Miliband takes the fight to Cameron over phone-hacking

By Phil Scullion

Ed Miliband has criticised David Cameron's "appalling error of judgement" in hiring embattled former News of the World editor Andy Coulson.

In a speech delivered at Reuters this morning the Labour leader demanded that the prime minister apologise for bringing such a controversial figure into the "centre of the government machine".

Moments later, Mr Cameron delivered a bruising press conference in which he fought off questions about his judgement. Mr Coulson was arrested on suspicion of corruption and phone-hacking in central London.

The former News of the World editor spent four years as David Cameron's director of communications after leaving his position at the paper.

However phone-hacking once again caught up with him and he was forced to stand down from this position at No 10 in January this year.

Mr Miliband said that it was imperative that the prime minister should "come clean" about the conversations between himself and Mr Coulson regarding phone hacking.

Mr Miliband also used his speech to renew his call for Rebekah Brooks, chief executive of News International and editor of the News of the World during the phone hacking scandal, to stand down from her position.

He said: "If an oil company was found to have contaminated the coastline, I have no doubt its chief executive would have faced calls from politicians, including the prime minister, to resign.

"The practices at the News of the World have harmed innocent victims and contaminated the reputation of British journalism."

He added that the decision last night by News Corp to close the News of the World was not the answer.

A Downing Street spokesman responding to the closure of the newspaper which will print its final edition on Sunday following a 168 year history, said: "What matters is that all wrongdoing is exposed and those responsible for these appalling acts are brought to justice.

"As the prime minister has made clear, he is committed to establishing rigorous public inquiries to make sure this never happens in our country again."

The decision by the Murdoch dynasty to shed their most popular Sunday title has sent shockwaves through the journalism industry.

Mr Miliband pointed to the failure of the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) to get to the bottom of the phone hacking allegations in 2009 as evidence that it is a "toothless poodle".

He called for the PCC to be "put out of its misery" and for a new media watchdog to be established with far greater independence, proper investigative powers, and an ability to enforce corrections.