Sir Paul Stephenson's final evidence session as it happened

Sir Paul Stephenson's resignation has significantly raised the stakes for Downing Street. Photo: Getty Images
Sir Paul Stephenson's resignation has significantly raised the stakes for Downing Street. Photo: Getty Images

Review our coverage of outgoing Met commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson's evidence to the home affairs committee here.

By Alex Stevenson

12:59 - Winnick is back, but I've been distracted by a tweet from @peparkin praising this coverage. Never missing an opportunity for self-congratulation, I'm delighted. @peparkin may be interested to learn that I am keeping a banana in reserve, just in case I start to flag a little later on.

12:54 - Wallis was the "cheapest person available", Sir Paul says. Next, the committee is sniffing around any pressure that Sir Paul might have put on the Guardian. Ellis puts it to Sir Paul that the Met was saying the story was inaccurate or correct, or part of a conspiracy. Sir Paul is once again thoroughly defiant. He didn't know there was a conspiracy, he says, offishly. Distinctly offish. Lorraine Fulbrook takes up the baton. "You didn't take advice from him [Wallis] prior to the meetings?" Fulbrook asks. Indeed, no, Sir Paul replies.


12:53 - Time now for another question from Julian Huppert, who is keen to find out more about the different kinds of hospitality. "A sandwich dinner is different from a very nice dinner," he muses thoughtfully. Lib Dems don't get lunched much, so this must all be in the realms of theory for him.

12:52 - At least he didn't know that Wallis' daughter was employed by the Met. Sir Paul found out this weekend.

12:51 - It was a "minor, part-time role", Sir Paul says angrily, referring to Wallis' appointment. But then Vaz forces him to admit that he, Sir Paul, was consulted on the appointment. He's in retreat now, conceding that "this is embarrassing". Um... well, yes, it is. Awkward.

12:48 - Time to move on to the relationship with Mr Wallis, Vaz says. "It seems odd that the News of the World had an ex-employee working for the leader of the opposition... [Coulson] and an ex-employee working for you [Wallis]." Was this, perhaps, striking to Sir Paul as a "little odd"? Vaz says it's "inconceivable" that Coulson wouldn't have known about Wallis' contract with the Met. Sir Paul's response is to block that one. "You'd know that Andy Hayman would have got another job... this kind of thing must be discussed."

12:46 - Sir Paul continues, very defiantly. "If I am going to talk to the media and they have 42% of the media in this country..." He's referring to News International, and says 30% of his contacts were with them. "Hmm," Clappison says. Better try another tack.

12:43 - "I completely accept the explanation you've given," Clappison begins. So... no, then. He is a bit more curious about the many lunches and dinners he had with Wallis over a five-year period, though. "There is a reason why the Metropolitan police commissioner has to meet with the media," he says. It's all about "explaining the context of policing" and "making sure there's a relationship there". He concedes that "we need to change the way we do it".

12:40 - Great quote from Sir Paul, relating to the health spa which Wallis had an interest in: "I think it was damnedly unlucky that Wallis was connected with this." Will MPs view it the same way? David Winnick's questioning is not entirely effective - a bit rambling, I'm afraid. Sir Paul is dealing with it quite easily. Perhaps James Clappison, up next, can do better.

12:38 - Back in the Grimond Room, Labour's Steve McCabe is grilling Sir Paul over his decision to accept hospitality at Champney's - where Wallis had a business connection. Sir Paul is utterly defiant when McCabe suggests Sir Paul ought to have known that.

12:36 - Just going to step away from the committee room for a moment, because we've received an email from the Independent Police Complaints Commission announcing its intention to investigate the relationship between Neil Wallis and the Met's director of public affairs, Dick Fedoricio, independently.

"This is the fifth referral the IPCC has received in 24 hours in relation to senior officers and staff from the Metropolitan Police Service," says deputy chair and commissioner for London Deborah Glass. She sounds a little miffed. "Although some of these cases might not, in other circumstances, meet the criteria for an independent investigation, I have taken the view that in light of the huge public interest and the obvious implications for public confidence in the Metropolitan police, it would not be appropriate for the police themselves to investigate them. We will therefore use our own investigators to look into any allegations of serious misconduct."

12:34 - Tory Nicola Blackwood cites a 2006 report which cites a widespread market in confidential information - contrasting it with Sir Paul's resignation statement saying that he didn't know anything about phone-hacking. Sir Paul says Wallis wasn't named in the report. There's a bit of a verbal scuffle which the microphones don't quite pick up - something to do with Sir Paul stepping into the prime minister's shoes, perhaps? I think Sir Paul accidentally referred to himself as the prime minister. "Goodness, what am I saying," he clucks, like a mother hen.

