UK electoral commission asked to investigate News International payoffs

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Labour MP Tom Watson is calling for an investigation into payments by News International to Andy Coulson.
Image: Jwyg.

The United Kingdom electoral commission has been asked to investigate whether payments made by News International to Andy Coulson amidst the recent phone hacking scandal were illegal.

Labor MP Tom Watson, who has been a driving force in the phone hacking scandal, called for the investigation after he believed that payments and benefits made to Coulson, including private health benefits and a company car, should have been declared as a political donation. Mr Watson has reportedly been trying to uncover whether Coulson declared these payments to the cultures committee upon applying for access to parliament.

MPs are bewildered by Prime Minister David Cameron's hiring of Coulson without anyone looking into his financial history, and many have expressed outrage as the reports contradict evidence given by the former News of The World editor to the culture committee in 2009. He allegedly told the committee that he had received a salary of £275,000 and that he did not have a second income.

Coulson is expected to face further questioning from the committee about the payments after he is cleared from the phone hacking scandal.

Robert Peston, a journalist for the BBC, claimed that Mr Coulson had received several hundred thousand pounds from News International after he began working for the Conservative Party. Despite his ousting in 2007, Mr Coulson received his severance pay in installments from News International until the end of that year.

Coulson was known to have received a payoff after his resignation from News of the World in 2007. The resignation came after the conviction of journalist Clive Goodman for phone hacking.

The Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee has stated that both Coulson and News International should have informed the committee about the payments. The investigation will decide whether or not the electoral committee has been misled by Coulson, and whether the payments should be considered as a political donation.

The committee is expected to meet in early September to decide on a plan of action.


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