'Number 10 spin doctors hacked BBC computers'

Downing Street has dismissed as "complete rubbish and utter drivel" claims last night that its staff had hacked into the BBC's computer system in an attempt to try to influence negative news items before they were broadcast.

The allegations, contained in a new book by John Simpson, the corporation's world affairs editor, will renew the row over New Labour spin.

Mr Simpson, in his book News From No Man's Land which is quoted in today's Sunday Telegraph, claimed a colleague had noticed that when he wrote a script for a forthcoming news bulletin "he would be rung up by Downing Street before it was broadcast and lobbied on a point or two". "This didn't happen just once or twice," he said.

BBC Radio 4's World At One programme was also telephoned by No 10 officials to complain about items it was planning to run, Mr Simpson's book alleges. The Sunday Telegraph also claims that the BBC, alerted to concerns that someone was getting into its system, investigated the matter and upgraded security.

But a spokesman for the BBC said last night: "We don't discuss issues of security. However, we are continually reviewing the security of our systems and we always aim to maintain complete impartiality in our political journalism."

Computer hacking was made illegal under the Computer Misuse Act of 1990. But the newspaper claims that the BBC was forced to investigate alleged breaches of the act in 1997 after Labour's election victory amid tension over the new Government's apparent attempts to "manage" news coverage and put pressure on journalists and editors to give it favourable coverage.

The Tory frontbencher David Davis said he would be contacting the chairman of the BBC Board of Governors to demand the publication of the BBC's internal inquiry. "If John Simpson's allegations are correct, then No 10 and Labour Party staff seem to have been complicit in a criminal act," he said. "At the very least, it would seem that there has been systematic action by No 10 and the Labour Party to break the BBC's charter which requires impartiality."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant

£12500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This accounting practice is looking for ...

Recruitment Genius: Casual Visitor Experience Assistants

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: To work within the Visitor Experience Departm...

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
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
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