Call for police chief to quit over meeting with ex-'NOTW' editor

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The Independent Online

John Yates, the senior police officer embroiled in the phone hacking affair, yesterday faced a call to step down after he told MPs that there was no reason for him to reveal a recent social engagement with a former senior executive at the News of the World.

In a letter to the Commons media select committee, Assistant Commissioner Yates, who oversaw a review of the heavily-criticised original Scotland Yard investigation into the scandal, confirmed that he had attended a "private engagement" in February this year with Neil Wallis, the deputy editor of the Sunday tabloid until 2009.

Mr Yates said they had known each other for "a number of years"; the meeting took place within a month of the announcement of Operation Weeting, the new investigation into phone hacking which senior officers have pledged will leave "no stone unturned".

In evidence to MPs earlier this month, Mr Yates, who has no direct involvement in the new inquiry, insisted the two men did not discuss the issue during the meeting.

But in response to questions about whether he had declared the meeting and sought advice from the inquiry team about whether it should take place, Mr Yates denied any wrongdoing.

Mr Yates wrote: "Since assuming responsibility for dealing with the legacy of this case, relevant senior officers have been made aware that Mr Wallis and I know each other. The meeting referred to during my evidence was a private engagement attended by a number of others. There would be no reason to declare this."

A senior Labour MP said the fact Mr Yates had only confirmed his meeting with Mr Wallis after it was put to him by the select committee and did not accept that the engagement was inappropriate meant he should consider his position.

Chris Bryant, a shadow justice minister, who is suing the NOTW for damages over claims that his own mobile phone was hacked, said: "It is wholly inappropriate for senior figures at the Metropolitan Police to be having meals in private with current or former senior figures at the News of the World. Frankly, if Mr Yates cannot see that is a problem then he should not be in his job."