The Sketch: Over in Parliament, The Guardian's editor explains what motivated <u>his</u> exposé

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The Independent Online

It was a sensation in Committee Room 8, the pens were flying, keyboards clattering, The Guardian had come to Westminster with sensational evidence. We had come to see the journalist Nick Davies who's been writing about blagging and phone tapping scandals in the Murdoch press. We got his editor too: Alan Rusbridger looks like a Harry Potter gone wrong. It must mean something, maybe we'll find out later.

We kicked off with an official from the Press Complaints Commission. He put in a cool, urbane performance. The story that Murdoch's executives had been paying investigators to get information illegally through hacking and phone tapping – that was described as "the sort of spat between newspapers that goes on all the time". Also it was "old". Move along, nothing to see here.

But Nick Davies amazed us all by doing something I'd never seen in committee. He produced the documents. "I have in my hand" sort of thing. Evidence! Parliament was the first to know! It's all exclamation marks, this sketch!

There were emails, invoices, lists of names, authorisations, requests for information. And then, reconstructions, insinuations, accusations. The committee didn't know what to do with itself. They needed counsel to get their heads round the data.

It appears that the big banana from News International, one Les Hinton, was a little off-centre when he presented his company's convicted hacker as a lone nut with a keyboard. The execs were in it up to their armpits. The accounts department was systematically paying out bonuses and remittances for every sort of private intelligence.

And why had the Information Commissioner not prosecuted these journalists on the list? He couldn't afford the hearings, the pre-hearings, the QCs. Because I'm sorry to say that big newspapers do to badly funded regulators what big business does to badly funded newspapers.

Back to the exclamation marks. The chief reporter was named! The assistant editor was named! They were trafficking emails with transcripts of illegally hacked messages.

And as for Scotland Yard... Dear old John Yates (fresh from his success nailing Tony Blair on cash for peerages) was made to look like an imbecile. One minute he was saying all investigations were complete, and four hours later his people were weasling it that investigations were ongoing. Yes, he was sitting on evidence that cried out for investigation. The guilty men were named! Sensation in court!

And what an example of official prestidigitation we had then. Yates of the Yard had said there was "no evidence" that John Prescott's phone had been hacked – and this is a true statement. But there was no evidence because Prescott... was never questioned.

I have to finish because I've run out of exclamation marks.