Pressure grows on Tory communications chief

Andy Coulson is to appear before a select committee this week over his former newspaper's involvement in the phone-tapping scandal

David Cameron's communications director Andy Coulson will come under renewed pressure this week amid claims by a committee of MPs that they had the "wool pulled over our eyes" over the News of the World phone-tapping scandal.

Mr Coulson will be the key witness at an emergency hearing of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee on Tuesday, alongside the Sun editor Rebekah Brooks (née Wade) and former News of the World managing editor Stuart Kuttner.

The Tory spin-doctor, who resigned as the paper's editor two years ago over the affair, will be asked to put on the record a categorical denial that he knew nothing of the illegal activities of journalists on his former paper.

The committee will also focus on whether Mr Coulson can remain as one of Mr Cameron's closest aides in Downing Street, because the phone-tapping scandal happened on his watch. Until last week, Mr Coulson had refused publicly to deny knowledge of the activities of the then royal editor of the paper, Clive Goodman, and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire.

While there is no suggestion Mr Coulson has misled MPs or done anything wrong, some Tories are concerned that the continuing affair could be damaging to the Conservatives and their relationship with the Royal Family, which was the target of major hacking activity by Goodman.

Members of the select committee are also angry that evidence given to them during their investigation into the affair two years ago by other News of the World executives appeared to stop short of the full story.

Les Hinton, at the time News International chairman, told the committee in 2007 that Goodman had been acting alone. Yet an investigation by The Guardian this month claimed the practice was widespread. News of the World chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck, who will also be called by the committee, is alleged to have been involved in illegal activity. One committee source said yesterday: "There are some members who believe that the wool was pulled over their eyes when they first investigated this in 2007."

Mr Cameron and his inner circle have so far stood by Mr Coulson. But there were new questions last night over whether Mr Cameron and George Osborne, who was involved in Mr Coulson's recruitment, properly checked whether the former editor knew of the scandal.

In an interview with The Independent on Sunday, Mr Osborne refused to repeat Mr Coulson's denial. And in remarks which could trigger speculation that the Tory leadership could pull support from Mr Coulson if his story evaporates, Mr Osborne referred to his colleague in the past tense. Asked whether Mr Coulson had denied to him at the time any knowledge of phone-tapping, Mr Osborne said: "I'm not going to go into my private conversations with Andy Coulson, but I will say this – I think he's been an absolutely excellent communications director for the Conservative Party. I think he's conducted himself in that job in an entirely proper and correct way."

Asked if he was concerned that Mr Coulson did not know what was going on under his watch, Mr Osborne said: "The police have thoroughly investigated this. I thought it was significant that on the day The Guardian made its allegations that the police came out and said this had been thoroughly investigated and that there was no new evidence, as far as they were concerned, that was worth investigating. I think that speaks for itself."

One News International insider said Mr Coulson was still a candidate to succeed Ms Brooks as editor of The Sun in September. The fresh revelations of phone-tapping had damaged his chances slightly, but the source added: "Andy is still the golden boy. If things didn't work out with Cameron, he could have the job if he wanted."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
A poster by Durham Constabulary
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine