LONDON – Britain's phone-hacking scandal gives a chance to clean up improper relationships among politicians, journalist and law-enforcement officials, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said Thursday.
Clegg defended Prime Minister David Cameron, however, over questions about whether he had improper discussions with executives of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. about its hope of taking full control of cable network British Sky Broadcasting.
Clegg said he hoped a wide-ranging inquiry led by Lord Justice Brian Levenson would lead to solutions of the problems revealed recently, including phone hacking and alleged bribery of police by the now-defunct Sunday tabloid News of the World.
"I think that we now have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to really clean up the murky practices and dodgy relationships which have taken root at the very heart of the British establishment between the press, politicians and the police," Clegg said.
In the House of Commons on Wednesday, Cameron ducked questions about whether he had discussed the BSkyB bid with News Corp. executives, but insisted: "I never had one inappropriate conversation."
Cameron said he had no role in deciding whether News Corp. would be given regulatory clearance to make a bid, leaving that decision with Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt. News Corp. aborted the bid before Hunt reached a final decision.
"I think some of this is getting slightly semantic: appropriate/inappropriate, relevant/irrelevant," Clegg said.
"He (Cameron) was very open, he said no inappropriate discussions took place and he played absolutely no role whatsoever in the decision-making about the BSkyB bid. I think those points speak for themselves," Clegg said.
The Guardian newspaper reported Thursday that Andy Coulson, the former News of the World editor who was Cameron's communications director before resigning in January, had received a lower security clearance than the one held by Alistair Campbell, Tony Blair's communications chief, and others who held the post in Labour Party governments.