies: Read every single word? I will start and you can guide me. Before we distribute it, I want to explain it before it goes round. There are two important things about this because, first of all, in general terms what I am about to give you are copies of an email written by a News of the World reporter on 29 June 2005 to Glenn Mulcaire, referring to another News of the World journalist. Now, there are two points about this, two hurdles I have to overcome ethically. The first is that what this email contains is a typed-up transcript of 35 messages which Glenn Mulcaire has hacked from the telephones of Gordon Taylor, the Chief Executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, and Miss Jo Armstrong, his legal adviser, so transcripts of more than 30 messages from two different targets, two different telephones. The whole thrust, the whole reason for The Guardian doing this is a concern about privacy. If I give you the document with all of the verbatim messages in it, I think I am probably recreating the breach of privacy which we are worried about, so I have masked the wording, all the words of the messages themselves, so you can see who is talking to whom, you can see how many there are and, crucially, you can see the role of the News of the World journalist. The second point, which we are going to have to deal with as we go along, is that I have a worry that, if I start spraying round the names of ordinary working reporters on the News of the World, that opens the door to the organisation saying, "Ah, more Clive Goodmans, more rogue reporters we didn't know about", and the organisation will blame the lowly individuals rather than accepting whatever responsibility is due to themselves. In this, which I am about to send round, you will see the name of the junior reporter who is sending the email and I would ask you to keep that confidential and, insofar as we may use this document outside this House, we will not, ie The Guardian, disclose that junior reporter's name. I will pass this round now. This email, to summarise so that you understand, from a reporter on the News of the World, using a News of the World email address, is sent to Glenn Mulcaire at what, we know, is his email address, shadowmenuk, and at the top you will see that the reporter says, "Hello, this is the transcript for Neville", and Neville is Neville Thurlbeck, the chief reporter of the News of the World. I am happy to name senior people in some contexts.
Q1209 Mr Sanders: It is just about MPs' expenses, is it not!
Mr Davies: If you come to page 1,
"Hello, this is the transcript for Neville", and Neville is Neville Thurlbeck,
so the transcript has been typed up and it is going to the chief reporter of
the News of the World. I do not think we should say publicly the
name of the reporter, which you can see, who is doing the emailing. At the top, you see 'email@example.com',
and that is Glenn Mulcaire's email address.
In the detail, where it says "JA to GT" on the first one, that is Jo
Armstrong to Gordon Taylor and, if you turn to page 2 and look at number five,
"GT to JA", that is the other way, so they have hacked Armstrong's phone as
Q1210 Chairman: With respect, we have quite a lot of questions for you rather than just ----
Mr Davies: Do you want the evidence or not? It is up to you.
Q1211 Chairman: Go on.
Mr Davies: I will give it to you as
quickly as I can. The second document
which I want to give you is a contract that was signed a couple of months
before that document, that email, was produced.
This is a contract signed by the then Assistant Editor in charge of news
with the News of the World, a guy
called Greg Miskiw, and this contract is dated 4 February 2005, so it is about
four months before that email. This is a
contract between the News of the World
and Glenn Mulcaire, offering Mulcaire a bonus of £7,000 if he will deliver the
story thereafter about Gordon Taylor.
Again, with a view to privacy, I have blacked out the nature of the
story which they are after because of Gordon Taylor's privacy, but what you
will notice is that this is a fascinating contract because it is made out to
Glenn Mulcaire in a false name. Now,
there is no dispute that Glenn Mulcaire used the name Paul Williams, and you
may want to ask why the Assistant Editor of the News of the World, in relation to this story where we have just
seen that email, was making a contract with a man in a false name. That is a sample of some of the paperwork in
this case. Now, I need to reconstruct
the chronology here and then you will see why it is important. December 2005: a complaint from the Palace to
Scotland Yard that there are signs of people's mobile phones being interfered
with on the Royal Household and the police were given the inquiry.
Q1212 Chairman: You do not have the names of the 305 journalists concerned?
Mr Davies: No, I know about the News Group, so I know the 27 from the News of the World, I know the names of the four from The Sun, I also know the names of every single person who was targeted by those journalists, as reflected in the paperwork seized, and I know every single request that they made, and some of them, I think it is fair to them to point out, are legal where they were asking the guy to get access to the electoral register because ordinary individuals cannot do that on a computer base. Some of them were searches for company directors, but several hundred are clearly requests for information from databases where it would be a breach of the Data Protection Act to get that evidence, unless you had a clear public interest on your side. Now, people keep asking me to name these names and I have not. I do not want to name those names partly because of this concern that I have already expressed, that I do not want the responsibility to fall downwards on the heads of the little people, but also because I am a reporter, not a police officer, but I think it will help us to understand what is going on if I say this much: that there are a number of senior editorial executives whose names clearly show up on that list, making requests which would be illegal if they did not have public interest on their side. I think it is all right to say it, since his name has already come out, that one of the executives that is there is Greg Miskiw who rose to the position of Assistant Editor of News and he is recorded as making 90 requests, and 35 of those are directed at confidential databases where it would be illegal if there were no clear public interest. There are other executives more junior and more senior than him. I want to say, because it is important to make it clear, that Andy Coulson's name does not show up in that list. His colleagues at an executive level do, but Andy Coulson, it is only fair to him to say, is not there, so I would like to give you, if you will indulge me once more, a few more bits of paperwork. These are copies of invoices from News International, making payments to Steve Whittamore, this private investigator who specialists not in phone-hacking, but in what they call 'blagging', getting access to confidential databases. First of all, I need to explain where this comes from. This has not come from some secret source in a dark corner. This material was released under the Freedom of Information Act by the Information Commissioner months ago and it may startle you to discover that the newspapers did not bother reporting it. Now, he has done the blacking out on this occasion. He has blacked out the private investigator's home address to protect his privacy and he has blacked out the details of the targets, and the reason I am showing this to you is not because it tracks down some specific criminal offence, but because it shows the systematic and open character of what is going on. These payments have not been made with bags of cash under the counter; they are being made by the News International Accounts Department. You might think that, if this were all a secret that nobody knew, they would have some clever euphemism, like "This is a payment for services rendered", but, as you will see when I hand them round, it is perfectly explicit and it says, "to get an address from a telephone number to get the vehicle registration number converted", so it is just that, to the extent that in the attack on The Guardian story it is being alleged that this was something that nobody at News International knew about, I think these documents may help you. Mr Chairman, may I speak for maybe one minute more and then pause?
Q1213 Chairman: Yes.
