Saturday News Review

Cameron under pressure for Coulson slumber party

David Cameron is under more pressure over phone hacking after records revealed that Andy Coulson had stayed at Chequers two months after he resigned as director of communications at 10 Downing St. Mr Cameron was also visited twice by Rebekah Brooks last year and once, in November, by James Murdoch and his wife Kathryn. William Hague moved to defend the Prime Minister, saying Mr Coulson’s visit was a “normal, human thing to do”. Mr Hague told BBC Radio 4: “In inviting Andy Coulson back, the Prime Minister has invited someone back to thank him for his work who worked for him for several years. That is a normal human thing to do, I think that shows a positive side to his character and actions.” – PoliticsHome

One Downing Street source said: “The Prime Minister has made clear he was and is a friend, that is why he was invited.” Downing Streeet sources stressed that Mr Coulson’s was a private visit. Officials did not have to reveal the details, but chose to. Labour is certain to again question Mr Cameron’s judgement for failing continuing to stay close to Mr Coulson despite worrying questions about his time as a News International editor. Mr Cameron reluctantly accepted Mr Coulson’s resignation in January after weeks of pressure over phone hacking allegations from the period when he was editor of the former News of the World. Last week he described Mr Coulson as “a friend” but on Wednesday he appeared to distance himself from his former adviser who was arrested and questioned by detectives. – the Telegraph

… and Rebekah, James and the rest came to play too

The scale of private links between David Cameron and News International was exposed for the first time last night, with the Prime Minister shown to have met Rupert Murdoch’s executives on no fewer than 26 occasions in just over a year since he entered Downing Street. Rebekah Brooks, who resigned yesterday as chief executive of Mr Murdoch’s Wapping titles over the escalating scandal, is the only person Mr Cameron has invited twice to Chequers, a privilege not extended even to the most senior members of his Cabinet. James Murdoch, News Corp’s chairman in Europe and the man responsible for pushing through the BSkyB bid, was a guest at the Prime Minister’s official country residence eight months ago. And the former NOTW editor Andy Coulson – who was arrested this week in connection with police corruption and phone hacking – was invited by Mr Cameron to spend a private weekend at Chequers as recently as March. No 10 bowed to pressure over Mr Cameron’s handling of the phone-hacking scandal last night and released details of all his contacts with senior staff at the company since he became Prime Minister. – the independent

Murdoch’s right hand resigns

Les Hinton, the head of News Corp’s flagship American newspaper and a trusted, long-serving executive, resigned on Friday over his role in the phone-hacking scandal that has rocked Rupert Murdoch’s global media company. He became the first high profile casualty of the controversy in the United States, where he had been chief executive of the Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones, a financial news service, since Mr Murdoch’s takeover in late 2007. In his resignation letter, Mr Hinton, 67, apologised for the “pain caused to innocent people” by repeated illegal intrusions by News of the World reporters and private detectives. Mr Hinton was in charge of News International, Mr Murdoch’s British newspaper division, from 1997 to 2007, when most of the egregious cases of phone tampering that have come to light occurred. – The Telegraph

Army to face further cuts

The government is considering making further cuts to the size of the Army to enable a “substantial increase” in reserve forces such as the TA. An independent review of reserve forces is expected to recommend a recruitment drive for more part-time soldiers. Better pay and training will be offered but there will be more emphasis on reservists in civilian jobs to go on military operations when needed. The government already plans to reduce soldiers by 7,000 to 95,000 by 2015. The review, which is set to be published next week, is calling for more part-time soldiers, sailors and airmen in the TA, the Royal Naval Reserve and the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. The aim is to make the reserves more professional, forming more stand-alone units that can deploy and operate on their own, rather than just attaching reservists in small groups across the regular forces. – the BBC

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