Phone hacking scandal threatens to engulf Number 10

THE phone hacking scandal moved ever closer to Downing Street last night, following a string of damaging revelations that put the spotlight on David Cameron’s Number 10 operation.

The Conservative Party revealed that phone hacking suspect Neil Wallis informally advised Andy Coulson, Cameron’s former communications supremo, in 2009 during the run up to the general election.

Wallis, a former executive at the News of the World, also advised the Metropolitan Police between 2009 and 2010. Two of Britain’s most senior policemen – Met chief Sir Paul Stephenson and assistant commissioner John Yates – have already quit over their links to Wallis.

Sources at Conservative HQ, which has been investigating the links between Coulson and Wallis for a number of days, said they were as sure as they could be that the advice was offered on a pro-bono basis. They insisted the advice had nothing to do with phone hacking and expect their investigation to show the advice concerned an ordinary, routine matter.

Labour party sources accused the Tories of sitting on the revelations for several days, before rushing them out while the focus was on the Murdochs’ high-profile appearance at the media select committee.

Meanwhile, it was revealed that one of Cameron’s most senior advisers blocked Scotland Yard from briefing the Prime Minister on the phone hacking investigation.

Ed Llewellyn, Cameron’s chief of staff, wrote in an email to Yates: “I am sure you will understand that we will want to be able to be entirely clear, for your sake and ours, that we have not been in contact with you about this subject.”

Downing Street released the emails after Stephenson told a committee of MPs that a Number 10 aide has prevented Scotland Yard from briefing Cameron on hacking because they feared it would “compromise” him. Yates later identified the aide as Llewellyn.

Llewellyn has already been accused of failing to inform the Prime Minister that Coulson had links to a private investigator, who was then facing charges for conspiracy to murder.

Meanwhile, Cameron will tonight face questions from the 1922 committee, an influential group of MPs from the Tory backbenches, which is becoming increasingly restless.