Mr Davies: I think there is something quite worrying here for all of us. I think that what begins to be very worrying about all of this is that we are not being told the truth. I am worried, for example, by the fact that on Thursday afternoon the Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, whom I take to be an honest man, stood up and made a statement in which he said, "Where there was clear evidence that people had been the subject of tapping, they were all contacted by the police. These people were made aware of the potential compromise to their phones and offered preventative advice". That is Thursday afternoon that he makes that statement, at about , widely reported. At 7.37 the following evening, Friday, two hours later after most reporters have gone home, in the midst of the confusion by the fact that News International had just released its statement at seven o'clock, Scotland Yard quietly put out another statement, which says, "Assistant Commissioner Yates said yesterday that he wanted to ensure that the Met has been diligent and sensible in taking all proper steps to ensure that, where we have evidence that people have been the subject of any form of phone-tapping by Goodman or Mulcaire, they have been informed. The process of contacting people is under way and we expect this to take some time to complete". Why were we told on Thursday that everybody had been approached and then quietly, in this almost invisible fashion because I do not think any newspaper picked this up for Saturday morning, on Friday evening were we told, "We are now contacting people"? I cannot explain that. Why, in the same way, were we not told on Thursday afternoon that the police have had evidence for more than two years of other News of the World staff being involved? I do not know what the answer is and I cannot attempt to explain it to you. Where News International are concerned, I think the worry is, in a way, even greater. If you look back at the statements that have been made by News International or its representatives since August 2006, I cannot find a single statement about the scale of phone-hacking or News International's knowledge of involvement in the phone-hacking which has not proved to be misleading, and that includes, I am sad to say, that statement that was put out on Friday evening which is profoundly misleading and, amongst other things, fails to acknowledge what they know about these other journalists from the paperwork I have given to you. If you put that together with the payment for £1 million to suppress three witnesses who had evidence with whatever settlements have been made with Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire, which I do not claim to know about, I think it is very, very hard to resist the conclusion that News International have been involved in covering up their journalists' involvement with private investigators who are breaking the law, and it is very worrying that Scotland Yard do not appear to have always said or done as much as they could have done to stop that cover-up.
Q1214 Chairman: Thank you. That raises a lot more questions and we may need to study some of this and perhaps come back to you in due course, but perhaps I can start off. Part of the confusion here is that there are two separate areas of activity.
Mr Davies: Correct.
Q1215 Chairman: They are Glenn Mulcaire, Clive Goodman and potentially other employees of News International, and then there is Operation Motorman, which relates to News Group but almost every other newspaper group, with the exception, I believe, of The Guardian, although I think The Observer had one or two.
Mr Davies: Correct.
Q1216 Chairman: Can I, first of all, just look at the transcript you have provided. Can you just tell me again, this email, who is it going to?
Mr Davies: To the email address which is right at the top, 'shadowmenuk', which is certainly Glenn Mulcaire's.
Q1217 Chairman: But Glenn Mulcaire will have supplied it, so why is he sending it back to Glenn Mulcaire when the information came from Glenn Mulcaire?
Mr Davies: Because what Mulcaire gets hold of is a tape, an audiotape, in which you can actually hear Gordon Taylor's voice and Jo Armstrong's voice, and somebody has got to transcribe that. You can see that the transcription is primarily for Neville, Neville Thurlbeck, the chief reporter, who is going to be working on the story, but it is also being sent to Glenn Mulcaire for his records or in case it assists him with further enquiries, and I cannot tell you quite why it is being sent to him, but the tape goes in to the News of the World, it is transcribed for Neville Thurlbeck, the chief reporter, and the results are sent back.
Q1218 Chairman: It seems very odd that the News of the World are sending it back to Glenn Mulcaire.
Mr Davies: Well, either he cannot type or he has not got a typist. They need a transcript, you see. If you are working on a story, you cannot keep listening to tapes; it would be maddening.
Q1219 Chairman: So this transcript, you believe, was supplied to Neville Thurlbeck?
Mr Davies: Well, I can tell you that it was certainly directed at him. If I were a Scotland Yard detective, I would certainly have gone to Neville to say, "What do you say about this?"
Q1220 Chairman: Do you have any knowledge as to whether or not that happened? You do not know if Neville Thurlbeck ----
Mr Davies: You must ask Scotland Yard; Scotland Yard know a lot.
Q1221 Chairman: Who else, do you think, at a senior level would have had access to this information?
Mr Davies: Well, again I am not in a position to answer that question. Scotland Yard clearly should be; they should have followed this up. I do not know whether they went to question the journalist named here. I do not know whether they went to question Stuart Kuttner, the Managing Editor whose job it is to watch the money, to ask him, "Well, what about this 7,000 quid? What was that for? Did you authorise it?" I do not know whether they went to see Andy Coulson and said, "What is your Assistant Editor doing, signing a contract with a man with a false name?" I do not know whether these questions were asked and I cannot help you on that.
Q1222 Chairman: The content, which obviously we have not seen, did a story result from this intercept?
Mr Davies: No.
Q1223 Chairman: Nothing appeared in the News of the World which traced back to this?
Mr Davies: As far as I know, no story emerged. The breach of privacy occurred, but I do not think there was a story.
Q1224 Chairman: Clearly, but that suggests that whatever is in this either did not amount to a story or they decided for another reason not to run it.
Mr Davies: Again, I cannot help you on that.
Q1225 Chairman: That might be Neville Thurlbeck's position. Having seen the transcript, he might have said, "I'm not going to pursue this".
Mr Davies: I just cannot help you. The most important questions, I feel, are the ones I have put to you. As to these other questions ----
Q1226 Chairman: Well, the key is: did anybody else know about this? You have suggested Neville Thurlbeck is aware that an illegal activity took place. Have you any evidence to suggest anybody else at a senior level at the News of the World was also aware?
Mr Davies: No, I have no other evidence. Those questions may have been asked by the police. If not, we need to know why. If they have been asked, perhaps they will share the results with us.
Q1227 Chairman: On the invoices which you supplied, this invoice is dated 1998.
Mr Davies: I agree, it has got cobwebs on.
Q1228 Chairman: So what we are talking about happened a long time ago, over ten years ago.
Mr Davies: Yes. Just so that you can understand this, Mulcaire worked on contracts for the News of the World from September 2001 through to his arrest, so there are five years of Mulcaire eventually to uncover. Steve Whittamore worked for years for News Group and other news organisations, so it is very well established over a long period of time, but, I absolutely agree, those particular invoices are ten years old.
Q1229 Chairman: In relation to all the evidence you have, what is the latest evidence you have of illegal activities taking place by journalists?
Mr Davies: I think this is.
Q1230 Chairman: That is 2005?
Mr Davies: Of this kind of documentary evidence. There is a separate category where people ring me up and say, "This is happening", and you could describe that as evidence, witness, human oral evidence, but I have not got documentary evidence to produce.
Q1231 Chairman: I understand, but 2005 is the latest document?
Mr Davies: Yes.
Q1232 Chairman: In relation to the Motorman documents, you say there is clear evidence that a number of journalists, and you know all their names, the 31, were regularly using this company and you have here the evidence to suggest that the information requests they were making were not legal ones, they were illegal?