12:32 - Lib Dem Julian Huppert's first question is on morale in the Met. Does Sir Paul have any advice for his successor? "I've spoken to many police officers since my resignation. They've spoke about their pride that somebody was willing to do somebody, even though they don't feel they didn't do anything wrong." He's really playing the martyr card here, isn't he?

12:30 - Meanwhile, there's a bit of a stir developing over Sir Paul's remark that a "senior official" from No 10 advised Sir Paul that it wouldn't be a good idea to leave the PM open to compromise.

12:28 - Ah, a bit of an own goal from Ellis, who gets his facts wrong over the dates of the News International investigation. Vaz moves quickly on, handing the questioning to Labour MP Bridget Phillipson. Sir Paul repeats the terrible Met defence deployed by senior police officers last week, that News International had insisted they weren't doing anything wrong. As MPs pointed out last week, surely police would have been able to take into account the possibility they might have been lying?

12:24 - "I am very aware of the political exchanges over the employment of Andy Coulson," he says. Michael Ellis, another Tory who specialises in booming questions, points out that this has been "interpreted negatively". "I know it's been interpreted negatively," Sir Paul replies witheringly.

12:22 - The question at stake is whether David Cameron should have been told about the Neil Wallis mess last Thursday. Sir Paul explained on Sunday that he was uncomfortable telling the PM because he didn't want to "compromise" him. "I make sure my people do not compromise me," he adds. "They told me what I need to know. It was only on the Thursday morning I was told he was being arrested that day." Vaz, rightly, smells a rat: was he being informed, or not?

12:20 - Now Sir Paul appears to be asking his own questions. We're certainly getting a flavour of how effective he is in blustering through. "I had no reason to disclose that," he says; it doesn't matter what it is, does it? He's playing the 'I'm just a simple policeman' card - but no one rises to the top of the Met without becoming an extremely adept politician.

12:18 - Tory MP Mark Reckless asks whether his remarks were undermined by a "personal attack on the prime minister". "All I can do is tell the truth," Sir Paul replies simply. Reckless lies down, saying he thought there was nothing to it. Oh well.

12:15 - Next we turn to the question of whether, as Vaz puts it, Sir Paul was "taking a bit of a swipe" at Cameron in his resignation statement. This relates to Cameron hiring Coulson and not resigning - unlike Sir Paul and Neil Wallis. Sir Paul smiles wryly, before saying: "I was taking no such swipe at the prime minister. I do agree with the prime minister when he says this was entirely different." That will come as something of a relief to Cameron, that's for sure.

12:13 - Vaz spoke to Sir Paul last Thursday, when he said he was not in a "resignation mood". He says he received "full support" from Theresa May, Boris Johnson et al. "I guess I became much clearer when I was contacted on Saturday about the Champney's story - for which I am not apologetic at all, by the way." Sir Paul received thousands of pounds of free treatment at the health centre as he recuperated following an operation last year. Sir Paul says his decision to resign went against the decision of "many of my colleagues - and indeed my wife". First laugh of the day. He says Boris was "very emotional" and "very cross". That sounds like fun.

12:10 - And here is Sir Paul, still in full uniform. Vaz begins in rather friendly fashion, pointing out that for now, Sir Paul is still the commissioner of the Metropolitan police. "I was invited to the News International summer party," Vaz says smugly, "but I did not attend". The first question is: why did you resign? especially given that "you feel you've done absolutely nothing wrong". Sir Paul says he was "quite explicit" in his statement. "We are in extraordinary times," he says, citing the short-run up to the Olympics. "If there are going to be continuing speculation around the position of the commissioner... if I was going to do something, I had to do it speedily." He even quotes Shakespeare. An excellent start to the afternoon.

12:05 - The home affairs committee, chaired by Keith Vaz, are now in their seats and waiting for Sir Paul to sit down. Members of the public are currently taking their seats.


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11:05 - Here's a pretty neat little tweet from Sean Dilley, Talksport's lobby correspondent. He seems to have mastered the art of summing things up in just 140 characters:

"CMS Committee, 14.30 James & Rupert Murdoch together, what did you know, WHEN. And why didn't you know sooner? Brooks at 15.30, how involved?"

