Coulson faces more questions

Andy Coulson faces the prospect of another public grilling by MPs if the police do not charge him with illegal phone hacking.

Members of the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee are furious about the replies they received when they asked whether Coulson still had a financial link with Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper empire after he began working for David Cameron.

Labour MP Paul Farrelly accused him yesterday of acting “like a spiv”. The committee’s Conservative chairman, John Whittingdale, complained that Coulson should have been more “clear” in his answers.

Former Home Secretary Jack Straw said: “This shows a degree of carelessness by David Cameron in not scrutinising the appointment before it was made. It’s pretty rum that a major political party place man should have been receiving almost as much from a newspaper group as from his employer.”

Coulson had claimed he had no “secondary income” when he took up his post as director of communications for the Conservative Party in July 2007. It has since emerged that he received hundreds of thousands of pounds in severance pay from his job as editor of the News of the World, paid in instalments to the end of 2007. Other perks from that job, such as free health insurance, were extended for three years and he kept his company car.

 Tom Watson, a Labour member of the committee, is trying to uncover whether Coulson declared the payments when he applied for a pass to give him access to Parliament. Passholders are required to tell the Commons authorities who is paying them.

Whittingdale said the committee would meet next month to decide whether to recall Coulson for more questioning as the position was “complicated” by the police investigation into phone hacking. Coulson was arrested in July and has not been charged.

Whittingdale said: “If it is true that Coulson was provided with a car and health insurance, then I would have expected him to have made that clear. And I would have expected News International to have made that clear when we asked them about it.”

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