Mr Davies: The requests that they make fall into broadly two categories. One, there are some requests that are clearly lawful, "Can I find out the names of the directors of this company?" and "Can you use the electoral register to find out who lives at this address?" There are others which are clearly unlawful, unless in each case there is public interest to justify it, the Data Protection Act, section 55.
Q1233 Chairman: But, given that this document is available to the Information Commissioner, why then did the Information Commissioner not prosecute other journalists?
Mr Davies: When I was researching Flat Earth News, which we all talked about when I gave evidence a few months ago, I had a lot of contact with the Information Commission. I can say with confidence that the thing that stopped them, because they prosecuted Steve Whittamore, the private investigator, and three of his colleagues who were involved in the network, gathering information, they came to Blackfriars Crown Court and pleaded guilty, and the judge in the case said, "Well, hang on a moment. Where are the news groups? Where are the journalists?" and the answer to that question is that the Information Commission felt that, if they charged the newspaper groups, they would (a) hire very expensive QCs, which meant that the Information Commissioner's office would have to do the same, and (b) they would have masses of preliminary hearings with all sorts of complex legal argument and the effect of that would have been to break the Information Commissioner's office's legal budget. They simply could not afford to take on Fleet Street, it was too expensive. It was not, as you might think, a political fear, "We're not going to get into a fight with these powerful newspapers"; it was a budgetary thing. Just to finish this, out of fairness to the office, I think the Information Commissioner's office has done a good job; they have resolved never to be put in that position again.
Q1234 Chairman: You have here the invoice from News International. We know that, according to the Information Commissioner, 305 different journalists from right across Fleet Street were using this company. Presumably, the Information Commissioner may have similar invoices from every other newspaper.
Mr Davies: Yes, because those invoices come from the Information Commissioner who gave them away.
Q1235 Chairman: But he only released to you the ones he had from News International?
Mr Davies: He has not released anything to me personally.
Q1236 Chairman: Or the court has released them, through the court.
Mr Davies: The Information Commissioner, some months ago, presented the press with a collection of invoices. Some of them dealt with News International, and I have just given you copies, and some of them dealt with other newspaper groups, so the Information Commissioner has previously made invoices public relating to Steve Whittamore's work for other newspaper groups. This is a story which did not get reported.
Q1237 Chairman: Does that show that other newspaper groups were also requesting information which it was unlawful to obtain?
Mr Davies: Unquestionably. The Information Commissioner has multiple evidence on multiple news organisations, commissioning Steve Whittamore to provide information which, unless there is a clear public interest defence in each case, would be unlawful.
Q1238 Chairman: Because, you will recall, when this Committee took evidence previously on this matter, we were assured, for instance, by The Daily Mail that yes, they did employ this company and yes, their journalists had put in a number of requests that this was for information which it was quite lawful to obtain.
Mr Davies: But you are going to have to go back and ask them what they meant. I really do not know.
Q1239 Chairman: But that is not your view?
Mr Davies: No, I just cannot be in a position to give you a view on that because I have seen the material on News Group, but I have not seen the material on Associated Newspapers.
Q1240 Paul Farrelly: In its editorial, which is pretty strident, on Sunday, the News of the World said, amongst other things, "The Guardian slyly linked separate investigation by the Information Commissioner to allegations of phone-tapping". If the link, as you say, is alleged criminality with no legitimate public interest defence, how is that sly? Who is being sly here?
Mr Davies: Well, it is not even a question about slyness. What I am really writing about, the core of that story in The Guardian, is the fact that we have discovered News Group have paid out more than one million quid to suppress legal actions in three cases. Why did they do that? Because the lawyers for the lead case, Gordon Taylor, managed to get hold of two different caches of evidence, one lot from Scotland Yard and one lot from the Information Commission, so, in writing that story, necessarily I have to tell you that it is those two caches of information which led to the News of the World saying here, "Take some money and would you please go quiet". If I did not tell you about the Information Commission lot, I would only be telling you half of the reason why News Group folded the case.
Q1241 Paul Farrelly: You have answered a lot of the questions I was going to ask you, but can I just tie up a few loose ends in the parameters that you have set, and I understand what you mean about not retelling names of junior journalists. We know about Gordon Taylor and Jo Armstrong, so who was the third person?
Mr Davies: The third person is a lawyer who specialises in representing footballers. I know that name too; there are too many names I know and I am not sure whether I should tell them. I tried to call him yesterday to say, "What do you think? Can I use your name?"
Q1242 Chairman: Who is Simone?
Mr Davies: I do not know. You should read the transcript. This is the awful addiction, you see, of breaching people's privacy!
Q1243 Chairman: But Simone's telephone has been intercepted as well?
Mr Davies: No, I think she is speaking to Gordon rather than Gordon speaking to her.
Q1244 Chairman: Right, I understand, so that was an intercept on his phone.
Mr Davies: It is two.
Q1245 Paul Farrelly: So the third person?
Mr Davies: The third person is a lawyer who specialises in working for footballers and this raises questions about legal privilege and the hearing of the sorts of conversations that lawyers have with clients, but I do not think I am in a position to tell you who it is.
Q1246 Paul Farrelly: But each of these, Jo Armstrong and the lawyer, are paid £300,000, or thereabouts, each?
Mr Davies: The total payout in respect of those other two, damages and costs, amounted to some £300,000.
Q1247 Paul Farrelly: Each? In each case?
Mr Davies: No. You have got the total damages and costs for Gordon Taylor of just over £700,000, as I understand it, and a total of £300,000 in respect of the two others together.
Q1248 Paul Farrelly: Now, you have seen the evidence that we were given in a supplementary note to our last inquiry about the chain of command, the authorisation process for payments which goes to the full Managing Editor at the top of the tree to Stuart Kuttner.
Mr Davies: Yes.
Q1249 Paul Farrelly: Do you know whether this particular payment went through that chain of command?
Mr Davies: I do not know whether that payment went through Stuart Kuttner and I do not know whether the police went to Stuart Kuttner to ask him.
Q1250 Paul Farrelly: But you would expect the police to ask those questions, given that News International are being clear about the chain of command?
Mr Davies: Well, I am not an expert on police procedure, but I think a lot of people might think they should.
Q1251 Paul Farrelly: Do you know, just from your investigations, Nick, how Mulcaire was paid because he had a retainer and then there was a separate pot? Is there any evidence from your investigations that actually some of this illegal activity with no public interest defence was being undertaken as part of his retainer? I ask the question because that is pertinent to what the Press Complaints Commission was told.
Mr Davies: I do not know the detail of what he was being paid by his retainer or what he was being paid in cash. I can tell you for certain that he was putting in regular lists of targets to justify payments that were being made to him, of whatever form, where he would identify the name of the people he had been targeting.
Q1252 Paul Farrelly: But this is a relevant question, you would think, to the Press Complaints Commission?
Mr Davies: What precise question? How he was paid?
Paul Farrelly: Yes, given the evidence that was given to them.
