UK Politics

Miliband: Cameron still faces questions over Coulson

Media captionEd Miliband: "It was one of the great failures of our politics that this power went unchallenged for so long"

Labour leader Ed Miliband has said David Cameron still faces "unanswered questions" over the phone hacking saga.

In a speech urging people in power to "act with responsibility" - he again attacked the PM for hiring a former News of the World editor at No 10.

Mr Miliband said Mr Cameron was refusing to face up to his decisions.

Mr Cameron has said he wanted to give Andy Coulson - who quit as editor over phone hacking but said he had not known about it - a "second chance".

But the Conservative MP John Baron told BBC Radio 4's World at One the decision to hire Mr Coulson might have been "an own goal".

'Not even apologised'

In a speech on Monday, Mr Miliband said Mr Cameron should state whether he had ever discussed News Corporation's BSkyB bid with the Murdochs, or News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks, at social gatherings.

On Sunday the head of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Paul Stephenson, resigned over the phone hacking scandal - he had faced criticism for hiring former News of the World deputy editor Neil Wallis as an adviser.

In what has been seen as a dig at Mr Cameron, Sir Paul said: "Unlike Mr Coulson, Mr Wallis had not resigned from News of the World or, to the best of my knowledge been in any way associated with the original phone hacking investigation."

Mr Miliband said: "Sir Paul Stephenson has taken responsibility and resigned over the hiring of Mr Coulson's deputy while the prime minister has not even apologised for the hiring of Mr Coulson.

"We need leadership to get to the truth of what happened. But the prime minister is hamstrung by the decisions he made and his refusal to face up to them."

In the Commons, veteran Labour backbencher Dennis Skinner suggested Mr Cameron should "do the decent thing and resign" and his colleague Sir Gerald Kaufman called on the prime minister to "consider his position".

Speaking on a trade visit to South Africa, Mr Cameron said the two cases were different.

"In terms of Andy Coulson, no one has argued that the work he did in government in any way was inappropriate or bad. He worked well in government, he then left government.

"The situation in the Metropolitan Police Service is really quite different to the situation in the government, not least because the issues that the Metropolitan Police are looking at, the issues around them, have had a direct bearing on public confidence in the police inquiry into the News of the World - and indeed into the police themselves."

He said the government had set up a judicial inquiry, had helped to ensure a "properly resourced" police investigation to look into phone hacking and had been transparent about its media contacts.

Asked if Mr Cameron should consider his position following Sir Paul's resignation, Deputy PM Nick Clegg said: ""Absolutely not. Of course not. Let's keep some perspective here. The fear that people have is that a criminal investigation could be jeopardised by the contact between the police and media."

Mr Coulson was editor of the News of the World when its royal editor, Clive Goodman and a private investigator working for the newspaper, Glen Mulcaire, were convicted of conspiracy to intercept telephone calls in January 2007. Mr Coulson quit, saying he took responsibility for the scandal - but denied knowing about the phone hacking.

He became the Conservative Party's director of communications - and, after the 2010 general election, became communications chief at Downing Street before quitting in January this year, blaming continued coverage of the phone hacking scandal.

He has since been arrested on suspicion of bribing police officers and released on police bail.

Mr Cameron has defended his decision to hire Mr Coulson, after the first phone hacking scandal at the News of the World cost him his job, saying: "At the time it looked as if a proper investigation had taken place, someone had gone to prison, and it seemed reasonable to give him a second chance."

The Conservatives have criticised Mr Miliband over his own appointment of a former News International journalist, Tom Baldwin, as his communications director.