David Cameron's director of communications, Andy Coulson, faces a fresh parliamentary inquiry after more allegations into the illegal phone-tapping at the News of the World under his editorship, The Independent has learnt. The Home Affairs Select Committee will meet today and question the Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner John Yates about Scotland Yard's handling of the investigation.
MPs want to know why some victims were not warned their phones were being tapped by Rupert Murdoch's paper. According to today's Guardian, a leaked government document shows that the Home Office abandoned plans to establish an independent inquiry into the scandal last year after a senior official warned that the Metropolitan Police would "deeply resent" any interference in their investigation and that it would send a message that "we do not have full confidence" in the Met.
The Home Affairs Select Committee is expected to begin a new inquiry into the police handling of the case, which yesterday was the subject of further revelations:
*Mr Coulson, the Conservative Party's most senior spin doctor, agreed to meet detectives to discuss developments in the case;
*Tony Blair had contacted the Met fearing that his phone had been tapped;
*The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, told the Met that there was evidence his phone had been hacked;
*The Prime Minister's spokesman repeatedly ducked giving a direct answer when asked whether David Cameron believed that Mr Coulson knew nothing about phone hacking at the News of the World;
*The Home Secretary, Theresa May, was forced to make an urgent statement on the affair in Parliament.
Should the Home Affairs Committee investigate, it will be the second select committee inquiry into the scandal. Last year Mr Coulson told the Media Committee that he did not "condone or use" phone hacking techniques as editor of Britain's biggest-selling newspaper. But the committee condemned the newspaper executives' "collective amnesia" and "deliberate obfuscation".
The New York Times has claimed that the practice – which resulted in a reporter, Clive Goodman, and Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator employed by New International, being jailed – was more widespread. It is also claimed that detectives failed properly to investigate how pervasive the practice was, and that many potential victims were not alerted that their mobile voicemails may have been hacked.
Last night a source said the Home Affairs Committee was likely to investigate. "This is a very important issue and it is different to what the Culture Committee inquiry investigated," they said. "These are allegations about the potential phone-tapping of many MPs. It is something the Home Affairs Committee will want to look at."
Keith Vaz, the committee's chairman, said that Mr Yates will be asked about phone-tapping: "Since the New York Times publication and because of the concerns expressed in the House and beyond, it is obviously in the public interest that we should be questioning Mr Yates on this issue."
One member of the committee, the Liberal-Democrat MP Julian Huppert, has written to Mr Vaz asking that the committee begins an investigation into the police inquiry.
The Metropolitan Police has said that the investigation will remain closed until new evidence is produced.
Officers are keen to speak with Sean Hoare, a former News of the World, reporter who has claimed that phone hacking was rife. Scotland Yard refused to say when it would meet Mr Coulson.
Politicians and public figures have come forward to say that their names or phone numbers were found on the list but they were not notified by the Met until they approached the force.
Yesterday, the Labour MP Tom Watson raised the issue in Parliament, saying that Goodman was not the only journalist at that paper involved in the activity. Mr Watson named four others suspected of similar activities, and demanded to know which of them, if any, the Met had interviewed.
Any new inquiry would want to hear from Mr Coulson, Mr Yates and from Andy Hayman, the former Met assistant commissioner who oversaw the original investigation.
Yesterday Mr Hayman described the new allegations as "very interesting", adding: "If there is fresh revelations, everyone involved would want people to then revisit that so we can either draw a line underneath it or if someone needs to be held to book for it, then that can happen as well."
Mr Hayman, who now writes for one of Mr Murdoch's other papers, The Times, said there was nothing improper about him accepting a contract from News International soon after leading an investigation into one of its papers.
Any new evidence which implicates Mr Coulson would leave No 10 's director of communications fighting for his career. Mr Cameron's official spokesman repeatedly avoided giving a direct answer when asked if the Prime Minister believed Mr Coulson's account.
Tory rebuttals: Party hierarchy tries to deflect hacking claims
Alan Duncan, Development minister: "What they are seizing on are the words of someone who had an alcohol and drug problem who was sacked by the paper."
Theresa May, Home Secretary: "Any police investigation is an operational matter in which ministers have no role ... I consider it appropriate as Home Secretary that the Government takes the view that it is for the Metropolitan Police, on an operational matter, to decide what the right course of action is."
Michael Gove, Education Secretary: "I have had a look at some of the press reports and there seems to be a recycling of allegations we have had before. I think there is something happening in America to do with circulation wars and all the rest of it which is influencing this."