Q1253 Mr Watson: If I can just come in there, Mulcaire set up a company in 2004, according to the evidence, and was paid £104,000. That is on the record of ----
Mr Davies: What was the name of his company?
Q1254 Mr Watson: I forget, but he had also been a director of four other companies from 1998 onwards, none of which filed full accounts to the appropriate place. Have you any evidence that those companies might have been paid by News International?
Mr Davies: The earliest contract which I know of between Mulcaire and the News Group goes back to September 2001 in the name of a company called Euro something or other.
Q1255 Mr Watson: Euro Information, I think, or Euro Intelligence and Information.
Mr Davies: I have not quite got it in my mind, but it is Euro something or other. Then, subsequently, he called himself Nine Consultancy.
Q1256 Mr Watson: That is right.
Mr Davies: I know he was certainly working for them from September 2001. Whether it goes back to 1998, I do not know.
Q1257 Mr Watson: His fellow director, an Alison Mulcaire, who was a director of a number of the other companies, has set up a company from 2005 and I think it is called Eight Consultancy. Have you had any evidence that they might have been paid payments in later years?
Mr Davies: I am aware of contracts with this Euro company as Glenn Mulcaire and the Nine Consultancy, and, as far as I know, they run from September 2001 to the day of his arrest. Beyond that, I am afraid, I cannot help you.
Q1258 Paul Farrelly: I am just tidying up loose ends, so I am just coming now briefly to Whittamore. There were at least three News International executives, each of whom are unnamed in the detail that you have broken down in the inside piece in The Guardian last week. You have named one of them, that it was Miskiw who was directly commissioning the 90 actions by Whittamore.
Mr Davies: That is correct.
Q1259 Paul Farrelly: Can you name the other two? They are senior executives.
Mr Davies: I think the difficulty is that I am a reporter, not a police officer, and this information is in the hands of the authorities, it has been for a long time, and it really is for them, I think. I have only named Greg Miskiw because he has already cropped up on that contract and he is also an executive, but I would just feel uneasy if I started running around with a blue light on my head.
Q1260 Chairman: If you wish the Committee to sit in private session, that is possible for us to do.
Mr Davies: I am not sure that that helps. I am telling you in good faith and out of first-hand knowledge that those names are there and that they have these positions.
Mr Rusbridger: Another route for you to get those names would be to get them off the Information Commissioner.
Chairman: Well, we are awaiting a response from the Information Commissioner.
Q1261 Paul Farrelly: If I can approach this in a slightly different way, let us leave another news executive aside because he has no seniority there, but you do say that a very senior executive of the paper is recorded directly commissioning illegal access to records from a mobile phone company. Will News International know the identity of that very senior executive?
Mr Davies: News International know the identity of all these people, I believe, because when this material, this mass of Steve Whittamore material, was disclosed to Gordon Taylor in April 2007, it was also disclosed to News Group's lawyers. Therefore, what I know they know and what I know the Information Commissioner knows, except that he also knows it of all these other news organisations as well, and really they are better people to deal with than me.
Q1262 Chairman: On that point, we will wait and see what the Information Commissioner supplies us with, but we are able to come back and ask you again if ----
Mr Davies: I am happy for you to ask me questions.
Q1263 Paul Farrelly: I just have two more questions.
Mr Davies: You used to be a journalist, did you not?
Q1264 Paul Farrelly: Allegedly. The Taylor settlement in the Taylor case and possibly in the other cases, from your research, are you aware of at what level within News International to which it was reported, authorised or signed off?
Mr Davies: It is an interesting question, but I do not know the answer.
Q1265 Paul Farrelly: You are not aware as to whether it went to board level?
Mr Davies: It is an interesting question, but I do not know the answer.
Q1266 Paul Farrelly: With respect to Mr Yates of the Yard, and you have referred extensively to him, he actually came out and said something which struck me as really remarkable at the time. He said, "No additional evidence has since come to light. I, therefore, consider no further investigation is required" and then I am thinking, "Well, actually isn't the Gordon Taylor settlement additional evidence?"
Mr Davies: Well, it is not additional evidence because they have had it since August 2006. There are all sorts of unanswered questions around this.
Q1267 Paul Farrelly: That is potentially misleading then.
Mr Davies: Yates came in at the beginning of the day and said that he had established the facts. Eight hours later he pops up and says, "I'm going to tell you", but maybe he did not have time to discover the whole thing, but what I know from the paperwork I have seen is that that investigation did not get to the bottom of the barrel. You see, they collect these armloads of material from Mulcaire's premises and, roughly speaking, the paperwork and the other records identified three different groups of people. There are some people where it is blatantly obvious that Mulcaire has succeeded in hacking their phones, so that is category number one. Category number two is people where it is obvious that he was trying to hack their phones, so supposing he says, "Here's the name, here's the mobile phone number and here's the four-digit PIN code", but it is not obvious that he actually used that information successfully to hack messages. Then there is a third group where all that paperwork and other records show that these people were targeted by Mulcaire. Now, what happens is that the police, first of all, deal with the allegations involving the Royal Household because that is where it came in and there are specialist officers that deal with that, so they tie that up nicely and then Clive Goodman is charged, and then, "What on earth are we going to do with all this other material? Let's do the obvious stuff. We'll go and talk to some of the people where it is blatantly obvious". I thought they had talked to all of the people where it was blatantly obvious, but, judging by that dodgy statement put out by Scotland Yard on Friday evening, it appears that perhaps they did not, but then how much follow-up have they done on category two and category three? Category three are particularly important because that is where you find the names of John Prescott, Tessa Jowell, Boris Johnson and "thousands of others".
Q1268 Paul Farrelly: The Sunday Times was pretty forensic, as one of the few papers over the weekend that followed this in any depth, strangely enough.
Mr Davies: Some very interesting things came out.
Q1269 Paul Farrelly: Just to conclude, with respect to the police statement, and I was not aware of the second statement, Andy Hayman subsequently said, and this was printed in The Times and the News of the World, "In retrospect, the speed with which the Met came out and said it would not be reopening its files might have been a mistake". Is that a view you share?
Mr Davies: Well, it is not for me to tell Scotland Yard what to say. All I can tell you is that the inquiry did not investigate all possible avenues. Then, "What do we do about that? That is for somebody else to decide".
Q1270 Paul Farrelly: We have been concerned about whether we were, wittingly or unwittingly, misled by evidence from Mr Hinton, but our predecessor Committee in 2003 conducted an inquiry and, quoting from the Information Commissioner's report here where he refers to that inquiry, he says, "Amongst those giving evidence was The Sun Editor, Rebekah Wade, who claimed that self-regulation was the guidance of the Press Complaints Commission. It changed the culture of Fleet Street and every single newsroom in the land. When asked whether she or her newspaper ever used private detectives, bugged people, paid the police or others for information they should not legally have, she said that subterfuge was only ever used in the public interest". From your researches, would you say that that was an accurate reflection?
