Piers Morgan faced renewed questions about his knowledge of phone hacking last night after the BBC presenter Jeremy Paxman claimed the former Daily Mirror editor taught him how to hack into people's voicemails.
Mr Paxman, the BBC Newsnight anchor, said Mr Morgan effectively gave him a lesson in how to listen to a person's messages over a lunch at Mirror Group's offices in Canary Wharf in 2002. The Leveson Inquiry has not ruled out recalling Mr Morgan, who has already given evidence, to explain himself.
Mr Morgan, now a TV anchorman in the US, has said he never hacked a phone, ordered anyone to do so or been aware of it on his watch.
But Mr Morgan did concede when appearing at the inquiry in December that, in 2002, he might have warned British Telecom's chief executive to tell customers to take greater care of their mobile phone passwords.
Giving evidence to the inquiry into press standards yesterday, Mr Paxman described the lunch, hosted by the former Mirror chairman, Sir Victor Blank. It was attended by the retail billionaire, Sir Philip Green, and the television star Ulrika Jonsson, once the girlfriend of former England football manager Sven-Goran Eriksson.
Mr Paxman was seated next to Mr Morgan and opposite Ms Jonsson. In exchanges with the Swedish television star, Mr Morgan teased her about what happened in conversations between her and Mr Eriksson.
The descriptions were delivered in a mock-Swedish accent and Mr Morgan's tone was described as "bullying". Mr Paxman said the Mirror editor turned to him and asked: "Have you got a mobile phone?" Having said he did, Mr Morgan then asked about the "security setting on the message bit" before explaining there was a way to access people's messages by going to the "factory default setting". He said that if Mr Paxman did not put in a security code then he was "a fool".
Mr Paxman said he did not know if Mr Morgan was making it up, but added: "This was clearly something he was familiar with."