10:59 - Dick Fedorcio, the Met's director of public affairs who is up before the home affairs committee this lunchtime at 12:45, has just been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission by the Metropolitan police service. It's related to the employment of Neil Wallis, the former News of the World deputy editor at the time when Andy Coulson was in charge.

Here's this in a statement from the Met: "The context of this referral is in connection with the ongoing high level public interest in the relationship between News International and the MPS and, in particular, the relationship between Neil Wallis and Mr Fedorcio and the circumstances under which the contract was awarded to Chamy Media."

10:54 - We all know that David Cameron is having a tough time of it in the phone-hacking scandal, as his decision to hire Andy Coulson raises questions again and again about his judgement. There's a strong feeling it's going to get worse for the prime minister, not better. But surely bookmakers William Hill are pushing it a bit? They're offering odds of 16/1 that the PM will be out of office by the weekend. "The phone hacking scandal has already collected a number of high profile scalps and the odds suggest that it could just grab the biggest scalp of all," according to Hill spokesman Rupert Adams. Worth a punt, perhaps?

10:43 - And now for a slightly more improbable contribution to the debate, from the Association of British Investigators. I wouldn't mind being a fly on the wall in their annual meet-ups, that's for sure. They're calling for all professional investigators operating in the private sector to self-regulate - by joining up with them, unsurprisingly.

"This will weed out the opportunists masquerading as investigators, who are prepared to operate outside the confines of the law for commercial gain," president Tony Imossi points out. What would the characters played by Humphrey Bogart make of that, I wonder?

10:38 - Dismay among reporters, who are traipsing back here with the news that the queue for the Murdoch room itself has already filled up. There's a separate queue for journalists outside Portcullis House, rather than outside the room itself - all rather disorderly. "First come, first served" is rather democratic in its way, of course...

10:32 - Already there's a huge press scrum gathering outside Portcullis House, where the select committee hearings are taking place. For those of you who aren't familiar with the layout in Westminster, that's just the other side of the road which goes over Westminster Bridge.

10:22 - It's worth taking another look at the comments of David Corker, a solicitor who represented the Maxwells in another very similar Commons grilling. His advice is for them to inflict a "PR disaster" on themselves by battening down the hatches and not answering any questions.

"The temptation for the Murdochs and the pressure on the Murdochs to answer questions is almost overwhelming," he told the Today programme.

"However I think the legal advice they should be receiving is to resist that temptation, to make a statement explaining to the committee why it is premature for them to be answering questions, and then to tough it out and refuse to answer questions.

"I can see why that would be seen as a PR disaster, but there's the metaphor of the tortoise and the hare. The law is a slow-burning fuse."

Fascinating stuff - it will be sensation if they resort to blocking. The real question is: can they afford any more PR disasters?

10:09 - I'm typing this live blog from the press gallery in the Houses of Parliament - politics.co.uk's office here is right next to Big Ben. Give us a wave if you're one of the thousands of tourists who get in our way on the pavement outside. The talk in the office right now is about how big the queue will be to get in. I would have said starting to queue at about 13:45 for a 14:30 start might be a decent bet to get in, if not to get a good seat. But I'm now hearing that 12:15, 12:30-ish might be an even better bet. This is, after all, one of the most hotly anticipated parliamentary events in years.

10:03 - It is a moot point whether I will still be conscious by the time Lewis gives evidence. I think we'll have to play this one by ear...

10:03 - Then, later on this evening, the home affairs committee returns for yet another session. Ken MacDonald and Keir Starmer, director of public prosecutions past and present, face questioning at 17:30 and 18:00 respectively. Finally Mark Lewis, the solicitor representing the family of murdered teenager Milly Dowler, will give evidence at 18:20.

10:00 - But the Murdoch appearance is merely the icing on an extremely substantial cake. We've also got the home affairs committee sitting today in two sessions - firstly from 12:00, when former Metropolitan police commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson gives evidence. At 12:45 Dick Fedorcio, the Met's director of public affairs, appears. Then former assistant commissioner John Yates is up at 13:15.

09:50 - Of course the main event is the culture, media and sport committee, which begins at 14:30. Rupert Murdoch, chair and chief executive of News Corporation, will appear alongside his son James Murdoch, the chairman and chief executive of News International. Then, an hour after that, former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks is next in the firing line.

09:45 - Good morning everyone, and welcome to day 438 in the phone-hacking saga. Today is truly eventuous - a word I've just invented which combines 'eventful' and 'momentous'. Join me throughout the day as I wear out my typing tendons bringing you the latest from parliament.

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