Relationship with Cameron was entirely appropriate, says Brooks

Wed, Jul 20, 2011, 01:00

FORMER NEWS International chief executive Rebekah Brooks has rejected MPs charges that she was too close to British prime minister David Cameron during her time at the helm of the Murdoch-controlled company.

They were neighbours in Oxfordshire, she told the House of Commons culture, media and sport committee, and had attended parties together, but the friendship was “entirely appropriate”, where business and politics were not mixed.

“The truth is that he is a neighbour and a friend but I deem the relationship to be wholly appropriate and at no time have I had any conversation with the prime minister that you in the room would disapprove of,” she said.

“I see that the News of the Worldhas been singled out for that closeness. If you are going to address it, it is wholly unfair in the context of discussing the relationship between the police, press and politicians, to single out the News of the World,” she said.

Ms Brooks admitted she had used private investigators for “legitimate” use during her time as editor of the News of the Worldbefore she was succeeded by Andy Coulson. She denied, however, knowing private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who was jailed in 2007 for phone-hacking.

Ms Brooks sought to put some distance between herself and the use of private investigators, saying that such matters would normally be dealt with by a managing editor responsible for controlling department budgets.

“Final payments are authorised by the managing editor, unless there is a particularly big item, a set of photographs or something that needs to be discussed on a wider level,” she told the committee . She went on: “I didn’t know Glenn Mulcaire was one of the detectives that was used by the News of the World, no. I had never heard the name until 2006, I did not know he was on the payroll. There were other private investigators I did know about, but he was not one of them.”

The 2002 report that carried details of the voicemail messages left on murder victim Milly Dowler’s mobile – the story that led to the closure of the paper – had been carried as a single-column item on page nine. Apologising for it, she said: “The idea that Milly Dowler’s phone was accessed by someone being paid for by the News of the World, or worse being authorised by someone at the News of the World, is as abhorrent to me as it is to everyone else,” she said.

The report would never have been carried if she had known it had come from illegal hacking, she said: “It seems now that it is inconceivable that people didn’t know this was the case but at the time it wasn’t a practice that was condoned or sanctioned under my editorship.”