Mr Davies: In terms of what - journalists generally, you mean?
Q1271 Paul Farrelly: No, this is the operation of News International prior to 2006 back to 2003 and before.
Mr Davies: I think I have told you that the very detailed evidence from the Information Commissioner shows us all those requests which are illegal, unless there is public interest on their side, and those requests are being made to a private investigator, Steve Whittamore.
Q1272 Paul Farrelly: So that evidence is in itself questionable which was given to our predecessor inquiry?
Mr Davies: I do not know what she knows. You run into these problems about who knows what.
Q1273 Adam Price: The allegation that Glenn Mulcaire had access to voicemails on behalf of other News of the World staff in addition to Clive Goodman, I think, was originally in Peter Burden's book that Janet Anderson referred to earlier. I think we now know why News International did not sue him for defamation because it appears that this evidence is clearly true that you present to the Committee. I was wondering, did you follow the Glenn Mulcaire and Clive Goodman cases and was Glenn Mulcaire asked specifically if he had worked with other News of the World staff?
Mr Davies: My recollection is that his counsel stood up in court and said, "All Mulcaire's work was for one news organisation".
Mr Johnson: His counsel stood up at the end of sentencing him where Mulcaire had admitted that he hacked into the phones of Gordon Taylor, Sky Andrew, Elle Macpherson, Simon Hughes and Max Clifford to say he was putting in 70-hour weeks almost exclusively for News International with the News of the World having the first call on his services.
Q1274 Adam Price: But he was not specifically asked whether he had only worked for Clive Goodman in his criminal case?
Mr Davies: There are different things here. The police did, we know, interview Clive Goodman, and that is the one News of the World staff who, we know, was interviewed. I would be absolutely astonished if they did not ask him who else was involved in this in various ways, but, beyond that, we know nothing, I think.
Q1275 Adam Price: It is a question for them?
Mr Davies: But perhaps this is important, that the case was presented in court by the prosecution and the police on the footing that this was only something which involved Goodman and Mulcaire, and that was the same with press briefings given by the police and the CPS and the same also clearly in what News International said. I do not know whether it is surprising that the police and the CPS did not make any reference at all, however oblique, to the kind of evidence which you have seen which implicates other News of the World journalists.
Q1276 Adam Price: The implication of what you are saying there is that the police and the Crown Prosecution Service allowed a misleading impression to be created that this activity only involved a relationship between Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire.
Mr Davies: There appears to be a contradiction between their possession of the documents which I have shown you this morning and whatever other documents they have and the way in which the case was presented. Now, there might be a legal justification for that.
Q1277 Adam Price: Could I ask you about a different issue. Given the far-reaching, to use a cliché, implications of the original story itself, which you have backed up with the evidence that you provided today, are you surprised that, whereas the broadcast media followed this story up very, very keenly, in the other print media, by and large, it did not clear their front pages and in fact some of them were, I think, quite astonishingly rude? You were referred to by Stephen Glover, Mr Davies, as "a misanthropic, apocalyptic sort of fellow, the sort of journalist who can find a scandal in a jar of tadpoles".
Mr Davies: Is that right? I did not know he had said that.
Q1278 Adam Price: It is a rather colourful turn of phrase, and his charge against you, Mr Rusbridger, is that basically you were green with envy at The Telegraph's great scoop on MPs' expenses and this was payback time for The Guardian.
Mr Rusbridger: Well, that ignores the fact that I have known about this story way before The Telegraph did anything on expenses, but Stephen Glover is a wonderful mind-reader. There is a serious point here. I said earlier that self-regulation depends on news groups telling the truth to the regulator. I think that, if large media organisations were exempt from the kind of scrutiny in the press that other large centres of power are subjected to and if the regulator is misled, you have a particular combination of circumstances which does not apply in other industries, so you have to ask how the regulator would know about things (a) if other newspapers decide to ignore them and (b) if the regulator is not told when facts emerge.
Q1279 Adam Price: I have certainly had the story recounted to me of telephone calls being put in to newspaper editors, other than The Guardian for obvious reasons, basically creating a kind of tacit agreement that the newspaper industry did not really want to go too deep into this story. Did you think it was a credible story?
Mr Rusbridger: Well, no one called me!
Q1280 Philip Davies: You, I think, sat through the evidence from the Press Complaints Commission earlier and I just wondered if you could tell us what you made of what they said. Some people might conclude that they seemed rather complacent about it. What is your view about the PCC evidence that we received?
Mr Davies: Are you asking me or Alan?
Q1281 Philip Davies: Both.
Mr Rusbridger: Well, I think there is an issue for the PCC, that it sees itself as primarily a mediator and, secondly, as a reactive body, so it waits for people to come and bring complaints to it, and I understand the reasons for it, but I think there is a question which the new Chair, Peta Buscombe, should address which is about how it deals with instances when, for instance, the Information Commission or other bodies come along and say, "Look, there is prima facie evidence within your industry of this going on". I think the PCC is not presently constructed to do its own kind of investigations of things like that and I think that probably Lady Buscombe should work out whether that is satisfactory.
Q1282 Philip Davies: What I am driving at is that in previous evidence that you gave to us, and I think you repeated it again today, you have sort of said that The Guardian is a big believer in self-regulation and, therefore, the PCC, yet we seem to have a situation where the PCC sort of seem to me to be saying broadly, "Well, there's nothing new in all of this. We're fairly relaxed about all of this. It is just regurgitating what we already knew", which you seem to be vehemently denying, but in the same breath you are sort of saying, "Well, the PCC is a marvellous organisation". Is there not a bit of an issue there?
Mr Rusbridger: No, I have always prefaced it with the word "effective", that I believe in effective self-regulation, and I have made myself very unpopular within the industry because I think that sometimes the PCC has not been effective and I think it is surprising, to say the least, and I heard Tim Toulmin saying that himself, that Andy Coulson was not questioned.
Q1283 Philip Davies: Nick, you said in answer to the Chairman that the last evidence you have got of any wrongdoing was, I think, 2005.
Mr Davies: The stuff I gave you.
Q1284 Philip Davies: Yes, in terms of documentation, but I think you did say at the same time that you do get people who ring you up and tell you that this, that and the other has happened and all the rest of it.
Mr Davies: Yes.
Q1285 Philip Davies: Do you still get people ringing you up, saying that these things are still going on now, even though you have not got the documentation to back it up?
Mr Davies: The News International statement on Friday night changed the picture from my point of view and people who would not previously have got in touch have been in touch, and they come broadly from two camps, one, News Group newspapers and, two, private investigators and their world. Now, these people are coming on to me and saying very interesting things, they are saying them with some passion and in some detail, but it is wrong for me to pass that on to you when I have not had a chance to check it, partly because I have been too busy getting my head round coming here today, so I am not going to go into the detail of what those people are saying because I do not know whether or not it is true, simple as that. Is that all right?
