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UK Politics

Cameron hosted Coulson at Chequers

Former News of the World editor Andy Coulson stayed as a guest of Prime Minister David Cameron at Chequers in March, it was disclosed today.

Mr Coulson, who resigned as Downing Street director of communications in January, had dinner and stayed overnight at the Buckinghamshire country house.

A No 10 source said: "The Prime Minister invited him to thank him for his work."

Mr Coulson was arrested last week over alleged corruption and phone hacking at the Sunday tabloid while he was editor. He was bailed the same day.

The disclosure of his Chequers stay comes amid criticism of Mr Cameron's decision to appoint Mr Coulson as his communications chief despite his 2006 resignation from the News of the World over phone hacking.

Mr Cameron revealed last week that he had met Mr Coulson since his resignation, but "not recently and not frequently".

"When you work with someone for four years as I did, and you work closely, you do build a friendship and I became friends with him," the Prime Minister told a press conference last Friday.

"He became a friend and is a friend."

Amid calls from Labour leader Ed Miliband to apologise for his Downing Street appointment, Mr Cameron insisted he had had no reason to doubt Mr Coulson's assurances that he had no knowledge of hacking under his editorship.

At Prime Minister's Questions in the Commons on Wednesday, Mr Cameron said: "If it turns out he lied, it won't just be that he shouldn't have been in Government, it will be that he should be prosecuted."

Rebekah Brooks, who resigned today as chief executive of News International, received hospitality at Chequers twice last year, once in June and again in August.

According to a list of prime ministerial engagements released by Downing Street, News International chairman James Murdoch also attended Chequers in November.

Ms Brooks and Mr Murdoch met the Prime Minister socially in December. Separately, Ms Brooks met Mr Cameron again the same month.

Labour said Mr Coulson's invitation to Chequers raised further questions about the Prime Minister's judgment.

Shadow culture secretary Ivan Lewis said: "This is yet more evidence of an extraordinary lack of judgment by David Cameron.

"He hosted Andy Coulson at Chequers after, in the Prime Minister's own words, Mr Coulson's second chance hadn't worked out.

"David Cameron may think that this is a good day to bury bad news but he now has an increasing number of serious questions to answer."