David Cameron has signalled that parliament’s summer break is to be delayed after Britain’s top police officer became the latest casualty of the phone-hacking scandal.
The Prime Minister said the Commons was likely to sit on Wednesday so he could “answer any questions that may arise”.
But, in the wake of Sir Paul Stephenson’s bombshell resignation as Metropolitan Police commissioner on Sunday, he denied there was any comparison to be made with his own position and defended his decision to visit Africa while the crisis raged.
Speaking at a joint press conference with South African president Jacob Zuma in Pretoria, Mr Cameron said: “I think it right for Britain to be engaged with South Africa and to be engaged with Africa as a whole. There is a huge opportunity for trade, for growth, for jobs, including jobs at home in the UK. I think it is right for the British Prime Minister to be out there with British businesses trying to drum up exports and growth that will be good for both our countries.”
Mr Cameron added: “The situation in the Metropolitan Police Service is really quite different to the situation in the Government, not least because the issues that the Metropolitan Police are looking at, the issues around them, have had a direct bearing on public confidence into the police inquiry into the News of the World and indeed into the police themselves.”
Mr Cameron’s defence came after Sir Paul announced his departure, admitting that the furore over his links with former News of the World deputy editor Neil Wallis risked damaging the Met.
However, the commissioner also delivered a barb at Mr Cameron by suggesting his decision to hire Mr Wallis as a media adviser was less controversial than the appointment of the newspaper’s former editor Andy Coulson as Downing Street communications director.
The Prime Minister told the press conference: “For my part what I would say is that we have taken very decisive action. We have set up a judicial inquiry that can look at all aspects of these issues. 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.”
Mr Cameron said he had already answered questions “at length” over the issues surrounding Mr Coulson and phone hacking. “There are of course important issues today with the Home Secretary’s statement. There will also be select committee hearings on Tuesday,” he said. “I think it may well be right to have Parliament meet on Wednesday so I can make a further statement updating the House on the final parts of this judicial inquiry and answer any questions that may arise from what is being announced today and tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, pressure increased on the Yard’s Assistant Commissioner John Yates after it was claimed he had responsibility for vetting Mr Wallis’s appointment. The Met Police Authority’s professional standards committee is expected to consider the allegations facing the senior officer at a meeting later.
By The Press Association
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