Q1286 Philip Davies: Well, no, not really. I am not asking you to give us the evidence to back it up, I am merely asking you: are you still getting allegations that wrongdoing of the sort that you have exposed is still happening? Even though you cannot corroborate it, are you still getting those allegations?
Mr Davies: I will tell you one thing I know from my personal experience which, I think, goes to answer the nub of your question. Steve Whittamore, the private investigator in Hampshire, was raided in March 2003. In 2005, he appeared at Blackfriars Crown Court, pleaded guilty with three of his associates and they got whatever the judge gave them. In the summer of 2006, when I was researching Flat Earth News, I doorstepped and got across the doorstep of one of the people who was in Whittamore's network and was interviewing him about all the things that had happened to him, including the conviction of the four at the centre. While I was there, the phone was ringing with national newspaper journalists ringing this guy up to commission more illegal blagging, so that is a concrete example of the fact that that particular network, or at least some members of that network, did not stop operating simply because they had ended up in court with a conviction, and Fleet Street newspapers, knowing that, nevertheless were still using them.
Q1287 Philip Davies: So I will take that as a yes then, that it is still going on. Alan, I think Nick made clear that he did not know who knew what and who had signed off what and all the rest of it and there is no evidence on that front, but perhaps you might be able to help us in terms of what would be the norm on a big newspaper in terms of budget meetings, levels of budget that would need to be signed off by whom. Can you give us your perspective on what would be the norm in terms of the figures involved?
Mr Rusbridger: Well, I can only describe The Guardian and the figures involved in The Guardian would be probably smaller than the figures involved in the News of the World, but a payment of a £7,000 bonus to get a story, not that we have ever done such a thing, I would certainly expect to know about that. A lot of these subsidiary payments would certainly be handled by the Managing Editor. If anybody on The Guardian was earning or being paid £100,000 or above, there is no question that I would know about that and indeed the board of the company would know about that.
Q1288 Philip Davies: So, if any of these things had been going on certainly in your newspaper, you not only should know, but you would know?
Mr Rusbridger: On The Guardian until recently, and the limits have slightly been raised recently, anybody earning £100,000 or more is not only a matter for the divisional board of GNM, but it has to go for approval to the rencom of the parent board, GMG, so that is the kind of yardstick that we operate by. Please may I go?
Chairman: Certainly. We were not originally expecting you this morning anyway, so it has been a bonus.
Q1289 Rosemary McKenna: May I seek to clarify something which you said earlier. You said, when you were listing the journalists who were involved in the emails, that Andy Coulson's name did not appear there, but he was the Editor at the time.
Mr Davies: We need to be clear what we are talking about. There are the two separate activities happening in two separate time-frames. The commissioning of Glenn Mulcaire, who is, among other things, a specialist in phone-hacking, is happening from 2001 through until his arrest in 2006. In the beginning of that period, Rebekah Wade is Editor until January 2003 and Andy is the Deputy and, as from January 2003, Andy is in charge, so that is on the phone-hacking. On the Information Commission stuff, Steve Whittamore, with access to confidential databases, is raided in March 2003, so almost all of that is occurring during the period when Rebekah is Editor and Andy is Deputy. Have I answered your question?
Q1290 Rosemary McKenna: Yes, you have, but he was not a named journalist in the list that you said of the journalists who were being emailed. You said you have a list of journalists.
Mr Davies: They are on the information blagging side. The word 'blagging' is a good one.
Q1291 Rosemary McKenna: Yes, getting information, and his name is not on that.
Mr Davies: Well, I can take it wider than that. I have never seen a piece of paper that directly links Andy Coulson to any of the activity that we are discussing of either kind. Other executives, yes.
Q1292 Rosemary McKenna: Is it feasible that, as the Deputy Editor and then the Editor, he was completely unaware of what was going on?
Mr Davies: That is a question for somebody else to answer, not me, is it not? I have told you what I can, and other executives are certainly named.
Q1293 Rosemary McKenna: Perhaps I could direct the question to Paul, in a similar situation.
Mr Johnson: We have no intimate knowledge in that sense of the general practice within News International in terms of their money accounting. We have sort of explained to you the processes in The Guardian and we would expect to know of any serious big stories which reporters were coming up with; there is a proper chain of reporting in place.
Q1294 Rosemary McKenna: Would there be a proper chain of your knowing how much money was being paid, the incredible sums of money that were being paid out to the people who were doing the telephone-hacking and who were doing the reporting of all that information back to the journalists?
Mr Johnson: Our managing editor's eyes would be watering at the scale of these payments. They are quite extraordinary compared to what we might do.
Q1295 Rosemary McKenna: So is it possible that somebody in the middle of this in a little bubble who was a deputy editor and then the editor was completely unaware of this?
Mr Johnson: It is possible but you will have to ask them, I am afraid.
Q1296 Mr Ainsworth: Stephen Glover's ears are going to be burning today because another thing he put in that piece that has already been referred to is "What we have here is an old story reheated and represented by The Guardian and the BBC in a most sensational manner." It seems to me - and this came up with the previous witness from the Press Complaints Commission - that he seemed unable to say that really very much of what you have written - and you have been a brilliant and articulate witness if I might say so, Mr Davies - is actually new stuff and it is more information about an old case. Would you accept that?
Mr Davies: Is that what you think? You have been Glovered! No, not at all. Everything that is connected with Gordon Taylor and the other two people's settlements is new. All that material. We had no idea. Nobody outside the Information Commissioner's Office had ever been able to see the names of all those journalists and the requests they were making and the targets of those requests. We had no idea about the more than £1 million being paid to suppress that, nor did we know, crucially, about those documents, samples of which I have given you today, with what that tells us about what was wrong with the story we had previously been told by News International and the police.
Rosemary McKenna: And nor did the Committee.
Q1297 Mr Ainsworth: Of course I was not on the Committee at the time so perhaps I do not have that sense of frustrated ownership that the Committee has.
Mr Davies: All that is new, is it not?
Q1298 Mr Ainsworth: But the evidence that you have presented is not. It does not date from recently, does it?
Mr Davies: You are using the word "new" in a different sense. New, the world did not know it, certainly that story is disclosing very important and lots of new material. New in the sense that it happened last week, no, of course not.
Mr Johnson: There is a point here that those court cases were only finalised last September so it is rather more contemporaneous than might be suggested from dating back to 2004-05.
Mr Davies: In fact the other two cases were only settled this spring.
Q1299 Mr Ainsworth: Alan Rusbridger said earlier that he knew about all this a long time before the Telegraph started writing its stories about MPs' expenses. What thinking lay behind the timing of the publication of these stories? Is it the case, as has been alleged, that senior executives of the BBC were telephoned before you actually went to print?
