11 May 2012
Dear Mr Heywood,
MEETINGS BETWEEN THE PRIME MINISTER, MEDIA PROPRIETORS, EDITORS AND SENIOR EXECUTIVES
It was reported by Christopher Hope in The Telegraph on 9 May 2012 that the Prime Minister, David Cameron, failed to declare two new meetings with former News International chief Rebekah Brooks, including one just two days after his press aide Andy Coulson quit his role as Director of Communications on 23 January 2011. These two instances do not appear in the official list of meetings published between Mr Cameron, proprietors, editors and senior media executives in July 2011.
It is simply not credible for Downing Street to respond to the 23 January meeting by claiming it was not an official meeting, particularly as it came just two days after Mr Coulson’s resignation. While it is certainly not possible for Downing Street to detail everyone Mr Cameron meets at an event, The Telegraph makes the astonishing allegation that the pair texted each other on their mobile phones to ensure they were not spotted together, and that the release of photographs of this encounter have since been suppressed at Mr Cameron’s request.
In addition, I would like to bring to your attention allegations raised by my parliamentary colleague, Chris Bryant MP, two weeks ago that the original list placed in the House of Commons Library was incomplete. This was denied by Downing Street and the suggestion was made that Mr Bryant was mistaken. Indeed, as recently as eleven days ago, on 30 April 2012 (Hansard: Column 1242), Mr Cameron claimed that he had only met Rupert Murdoch four times during his tenure.
However, in evidence submitted to the Leveson Inquiry, Rupert Murdoch himself publishes details of four undisputed meetings and two possible ones with Mr Cameron – one of which is a New York party thrown by Mayor Bloomberg in honour of Mr Cameron on 21st July 2010. In evidence to the Leveson Inquiry yesterday, Mr Andy Coulson confirms Mr Cameron’s attendance at this event by stating that:
“The second post-election meeting with Rupert Murdoch was in New York on the day Mayor Bloomberg organised a party in honour of the Prime Minister. Before the party Rupert Murdoch met David Cameron for around half an hour. He and I met briefly when he arrived, but I did not sit in on the meeting.”
Curiously, this meeting is acknowledged in the quarterly information published on the Cabinet Office website for the Prime Minister’s meetings with external organisations – including meetings with newspaper and other media proprietors, editors and senior executives – as an addendum for the period 1 April-30 June 2011. Despite this, the Prime Minister and his office have made absolutely no reference to this meeting having taken place in recent weeks. This raises a series of further questions that I would like you to answer:
1. When did the Prime Minister recall this extra meeting, and why was the House of Commons not informed that the list originally placed in the library was incomplete?
2. Precisely, when was the addendum added? Why do electronic checks show the document as having been updated as recently as April 2012 on the Cabinet Office website?
3. Why was the Prime Minister claiming four meetings with Rupert Murdoch as late as 30 April 2012?
4. Are there any further meetings Mr Cameron may have failed to disclose?
The disclosure of these three new meetings threatens to make a mockery of Mr Cameron’s attempts to be more transparent about his meetings with senior media figures. It also places the Prime Minister in breach with the addendum to the Ministerial Code agreed on 15 July 2011, which said:
“The Government will be open about its links with the media. All meetings with newspaper and other media proprietors, editors and senior executives will be published quarterly regardless of the purpose of the meeting.”
Paragraph 1.2 (c) and (d) of the Ministerial Code also make it quite clear that it is of paramount importance that Ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity. Disclosure of these meetings was clearly in the public interest and there is simply no logical explanation as to why this information should have been withheld.
As Cabinet Secretary, I urge you to investigate these claims so that you are satisfied that Parliament has not been misled and the Ministerial Code has not been breached.
I would also ask that you publish details of all official advice sought by the Prime Minister in relation to these three meetings, provide full details of who attended in each instance and release all minutes that were taken by officials at these events.
I look forward to your early reply.