British Prime Minister David Cameron holds a press conference with South African President Jacob Zuma following their meeting at Union Building in Pretoria, South Africa, Monday July 18, 2011.(AP Photo/Jerome Delay) LONDON (AP)—Prime Minister David Cameron called Monday for an emergency session of Parliament on the phone hacking and police bribery scandal as the spreading crisis forced two of Britain’s top police officers to resign in less than 24 hours. Scotland Yard chief Paul Stephenson stepped down Sunday night, followed out the door Monday by Assistant Commissioner John Yates. Yates was the official who decided two years ago not to reopen police inquiries into phone hacking, saying he did not believe there was any new evidence. The high-profile resignations are making it harder for Cameron to contain the intensifying scandal that is threatening his leadership and knocking billions of Rupert Murdoch’s global media empire.
Parliament was to break for the summer on Tuesday after lawmakers grilled Murdoch, his son James and Murdoch’s former British chief executive Rebekah Brooks in a highly anticipated public airing about the scandal. Cameron said “it may well be right to have Parliament meet on Wednesday so I can make a further statement.” Cameron spoke in Pretoria, South Africa, on the first day of a two-day visit to Africa. He had planned a longer trip, but cut it short as his government faces a growing number of questions about its cozy relationship with the Murdoch empire and a scandal that has taken down top police and media figures with breathless speed. Opposition leader Ed Miliband said Cameron needed to answer “a whole series of questions” about his relationships with Brooks, James Murdoch and Andy Coulson, the former News of the World editor that Cameron later hired as his communications chief. Coulson resigned from that post in January and is one of 10 people who have been arrested in the scandal. “At the moment, he seems unable to provide the leadership the country needs,” Miliband said of Cameron.
Rupert Murdoch, top centre, attempts to speak to the media after he held a meeting with the parents and sister of murdered school girl Milly Dowler in London, Friday, July 15, 2011. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth) Cameron insisted his Conservative-led government had “taken very decisive action” by setting up a judge-led inquiry into the wrongdoing at the now-defunct Murdoch tabloid News of the World and into overall relations between British politicians, the media and police. “We have helped to ensure a large and properly resourced police investigation that can get to the bottom of what happened, and wrongdoing, and we have pretty much demonstrated complete transparency in terms of media contact,” Cameron said. Still, Cameron is under heavy pressure after the resignations of Stephenson and Yates, and Sunday’s arrest of Brooks a friend of his on suspicion of hacking and police bribery. Brooks was detained and questioned for nine hours Sunday before being released on bail. Her lawyer, Stephen Parkinson, released a defiant statement Monday professing her innocence and claiming that London police faced serious questions about her arrest.
Former Chief executive of News International, Rebekah Brooks leaves a hotel in central London. London police on Sunday, July 17, 2011 arrested Brooks in the phone hacking and police bribery scandal Sunday, bringing the U.K. investigation into Murdoch’s inner circle for the first time. (AP Photo/Sang Tan, File) Parkinson said police would “have to give an account of their actions” considering “the enormous reputational damage” Brooks’ arrest had caused to the social and political insider. Police are under pressure to explain why their original hacking investigation several years ago failed to find enough evidence to prosecute anyone other than News of the World royal reporter Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire. Detectives reopened the investigation earlier this year and now say they have the names of 3,700 potential victims. Stephenson, the police chief, resigned Sunday over his ties to Neil Wallis, a former News of the World executive editor who has been arrested over the scandal. Stephenson said he had nothing to do with the earlier apparently flawed phone hacking inquiry or Wallis, but was resigning to allow his agency to focus on the London 2012 Olympics instead of leadership changes. But in his resignation speech on Sunday, Stephenson made pointed reference to Cameron’s hiring of Coulson. Cameron retorted that the situations of the government and the police were “completely different,” because allegations that police were bribed for information “have had a direct bearing on public confidence into the police inquiry into the News of the World and indeed into the police themselves.”
Photographed through a glass wall in the rain, Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson poses as he leaves New Scotland Yard in London, Sunday, July 17, 2011. London’s police chief has quit over his links to a former News of the World editor caught up in the phone hacking scandal. Stephenson has been criticized for hiring Neil Wallis, a former News of the World executive editor arrested last week in the scandal, as a part-time PR consultant for a year until September 2010. (AP Photo/Sang Tan) London mayor Boris Johnson said Monday that Yates had questions to answer about his own links with Wallis, and added that Yates resigned after being told he would be suspended pending an ethics investigation. Brooks’ arrest was the latest blow for Murdoch, the once all-powerful figure courted by British politicians of all stripes. Now Murdoch is struggling to tame the scandal, which has already destroyed News of the World, cost the jobs of Brooks and Wall Street Journal publisher Les Hinton and sunk the media baron’s dream of taking full control of a lucrative satellite broadcaster, British Sky Broadcasting. Murdoch is eager to stop the crisis from spreading to the United States, where many of his most lucrative assets including the Fox TV network, 20th Century Fox film studio, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post are based. Sky News reported Monday that News Corp. had appointed a senior lawyer to head an internal probe on phone hacking. Brooks’ arrest had thrown into doubt her appearance on Tuesday before the committee that also will quiz Rupert and James Murdoch. But her spokesman, David Wilson, said Monday she planned to attend. She was the bold chief executive of News International, Murdoch’s British newspaper arm, whose News of the World stands accused of hacking into the phones of celebrities, politicians, other journalists and even murder victims. But, the revelation that journalists accessed the phone of Milly Dowler in search of scoops while police were looking for the missing 13-year-old fueled an explosion of interest in the long-simmering scandal.
Rupert Murdoch is driven away from News International headquarters in Wapping, east London, Friday July 15, 2011. Rebekah Brooks, Murdoch’s loyal lieutenant resigned as chief executive of his embattled British newspapers - the biggest casualty so far in the phone hacking scandal rocking Britain. As Brooks departed, James Murdoch signaled a new strategy for dealing with the storm which has knocked billions off the value of News Corp., scuttled its ambitions of taking full control of lucrative British Sky Broadcasting and radically changed the power balance between British politicians and the feared Murdoch press.(AP Photo/Lewis Whyld-pa) At an appearance before U.K. lawmakers in 2003, Brooks admitted that News International had paid police for information. But she always said she did not know any phone hacking was going on when she was editor of News of the World between 2000 and 2003. Police have already arrested 10 people, including other former News of the World reporters and editors. One, Press Association royal reporter Laura Elston, was cleared by police on Monday. None of the others has yet been charged. Even more senior figures could face arrest, including James Murdoch, chairman of BSkyB and chief executive of his father’s European and Asian operations. James Murdoch did not directly oversee the News of the World, but he approved payments to some of the paper’s most prominent hacking victims, including 700,000 pounds ($1.1 million) to Professional Footballers’ Association chief Gordon Taylor. James Murdoch said last week that he “did not have a complete picture” when he approved the payouts. At Tuesday’s committee hearing, which will be televised, politicians will seek more details about the scale of criminality at the News of the World. The Murdochs will try to avoid incriminating themselves or doing more harm to their business without misleading Parliament, which is a crime. Hinton, too, could face questioning over wrongdoing at the News of the World during his 12 years as executive chairman of News International. But Hinton is an American citizen living in the U.S., so British authorities would have to seek his extradition if he refused to come willingly. In the latest twist in the legal saga, Britain’s Serious Fraud Office, Britain’s anti-fraud agency, said Monday it was giving “full consideration” to a request from a lawmaker that it open an investigation into Murdoch’s News Corp.
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