Mr Davies: The business about the timing is you put a story together like this in a sort of mosaic way. For example, I referred to a conversation which I had with somebody very senior at Scotland Yard and I said, "I just don't believe we have heard the whole story, the whole truth about Goodman and Mulcaire," and he said in the course of that conversation, "There was thousands of people being hacked." I had that some time ago and I told Alan specifically to be careful of his mobile phone because there are allegation of other journalists and editors being targeted, so he has known about it because of that conversation going way back. I am trying to get into it because you cannot just bang that in the paper, you need some evidence of the kind which I showed you today. Who is supposed to have spoken to the BBC? You see, I do not read The Independent, I do not know what Glover has been going on about.
Q1300 Mr Ainsworth: Very few people do.
Mr Davies: What is it he is alleging about the BBC?
Q1301 Mr Ainsworth: It is a Stephen Glover allegation. He said: "The Corporation had been put on red alert by the newspaper at a senior level well before the story broke."
Mr Davies: I do not know what he is talking about.
Mr Johnson: It is the case often when you get a big story that you will alert broadcasters to it in order to increase the momentum and increase the attention. We do it on a regular basis when we do an ICM poll and we release that to Channel 4 News.
Q1302 Mr Ainsworth: The implication here is that there is some animus behind any pure altruism here, and it is to do with the BBC and The Guardian ganging up on the Murdoch press.
Mr Johnson: I think ganging up would be too ---
Mr Davies: I did tip off one person who was a Conservative politician. Is it all right to say this?
Q1303 Chairman: You may certainly say it.
Mr Davies: I rang a Conservative politician who is the Chairman of this Committee and said about an hour before ---
Q1304 Chairman: This is one hour before!
Mr Davies: --- One hour before it went up on the website, and I said, "Because I gave evidence to you two months ago and because I know this affects you directly because of the evidence that was given to you, I just want you to have a look at our website because this story is going up at half past five."
Q1305 Chairman: Just on that, I had previously received a call earlier than that from Channel 4 who were going to carry the story at seven o'clock and they implied to me that they were also involved in preparing the story. Is that correct?
Mr Davies: I think The Guardian press office may well have done.
Mr Johnson: I think you will find it is quite normal procedure to alert broadcasters to any big story. I think you will find for about 27 days on the trot The Telegraph were making sure that before their newspapers hit the news stands the BBC, Nick Robinson, et cetera, had a fair idea. Whether that was the BBC and the Telegraph ganging up on politicians I do not know but that interpretation is clearly open.
Q1306 Chairman: But Channel 4 was not involved in preparing the story, you just gave them advance notice of what was going to go to press.
Mr Johnson: The preparation was entirely Nick's.
Mr Davies: I did this story all on my own. You do not go telling other journalists what you are working on, for God's sake.
Q1307 Adam Price: Just one small point. Did you say in response to a question by Paul Farrelly that Glenn Mulcaire was producing lists of potential targets for News of the World? Was it for the same individual or was it for his own purposes?
Mr Davies: We are in that grey area I talked about at the beginning. I think I can say that I have seen paperwork which appeared to me to be Mulcaire justifying the money they paid him, so he puts in a list every week or every month of what he had been working on and this was basically a list of people's names and the dates when he had been working, and that is where I know as a 100% certainty that Mulcaire was targeting, ie trying to find information about for example John Prescott, Tessa Jowell, Boris Johnson, Jade Goody, George Michael, those ones I mentioned in the paper.
Q1308 Adam Price: So it was like a time sheet for phone hacking.
Mr Davies: Something like that.
Q1309 Adam Price: An extraordinarily naive thing to do considering you are committing a criminal offence.
Mr Davies: I do not know too much about it because it was handwritten. That is all, as I understand it, in Scotland Yard's possession. They know about all those.
Q1310 Chairman: Just on that, clearly any intercepts that had been obtained or hacking that had been obtained relating to the Royal Family is going to be of interest to Clive Goodman but why is Clive Goodman interested in Jade Goody or Simon Hughes? Would that not have been other reporters dealing with those areas?
Mr Davies: If you ask when did anybody start working on this story it is on the day of the trial. You stand there and you look at what we are being told, the official version of events, and it does not make sense. Why would the Royal reporter be interested in Simon Hughes, Elle MacPherson, Sky Andrew, Gordon Taylor? It does not make sense.
Q1311 Chairman: So you would have expected Mulcaire to be supplying the intercepts to whichever reporter on News of the World was covering that?
Mr Davies: There was a misunderstanding about this when we were running it in the story and I need to make it clear now. I am 100% sure that Mulcaire was targeting people like John Prescott, ie trying to find information about them. It is 100% certain that Mulcaire is in the business of hacking phones. Does that mean that Mulcaire hacked the telephone of the Deputy Prime Minister? The answer is: I have asked and I was told by somebody who should know that they thought he probably had but that is not 100%. There is an evidential gap there which is why you have not got a great big front page story saying "Prescott was hacked" but that very important evidential gap got lost in a kind of Chinese whispers way as The Guardian story got picked up and repeated, and unfortunately John Prescott himself was misinformed about what we were saying. You cannot say that all these people who are named in Mulcaire's paperwork are the target of illegal activity. You might say that the police perhaps ought to investigate to discover whether they were.
Q1312 Philip Davies: But it does not mean either that he was asked to by somebody at News International. He could have drawn up his own list of people he thought the newspapers might be interested in, presumably?
Mr Davies: But he is submitting the piece of paper ---
Paul Farrelly: He is reporting it back.
Q1313 Adam Price: Sorry, who was he submitting them to?
Mr Davies: He submitted the piece of paper back to News International. You are quite right that it is conceivable that a man in that role could say, "I know what I'm going do; I'm going to target so-and-so," but the paper suggests that he is doing that in the expectation that News International will approve and pay him for it.
Q1314 Chairman: Who did he send the transcripts of Max Clifford to, for instance?
Mr Davies: I do not know.
Q1315 Chairman: It would not be Clive Woodman. Clive Woodman would not be interested in Max Clifford.
Mr Davies: That is a reasonable inference but I do not know. I spoke to Max Clifford yesterday and he does not know. The police did not give him that sort of detail.
Q1316 Chairman: But you would expect, given the range of people who were having their phones hacked into covered politics, entertainment, sport, the Royal Family, each of those will be covered by a separate reporter presumably?
Mr Davies: It is all reasonable speculation but I do not know. There is so much still to come out, so much that is still tucked way in Scotland Yard's files and with the Information Commissioner on the other material, and in this High Court file.
Q1317 Janet Anderson: Just briefly, Nick, if we could go back to the John Prescott point because if you look at the statement by the Assistant Commissioner of the Met, John Yates, he says: "There has been a lot of media comment today about the then Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott. This investigation has not covered any evidence to suggest that John Prescott's phone had been tapped." It does not mean they had not tried to tap it.
