MPs last night demanded to know what Scotland Yard told the Labour government about its failed phone-hacking investigation into the News of the World six years ago.
The Metropolitan Police's former Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Peter Clarke, revealed on Thursday to the Leveson Inquiry into press standards that he had briefed John Reid, who was then the Home Secretary, about the case. Asked why the police had not notified John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, that his messages had been hacked, Mr Clarke said: "Well, it wouldn't be for me to go direct to Lord Prescott. I discussed this with the then Home Secretary Dr Reid. He was aware of the investigation."
Tony Blair's government – which maintained a close relationship with Rupert Murdoch's News International – does not appear to have demanded tougher action from the Metropolitan Police and the Press Complaints Commission against his Sunday newspaper.
Despite finding thousands of names in the notes of the NOTW's private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, the police brought charges against only Mr Mulcaire and the paper's royal editor, Clive Goodman, for hacking a total of eight people.
Seven months before the pair were jailed, the Crown Prosecution Service agreed to "ring-fence" the prosecution to exclude "sensitive" witnesses. Mr Reid last night denied receiving such a briefing: "I can categorically say that I did not receive any briefing from the Met suggesting that there was widespread hacking including MPs and the Deputy PM."
Police on the inquiry, Operation Caryatid, informed only about 30 of the hundreds of likely victims of Mr Mulcaire. Among those were, it was claimed, the ministers Tessa Jowell and David Blunkett, neither of whom took legal action against News International.
Mr Blunkett last night denied being told that he had been hacked. Ms Jowell said she had taken security advice and told there was nothing else she needed to do. Police did not inform Lord Prescott, despite him being a higher-ranking politician.