Prime minister denied being lobbied by Rebekah Brooks to order Met police review

By Hui Shan Khoo | 27 November 2012

UK prime minister David Cameron denied coming under pressure from News International boss Rebekah Brooks over a review of Madeleine McCann’s disappearance in Portugal.

Cameron told Lord Justice Leveson’s inquiry into newspaper practices: “I do not remember any sort of specific pressure being put on me.”

The prime minister is accused of bowing to pressure from executives at News International (NI) in May 2011 to order British police to review Madeleine’s case.

“I do not recall the exact provenance of this whole issue”
– David Cameron, prime minister, at the Leveson inquiry

Leveson’s inquiry team received a confidential briefing about NI’s private lobbying of Cameron for the review.

The source told Exaro that the lobbying was not carried out by Brooks, then NI’s chief executive, but by other corporate executives at the newspaper group.

A second source close to the McCann family confirmed this.

Nonetheless, Brooks was the focus of questions about the episode at the Leveson inquiry.

In his testimony to Leveson in June, Cameron said that she was a friend, and that their relationship became stronger after her marriage to Charlie Brooks, an old Etonian school friend of his.

Cameron denied that his relationship with NI was “transactional”, or that there were “overt deals” or any “covert agreement”.

Madeleine’s parents, Kate and Gerry, had long campaigned publicly for a review of the case because they were unhappy with the investigation by Portuguese police.

Robert Jay, counsel to the Leveson inquiry, questioned Cameron about whether Brooks had asked him to “support” – or “cause to take place” – a review by the Met?

Cameron replied: “I do not recall the exact provenance of this whole issue. What I remember is that I had a meeting with Kate and Gerry McCann, as leader of the opposition.”

“I followed this up as prime minister, but I cannot remember the exact provenance of who called whom and when.”

“The police clearly had played a role in trying to keep the investigation going, and the government has helped them with that.”

Jay brought Cameron back to the question of any “interaction” between him – or two of his special advisors – and Brooks over the issue.

Cameron said: “I do not recall the exact conversations.”

“I can see what might lie behind the question, which is: ‘Are you treating different investigations and campaigns fairly?’

“And I do remember actually, as prime minister, consulting the permanent secretary at Number 10 about the step that the police were about to take, backed by the government, which was to provide some extra funding for the investigation.”

“It was drawn to my attention that there is a special Home Office procedure for helping with particularly complex and expensive investigations that has been used in various cases, and it was going to be used in this case.”

“He was satisfied that… that had been dealt with properly and effectively. So, it is an example, if you like, of the importance of making sure that these things are done properly, and I believe that it was.”

Jay: “But if I can put the point in this way. Were you aware of any pressure being put on you directly or indirectly via Mrs Brooks to cause this review to take place?”

Cameron: “Pressure? No, I was not aware of any pressure.”

Jay: “Well, if it was not pressure, was any influence, then, sought to be imposed?”

Cameron: “Well, I mean clearly this was a very high-profile case, and a case that a number of newspapers wanted to champion because their readers wanted to champion it. And, obviously, as government, you have to think: are we helping with this because there is media pressure or is it genuine public pressure? Is there a genuine case? Are we treating this fairly?

“And I did ask those questions of the permanent secretary at Number 10, and so I think that we made an appropriate response. But I do not remember any sort of specific pressure being put on me.”

Kate McCann wrote in her book, ‘Madeleine’, that Theresa May, home secretary, did not initially take up her request for a review.

May changed her mind after the book’s serialisation in two NI newspapers, The Sun and The Sunday Times. But May told Leveson that she did not agree to the review because of pressure from NI.

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