Phone-hacking forces Cameron to extend parliament
David Cameron has agreed to demands from Ed Miliband for the parliamentary session to be extended so that MPs can debate tomorrow's evidence session with the Murdochs.
The highly unusual move comes amid mounting controversy over the phone-hacking scandal, with the prime minister criticised for going on a trade trip to South Africa as the Met commissioner resigned and Rebekah Brooks was arrested.
It is also another singular success for Ed Miliband, whose demand for the extension was accepted by the prime minister just moments after it was made.
"Rebekah Brooks has been arrested, the Metropolitan police commissioner has resigned, tomorrow we will have some of the most important select committee hearings in modern times and the prime minister has decided to leave the country, not to return until after parliament breaks up for summer," Ed Miliband said ahead of a speech in London.
"In these circumstances the right and responsible thing for the government to do must be to extend the parliamentary session for at least 24 hours so the House of Commons meets on Wednesday.
"It would give MPs have the chance to debate the issues arising from the select committee hearings and ensure the prime minister answers the many unanswered questions that he faces," he continued.
Minutes after the statement was released to the press, Mr Cameron went on stage for a joint press conference with South African president Jacob Zuma.
"There are of course important issues today," he said.
"There will be the select committee hearing on Tuesday. It may well be right to have parliament sit on Wednesday."
Mr Cameron later said that he would answer questions on the weekend's developments, Tuesday's select committee hearing and the upcoming judicial review during Wednesday's session.
Leader of the House Sir George Young said he wanted to see a full day's debate on phone-hacking on Wednesday.
He pressed the Speaker, John Bercow, to give an indication that he would recall the House for a single day, "given that we want parliament at the centre of this debate".
"I am and I will be," Mr Bercow replied, proposing that the House would meet at 11:30.
Shadow leader of the House Hilary Benn demanded that Mr Cameron leads the debate, "given the large and growing number of questions that now need to be answered by the prime minister concerning his judgment".
Sir George declined an opportunity to confirm whether Mr Cameron would answer questions.
Parliament had been due to rise on Tuesday for the summer recess, but with the phone-hacking scandal showing no signs of letting up, the timing of the session could hardly be worse.
The decision to extend the session is another key victory for Mr Miliband, who has already secured several of his demands – including the cancellation of the BSkyB bid and Rebekah Brooks' resignation – during a tremendously successful period for the Labour leader.
With Mr Miliband's star rising on the back of his confident response to the scandal, he will be pleased to have secured another Commons session to press home his advantage.
The resignation of Sir Paul Stephenson yesterday turned up the heat on the prime minister, with Labour arguing that the Met commissioner was unable to discuss his relationship with Neil Wallis due to Mr Cameron's relationship with Andy Coulson.