David Cameron under pressure to defend Coulson as calls for inquiry grow

Labour leadership rivals unite in call for inquiry as victims take case to High Court

David Cameron was under growing pressure last night to defend Andy Coulson, his director of communications, after lawyers, senior politicians and other public figures called for a full inquiry into allegations that the scale of the News of the World phone hacking scandal was much greater than police have acknowledged.

All five candidates for Labour's leadership used a debate yesterday to call into question Mr Cameron's judgement in appointing Mr Coulson, the former News of the World editor, to head his press machine. In a further development, lawyers for a group of public figures confirmed they were to go to court this week to force Scotland Yard to disclose the names of thousands of politicians, celebrities and journalists who are believed to be victims of phone hacking.

The scandal is now threatening to engulf the Prime Minister on the day that Parliament reopens – at a time when Mr Cameron would have been hoping to focus on a crucial debate over a proposed new voting system.

The High Court case will challenge the Metropolitan Police over its decision to limit the original investigation to just a handful of victims who had their phone messages intercepted by a private detective working for the News of the World. At the time Mr Coulson said he knew nothing about the paper's unlawful reliance on private detectives to hack into phone messages of celebrities, their agents, and members of the royal household.

The names of former Labour cabinet ministers John Prescott, Peter Mandelson and Tessa Jowell are among thousands of prominent people whose phone details were found when police raided the home of the private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who was working for the News of the World when it was edited by Mr Coulson.

Asked about the phone hacking scandal during a leadership debate in Norwich yesterday, David Miliband, the frontrunner, said that anyone could be the target of hacking if it was allowed to go unchecked, and that governments should protect the privacy of individuals from intrusion by private organisations as well as by the state.

Ed Miliband described the allegations as "very serious", and Ed Balls added: "When there are questions about the integrity of the communications operation in Downing Street, the wrong thing for a Prime Minister to do is to try to sweep it under the carpet."

Andy Burnham said: "Mr Cameron has been delivering fairly pompous lectures for some time now about restoring trust in politics and the position Andy Coulson holds is fundamental to the information that the Government puts out. We just can't have a situation where these questions keep swirling around this individual. They need to be cleared up once and for all."

Mr Coulson resigned as editor after Clive Goodman and Mulcaire had pleaded guilty to illegal phone tapping, but has always denied that he knew about their activities. Leading Tories believe that the revival of the phone tapping scandal is simply down to rivalry between newspaper empires, and the issue has been seized on by politicians from opposition parties who want to embarrass Mr Cameron by attacking his chief spin doctor.

Interviewed on the BBC's Andrew Marr show yesterday, the Education Secretary Michael Gove claimed there was "no evidence" that Andy Coulson knew about the phone hacking while it was taking place. "There seems to be a recycling of allegations we have had before," he said. "It is striking that many of the people making allegations are Labour politicians, so there is an element of the party political about it."

But Paul Farrelly, a Labour MP involved in an inquiry by the Commons Culture Media and Sport Select Committee in September last year accused the police of being "less than fulsome" when answering MPs' questions.

He added: "With Andy Coulson our inquiry hit a brick wall of silence and amnesia. There is plenty more in a New York Times article, however, which suggests illegal phone-hacking was rife and not limited to just the former royal editor and one private investigator. We concluded in our report that this was unbelievable."

Later this week the former Europe minister Chris Bryant, former Metropolitan police deputy assistant commissioner Brian Paddick, and journalist and author Brendan Montague are expected to issue proceedings for judicial review against Scotland Yard.

Their solicitor Tamsin Allen, of London law firm Bindmans, told The Independent that the police had a duty under the Human Rights Act to protect the public's privacy and to pass on any information that might indicate they were the victims of hacking.

Ms Allen insisted that the legal action was not politically motivated and that she represented clients who were only interested in establishing the truth about the original police investigation and what decisions were taken regarding the use of personal information.

Scotland Yard has confirmed that there are 4,332 "names, partial names and initials" amongst documents seized from Glenn Mulcaire and Clive Goodman.

The list of names is also the focus of a separate court battle involving Scotland Yard in which the police are accused of defamation. In that case solicitor Mark Lewis, who acted for Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, is suing the Metropolitan Police over claims that he misquoted a detective when he gave evidence to the Commons committee last year.

Mr Lewis told the committee that he had been told by Det Sgt Mark Maberly – who has since been promoted to Detective Inspector – that there was evidence that about 6,000 hacks had taken place. He added that it was not clear to him whether this meant that 6,000 phones were hacked or that 6,000 people, including those who had left messages, were affected.

He is also suing the Press Complaints Commission and its chairman Baroness Buscombe over a speech she made at the Society of Editors conference in November last year in which she said that Mr Maberly was wrongly quoted, and that the Metropolitan Police had said the correct figure – only a handful – was given to the Select Committee by Assistant Commissioner John Yates and Detective Chief Superintendent Philip Williams.

Mr Lewis claims that these statements amount to allegations that he lied to the Select Committee.

A spokesman for the Met said: "In July 2009, the MPS examined whether any new evidence had emerged in the media or elsewhere that justified reopening the investigation. The clear view, subsequently endorsed by the Director of Public Prosecutions with leading counsel's advice, was that there was no new evidence and consequently the investigation remains closed. There has been no investigation since the convictions of Goodman and Mulcaire."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Purchasers

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Pu...

Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Broker / Purchaser

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Call Centre Manager - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This innovative online car purc...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'