PM moves to curb News Int hack scandal

Steve Dinneen
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PRIME Minister David Cameron yesterday attempted to draw a line under the hacking scandal that threatens to engulf his government as well as the entire Murdoch empire.

He said he has never had an “inappropriate conversation” with News International executives over Rupert Murdoch’s bid for the 61 per cent of Sky the media tycoon does not already own, but would not deny that he had spoken to Murdoch employees on the subject since being in Number 10.

He stressed he had no material influence over the Sky bid, which was handled by culture minister Jeremy Hunt, and hinted government may take no role in future media takeovers.

Cameron also told parliament that with the benefit of hindsight he regrets hiring former News of the World editor Andy Coulson, who has since been arrested over the scandal, but refused opposition leader Ed Miliband’s requests for an apology.

He said Coulson gave him guarantees he had not been involved in illegality, shouldering responsibility in an attempt to shield George Osborne from criticism over his role in the hire.

He also defended his chief of staff Ed Llewellyn, who asked police not to brief Cameron on the affair. Cameron fielded questions from 136 MPs during a mammoth Commons session.

News Corp yesterday continued its firefighting efforts, saying it has finally stopped paying legal fees for convicted fraudster Glenn Mulcaire.

The company also lifted a confidentiality clause from Harbottle & Lewis, allowing the law firm to speak with authorities on its work with News International while the hackings are said to have taken place.

The firm’s second-biggest shareholder, Saudi Prince Alwaleed, gave News Corp his backing last night.