Mr Davies: I think you could say if they had tried to discover, one thing they would have to done would be to go to the Deputy Prime Minister and say, "Do you have any circumstantial evidence that this could have happened? Was there an occasion when you phoned your mum up and said, 'I am coming to see you in five minutes', you have turned up and there was a photographer on the doorstep?" That sort of stuff. Prescott has made it clear that he was never approached to be asked a single question, so as far as we know there was no attempt by Scotland Yard to investigate what it was that Mulcaire had done in relation to Prescott and therefore of course there is no evidence.
Q1318 Janet Anderson: And possibly a lot of other people in that same category where they have not been successful in tapping the phone?
Mr Davies: No, you remember those three categories I was talking about, the blazingly obvious they have been tapped, secondly, it is obvious that he was trying to tap them but we do not know whether he has succeeded and, thirdly, all we know was that he was targeting them in some way. As far as I know, there was no investigation of anybody in that third category. This is a huge job. These are police officers who basically specialise in counter-terrorism and protecting the Royal Family. "Are we really going to have to spend the rest of the year doing this stuff?" Some investigation, if John Yates is right, occurred on that middle category and they ran into problems proving it. So the job has not been finished I think you could say.
Q1319 Mr Hall: Just to follow on this thing about Prescott, there were very clearly newspaper reports about his private life.
Mr Davies: And it coincides with that time.
Q1320 Mr Hall: I always thought it was somebody in Prescott's office that was selling the story to the press. It may well be now that it was somebody who was listening to his phone instead.
Mr Davies: We do not
know but I can definitely tell you that the time-frame when Mulcaire was
Q1321 Mr Hall: Going back to the categories, politicians, people in entertainment, people in sport, general celebrities were all on this list of attempted hacks to phones.
Mr Davies: Hang on, we must keep different things separate. There is this mighty list of people where they were blagging into confidential databases. Steve Whittamore trying to get bank statements, tax records, health records, social security records. That is a mighty list with many, many names on it, right, and I know all those names. There is a different list of people whose phones they were trying to hack via Glenn Mulcaire or other private investigators. There we now know for sure of ten people who were successfully hacked. That is three members of the Royal Household, the other five people about whom Mulcaire was charged: Gordon Taylor, Sky Andrew, the football agent, Elle MacPherson, Simon Hughes and Max Clifford, and then in addition the two other people who sued alongside Gordon Taylor, Joe Armstrong and the football lawyer, so you have ten definite cases.
Q1322 Chairman: Is Vanessa Feltz not somewhere in this?
Mr Davies: I have no idea how she arrived in the middle of this story. Suddenly she was everywhere and I looked at my notes and --- Then you have all sorts of very interesting briefing going on so The Sunday Times ran a story on Sunday in a News International newspaper in which towards the end of the story they suggested strongly that a senior BBC executive was in my first category and had blazingly obviously had his or her phone messages hacked and that it appeared likely that the Metropolitan Commissioner Ian Blair was in the second category. I am not telling you that I know that is true. All I am telling you is that a News International newspaper identified those two names on Sunday. If, if, if the Metropolitan Commissioner was the target or victim ---
Mr Johnson: We have actually reported police sources saying that they do not believe Ian Blair was targeted.
Mr Davies: That would be very shocking. I do not know what is going on there. There is more to come.
Q1323 Mr Hall: There was speculation as to why such a variety people were attempted to have their phones hacked and that that information would be passed on to the journalists that were interested in those characters. There is another possibility that they could have been passed on to the deputy editor or the editor and the editor would have farmed out the information to the journalists he thought might cover that story.
Mr Davies: In principle you are right but as far as I know and particularly bearing in mind the transcript I gave you earlier on it is actually happening at a junior level.
Q1324 Mr Watson: Do you think a register of private investigation firms used by newspapers would help create transparency and reassurance that these kinds of things are not going on any more?
Mr Davies: I am particularly useless on solutions. I am not quite sure what we should do. It is not my strong suit. I peer over the wall into the orchard and somebody gives me an apple and I come and show it to you. I can do that.
Mr Johnson: Sometimes on something like that glibly one could say perhaps that would add to the transparency but I am sure that it would not take long to be able to drive a coach and horses through any transparency there. We are much keener on trying to refine what actually could be defined in the public interest and what could not with the Ormond steps and suggestions. It seems to us a much more concrete way forward that other people could buy into.
Q1325 Paul Farrelly: We cannot speculate about other reporters who may or may not have used Glenn Mulcaire but the evidence you have given us here does show prima facie evidence of one conduit which is to the chief reporter.
Mr Davies: Yes, involving that other reporter who we are going to not name.
Q1326 Paul Farrelly: When we looked at this two years ago, the Chairman asked the Executive Chairman of News International at the time, Mr Hinton, the following question: "You carried out a full rigorous internal inquiry and you are absolutely convinced that Clive Goodman was the only person who knew what was going on?" The answer was: "Yes we have and I believe he was the only person." That is leading us to believe that the News of the World carried out a thorough inquiry and came up with nothing, when we have seen here that it appears that the chief reporter no less was also in the business of dealing with the sort of information over which Clive Goodman was convicted. What do you think that says about not only the evidence we have received but also the thoroughness of the News International inquiry?
Mr Davies: I think I have touched on this before. First, this is a newspaper that specialises in investigations and you would think that they could find out what some of their own people were doing. I think it is very hard to resist the conclusion that in its public statements about the scope of illegal behaviour they have consistently admitted only what has been forced and dragged into the public domain and is indisputable and everything else has remained behind a wall of misleading statements. I do not know what Les Hinton as an individual knew but I think it is fair to say we have consistently been misled by News International, and that includes the statement that they released on Friday evening and in my own dealings with them. I called the Director of Communications of the News Group the week before we published the story. I said, "Can you confirm that you have paid damages to somebody who has sued you for hacking into their mobile phone?" That was a Thursday afternoon and she went off to make enquiries. On Thursday evening I had a phone call from somebody at News International saying, "What have you done? They are all chasing around blaming everybody else for having given the story." Friday morning she called back and left a message on my answer machine to say, "I have spoken to all the managing editors and all the lawyers; nobody knows what you are talking about." I want to make it clear she, I am sure, is an innocent victim of somebody behind the scenes who is not prepared to tell the truth. There is a consistent and worrying pattern here in News International's statements, to you, to me, to the public.
Q1327 Mr Sanders: You have hinted very strongly there that you have been misled by News International. When you spoke at some length I almost got the impression here that you were getting close to suggesting that you may have been misled by the police.
Mr Davies: I think the statement that the Assistant Commissioner made last week on Thursday afternoon fails to disclose the facts of the case which is what he said he was going to establish. It makes no reference to any kind of involvement by other News of the World journalists. It says, "We have already told everybody where there was clear evidence of their phone being hacked," and yet 24 hours later they sneak out this statement saying, "We are now telling people." I do not understand why John Yates did not tell us all of that upfront on Thursday afternoon.
Q1328 Chairman: I think that is all we have for the time being.
Mr Davies: Okay. Thank you for your time.