UK

Lord Fowler urges inquiry into phone-hacking scandal

Former minister Norman Fowler has urged the government to hold an inquiry into the phone-hacking scandal, calling it a "conspiracy against the public".

In response, Baroness Rawlings said that establishing another investigation could harm those already under way.

Police are investigating claims News of the World staff illegally accessed the phone messages of public figures.

Meanwhile, News International has appointed a former High Court judge to administer its compensation scheme.

The company says Sir Charles Gray will be an independent adjudicator for victims of phone hacking.

During a debate in the Lords, Labour peer Lord Sugar said newspaper editors, owners and directors should all face prison sentences over the hacking.

He told the house: "It is ludicrous to suggest that the editor of a national newspaper is not aware of where the information came from.

"In the past a journalist was actually given a custodial sentence for phone hacking. Isn't it the case that the editor is responsible for what goes in the newspaper and he also should be given a custodial sentence and indeed the proprietor and the board of directors?"

Baroness Rawlings said: "When it comes to editors, I am afraid I am unaware of what happened there."

'Delicate point'

Former Health Secretary Lord Fowler, who is also a former journalist and newspaper editor, said the hacking had originally been dismissed as the work of one rogue reporter but evidence had since emerged that more than one newspaper had been involved.

Image caption Hugh Grant has made calls for a privacy law to be introduced

He described the affair as "a massive conspiracy against the public", which the police and the Press Complaints Commission had been powerless to prevent.

Lord Fowler asked Lady Rawlings to give an assurance that the government would set up an independent inquiry into the phone hacking once criminal proceedings were complete.

Lady Rawlings said the government would monitor the outcomes of the current inquiries and "consider whether any further action will be necessary".

Meanwhile, the actor Hugh Grant says he has had enough of tabloid newspapers stealing people's privacy and claims only last month that he had to go to hospital and details were printed in two papers.

"People just need to know that when tabloids are complaining about injunctions etc infringing freedom of speech, what they're actually complaining about is loss of profit," he said in an interview with BBC Radio 4's PM programme.

Terrifying notes

Mr Grant said the Met Police had shown him "terrifying notes" from private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who was convicted of hacking phones for the newspaper and knew "unbelievable details about friends, family, where they lived, my bank account details etc".

"I don't often come out of my trench but I am outraged by this and not only on my own behalf."

He added: "On balance we do need a privacy law rather than this present system where it is enshrined in our law via the European Bill of Human Rights and our own Bill of Human Rights by which you have to do it via a judge or via an injunction."

In January, the Metropolitan Police reopened its investigation into the News of the World hacking claims after criticism of its initial 2006 inquiry.

Some staff at the newspaper - owned by Rupert Murdoch's News International - are alleged to have hacked into the phone messages of public figures, including a number of MPs, from 2005 to 2006.

In 2007, the first police investigation led to the convictions and imprisonment of then News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who was employed by the paper.

Five alleged victims have since reached out-of-court settlements with the newspaper.

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