Hacking row: Theresa May to outline 'concerns' over Met

 
Theresa May Theresa May has already written to Met Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson

Home Secretary Theresa May is to tell MPs about her "concerns" over the closeness of the relationship between News International and police.

The statement, on Monday, follows revelations that Neil Wallis, who is currently on bail over phone hacking allegations, advised the Met on PR.

Labour said the episode had left a "cloud" over the force and called for action to restore public confidence.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said questions had to be answered fully.

Mrs May will address MPs about the force's links with News International, which owned the News of the World before its closure a week ago.

It comes amid widespread allegations of phone hacking by the News of the World and of payments to police by journalists working for titles owned by News International.

In other developments:

  • Ex-News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks is arrested by police investigating phone hacking and bribery at the News of the World
  • Labour leader Ed Miliband calls for new media ownership rules to limit Rupert Murdoch's "dangerous" and "unhealthy" concentration of power
  • An advert placed by News International in national newspapers on Sunday describes how the company is "putting right what's gone wrong"
  • Several Sunday newspapers feature promotions in an attempt to woo former readers of the News of the World, which was the UK's best-selling newspaper
  • News International says it has set up an independent management and standards committee to see how the company can prevent similar instances happening again
  • John Whittingdale, chairman of the Commons media select committee, says former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks will probably be spoken to separately from Rupert and James Murdoch on Tuesday when they appear before MPs, adding that the committee should not act as a "lynch mob"

Meanwhile, the Met's commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, is expected to appear before the Commons home affairs select committee on Tuesday.

He is under pressure following revelations that he once hired Mr Wallis - a former News of the World deputy editor who was arrested recently on suspicion of intercepting mobile phone voicemails - as a PR consultant for the Met.

Mr Wallis's media consultancy company - Chamy Media - was used by the force from October 2009 until September last year.

He was paid £24,000 to work as a two-day-a-month PR, until his contract was cancelled four months before the launch of the Operation Weeting investigation into phone hacking began in January this year.

'Full disclosure'

As part of the contract, Mr Wallis advised the Commissioner's Office, and the Directorate of Public Affairs and Specialist Operations, working closely with Assistant Commissioner John Yates, who led an earlier Met inquiry into News of the World phone hacking.

Nick Clegg on reforming newspaper ownership after phone hacking allegations

Home Office minister James Brokenshire told Sky News: "I think there are questions of the Metropolitan Police's relationship with Chamy Media and also with Mr Wallis.

"The home secretary wrote to Paul Stephenson to gain further information around that at the end of last week. The Metropolitan Police have replied to that.

"The home secretary does have some concerns still in relation to the Metropolitan Police's relationship with Chamy Media and will be making a statement to Parliament tomorrow around that to set out the issues."

Asked whether the government had confidence in Sir Paul, he replied: "We think he's been doing a very good job. We think he continues to do a good job."

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper told BBC One's Andrew Marr show: "There is a cloud created over the Met as a result of this. And I do think both the Met leadership and also the home secretary need to take some action now.

"She should be demanding full disclosure. She should be setting out what action the Met needs to take in order to restore that confidence. And at the moment she seems to be doing the opposite, she's saying all of this can wait until the judicial inquiry. It cannot possibly wait for what could be years."

'Losing faith'

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said he was "incredibly worried" about the impact of recent stories on confidence in the police.

He added: "When the public starts losing faith in the police it's altogether much more serious and we really are in some trouble.

"That's why I think it's very important the commissioner should answer the questions which are being put to him by the home secretary and answer them very fully."

Asked whether the positions of Sir Paul and Mr Yates were tenable, he added: "I'm not going to judge them until they have answered the questions which are being put to them."

Meanwhile, the Sunday Times reports that Mr Wallis was working as a public relations consultant for Champneys health spa when Sir Paul recuperated from surgery there earlier this year.

The Met acknowledged that Sir Paul had stayed for free at Champneys, while he recovered from a fractured leg caused by an operation to remove a pre-cancerous tumour.

Recorded stay

But a spokesperson said: "As with many officers, the Met paid the intensive physiotherapy costs.

"The accommodation and meals were arranged and provided by Stephen Purdew, MD of Champneys, who is a personal family friend who has no connection with, or links to, his [Sir Paul's] professional life."

The force said Sir Paul had been unaware that Mr Wallis had worked as Champneys' PR consultant.

It added that the free stay had been recorded in the senior officer's gifts and hospitality register, due to be published shortly, when he returned to his post.

Mr Purdew, of Champneys, last said he was "outraged" by suggestions the stay had been arranged by Mr Wallis.

Mr Wallis' solicitor, Phil Smith, said: "There is no connection whatsoever between any stay Sir Paul Stephenson may have had at Champneys and Neil Wallis."

 

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