PORTSMOUTH South MP Mike Hancock believes the phone hacking scandal has done ‘serious damage’ to Prime Minister David Cameron.
The Lib Dem, and Portsmouth North Tory MP Penny Mordaunt, put questions to Mr Cameron during Parliament’s debate on the issue yesterday.
The PM was visibly uncomfortable as he fielded 136 questions about his government’s links to News International and the wider implications of the newsgroup’s activities.
He had recalled Parliament from recess for the debate, and apologised to MPs for appointing former News of the World editor Andy Coulson as Downing Street’s communications chief.
He said: ‘It was my decision. People will, of course, make judgments about it. I regret it and I am extremely sorry about the furore it has caused. With 20:20 hindsight I would not have offered him the job. You live and you learn, and I have learnt.’
But Mr Hancock said: ‘He’s still in a very difficult position. This has done him serious damage. It’s his Achilles heel. There are so many unanswered questions. There were 26 meetings with News International staff, and Andy Coulson employed the man who was employed by the police as part of their investigations into the hacking allegations. Every time a question was answered, two more came out of it. He stands accused, as does Labour, and it can be resolved only with a full investigation.’
Mr Hancock quizzed the PM on whether NI’s attempt to take full control of BSkyB was discussed at his meetings with the company’s staff.
He said: ‘He didn’t answer. He met them, but all he’d say was that nothing inappropriate was said. But what’s appropriate is like beauty – in the eye of the beholder. I asked for a yes or no answer and he refused.’
Ms Mordaunt asked the PM whether it was time to allow Parliament to consider other matters.
She explained: ‘Constituents have written to say they’re more worried about other matters in this country, and for example, the crisis in Somalia is getting almost no attention or aid, because the hacking scandal has received an unprecedented amount of coverage. It is very important, but the matter should now be allowed to be overseen by judges, and not discussed more in Parliament.’