Tom Watson: Who paid Andy Coulson’s legal fees?

Sir Gus O’Donnell

Head of the Home Civil Service

Cabinet Office

70 Whitehall



December 2010


I understand that whilst giving evidence under oath at the Tommy Sheridan perjury trial on Thursday 9th December, the Prime Minister’s Communications Director, Mr Andy Coulson, appeared to state that media organisation News International was paying his legal fees.

Paying legal fees amounts to a gift. Please confirm that the gift has been registered in line with the Cabinet Office’s reporting guidelines. Please also tell me the date on which Mr Coulson registered this payment as a gift.

The Committee of Standards in Public Life in Annex B of its Seven Principles states: “Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might seek to influence them in the performance of their official duties”.

Given Mr Coulson’s role, it seems inconceivable that this principle will not be breached with the payment of legal fees by News International.

In the Code of Conduct for Special Advisers, rewritten we are told by the Prime Minister himself, in June 2010, it also states: “[Special Advisers] should not receive benefits of any kind which others might reasonably see as compromising their judgement or integrity”.

I would like your view on whether the payment represents a breach of the Civil Service Code or Principles of Standards in Public Life. I am sure many reasonable minded people would see the payment as compromising Mr Coulson.

I think it is also important that you clarify precisely what nature of financial support Mr Coulson has received, or expects to receive, from News International to help cover his legal fees.

Thank you in advance for your help with this matter. I look forward to your response as soon as possible.

Yours sincerely

Tom Watson

Member of Parliament for West Bromwich East

One Response to “Tom Watson: Who paid Andy Coulson’s legal fees?”

  1. James says:

    Just for reference this is what Mr Coulson said

    “Mr Sheridan then moved on to what “preparation for today” Mr Coulson had undertaken. The witness replied “not much, this is a busy period” continuing “I am not an expert in law, especially Scottish law. Mr Coulson then added that he had taken legal advice from his solicitors and a QC (Queens Counsel) Mr Sheridan asked if News International were paying the witnesses’ legal costs to which Mr Coulson replied “I certainly hope so” explaining that as the case related to his employment with News International they would be expected to meet his legal bills.”

    And later

    Mr Sheridan then returned to yesterday’s testimony from the witness, where he had stated that his legal bills for this case were being paid by News International, (NI) and asked why the “prosecution of my wife and I by the Crown is a News International matter” Mr Couson replied that his only “link” to the case was due to his employment by NI and he thought this was reasonable. Mr Sheridan then asked “Is the prosecution doing News International’s job for them in trying to destroy me” Mr Coulson responded “no, certainly not”

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