Britain’s opposition Labour Party called on Prime Minister David Cameron to say whether he knew that Andy Coulson continued to receive payments from News Corp. while he was working as his head of communications.
Cameron said last month that with hindsight it had been a mistake to hire Coulson a few months after he resigned as News of the World editor in 2007 following the jailing of one of his reporters for phone-hacking. Coulson quit his government job in January and was arrested July 8 as revelations of hacking at the now defunct newspaper widened.
The BBC reported last night that News Corp.’s News International unit paid Coulson hundreds of thousands of pounds as part of a severance package after he began working for Cameron’s Conservative Party.
“David Cameron needs to say whether he knew about the payments to Andy Coulson,” Labour’s culture spokesman, Ivan Lewis, said in an e-mailed statement today. “The details of Mr. Coulson’s termination agreements with News International must be published and we need to know whether these payments, in the form of honoring a two-year contract of employment after he had been forced to resign in disgrace, were declared to the parliamentary authorities.”
Cameron defended his record on dealings with News Corp. in an emergency session of Parliament on the phone-hacking scandal on July 20. Coulson has denied any knowledge of illegality.
“If it turns out I’ve been lied to, that will be a moment for a profound apology, and in that moment, I can assure you I will not fall short,” Cameron told lawmakers. “With 20-20 hindsight and all that has followed I would not have offered him the job and I expect he would not have taken it.”
The Conservative Party said in an e-mailed statement today that senior party officials had no knowledge of Coulson’s severance arrangements.
Coulson told Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport Committee in July 2009 that he was not paid by both News International and the Conservative Party at the same time.
“Your sole income was News International and then your sole income was the Conservative Party?” Labour lawmaker Tom Watson asked Coulson. “Yes,” Coulson replied.
Watson has written to the Electoral Commission to report the payments, which he said may be in breach of rules on party funding. They may have broken regulations on sponsorship and the reporting of donations, Watson said in a letter to the commission posted on his website.
“News International consistently does not comment on the financial arrangements of any individual,” spokeswoman Danielle Allen said. Coulson’s lawyer, Jo Rickards, didn’t immediately respond to a message requesting comment.