27/02/2012 Newsnight


27/02/2012

With Emily Maitlis. Paul Mason asks what's gone wrong at A4e. The inquiry into press ethics looks at the police, and was someone trying to kill Putin?


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Transcript


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The Sun is accused of sanctions thousands of pounds of illegal

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payments to police and public servants. The Met reveals a network

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of corrupt officials, paid by News International. We speak to Neville

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Thurlbeck, the former chief reporter at News of the World.

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Timing for News International couldn't be better. Today Charlotte

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Church launched a scathing attack, as she received �600,000 in damages

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over claims her phone was hacked. What I have learned has sickened

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and disgusted me. Nothing was deemed off limits by those who

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pursued me and my family to make money for news corporation.

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speak to John Prescott, a former Chief Constable, and the Mirror's

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former crime reporter in the studio. Fresh allegations against A4e, the

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company that receivess thousands from the Government in contracts.

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More discomfort, with the NHS reforms, this time from inside

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Government as well. Nick Clegg approves an open letter, asking for

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more changes. And was Putin the tart of a foiled

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assassination attack, or is Soviet history being repeated ahead of the

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elections. TRANSLATION: All of these famous

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processes against the Trotskyists, will be built on allegations of

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Good evening. The Sun newspaper stands accused tonight of sanctions

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payments of tens of thousands of pounds to corrupt officials within

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the police and other public bodies. In one of the most explosion

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allegations, that the Leveson Inquiry has yet heard, Deputy

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Assistant Commissioner, Sue Akers, said the paper had a culture of

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illegal payments authorised at the most senior level, and suggested

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some public officials had been put on retainer. She vowed to expose

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those who had received cash and see them brought to justice.

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The inquiry heard the former News International editors, Rebekah Wade,

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and Andy Coulson, were warned that there was widespread hacking as

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early as 2006. We speak to former News of the World reporter, Neville

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This is how the relationship between the police and the press

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should work. One needs stories to fill the paper, the other needs

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publicity to help solve crimes, everyone is a winner. But you will

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note, from this old news real, no money changes hands. It was,

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apparently, a completely different matter at News International. Today

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the second part of the Leveson Inquiry began, with damming

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allegations of wholesale corruption. The relationship between the police

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and the media, and News International in particular, was,

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at best, inappropriately close, and if not, actual lie corrupt, -- if

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not actually corrupt, very close to it. Today the investigation into

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phone hacking and police corruption, Sue Akers in, uniform, gave an

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update on what has happened so far, police taking significant sums of

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money from the Sun. One was paid in excess of �80,000, and one arrested

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journalist receiving �150,000 in cash to pay his sources, some of

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whom were public officials. payments had been made not only to

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police officers, but a wide range of public officials. So there are

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catagories as well as police, military, health, Government,

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prison and others. It suggests that payments were being made to public

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officials who were in all areas of public life. I have said that the

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current assessment is it reveals a network of corrupted officials.

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That is a relative who allegedly helped hide a payment. The police

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abecause the payments were in cash, only a few of the reacceptents have

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been so far been -- recipients have been identified. There was a

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culture at the Sun of illegal payments, and systems were created

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to facilitate those payment, while hiding the identity of the

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officials receiving the money. the former News International

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editor, and former News International chief executive,

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Duwayne Brooks, gave evidence to a Commons investigation - Rebecca

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Brooks gave evidence, she did confirm that the police were paid,

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in 200. We have paid the police in the past. Will you do it in the

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future? You are operating within the law, it is the same for

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subterfuge, and video bags. It is illegal for police officers to

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receive payments. I said within the law. Much later she issued a

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statement saying she had no knowledge of any payments at News

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International to the police. There are many examples of how this close

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relationship works. When Neil and Christine Hamilton went to a police

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station to answer questions about a completely false allegation of rape,

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they saw how the tip-offs worked. They had been promised no press and

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no publicity, and yet, this is what they got. Within ten minutes of our

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arrival, journalists started to dribble into the street outside. By

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the time we came out, after two or three hours of questioning, there

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were about 150 or so journalists round, not just Fleet Street

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journalists, but radio, TV, sound booms, cameras, the lot. It was a

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bit like the Oscars ceremony in reverse.

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You might have thought that once the police began their

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investigation into illegal activities at the News of the World,

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this contact between News International and the police would

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have stopped. Actually, far from it. Today, the inquiry was shown an

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extraordinary e-mail that suggests that, not only was the chief

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executive of News International, Rebecca Brooks, being briefed on

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the investigation, that the police were carrying out, she was also

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consulted on how far she thought that investigation should go.

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The e-mail is from the chief lawyer At the end News International were

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insisting that nobody else was involved. But the e-mail goes on to

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say that the police have a list of up to 110 victims and payment

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records of News International to Mulcaire of over �1 million. This

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was a huge operation, not just one rogue reporter. The e-mail says it

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demonstrates a pattern of victims replaced by the next one, who

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becomes flavour of the week or Today the former Deputy Prime

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Minister, giving his own evidence to the Leveson Inquiry, was clear

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what he thought had happened. are highly-paid, highly-intelligent

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people, I think there is more a conspiracy of silence to hide the

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facts, I'm stronger of that view in the last few months. Today another

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celebrity settled with News International, Charlotte Church

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accepting �600,000 in compensation. Did the police investigation into

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phone hacking fail, because police were too close to News

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International? There are plenty more witnesses and hearings to come.

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Joining us now is Neville Thurlbeck, the former news editor and chief

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reporter at News of the World. He's now -- he was arrested for his

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involvement in phone hacking and bailed until next month, for legal

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reasons we can't ask him questions relating to that case, for the

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record he denies phone hacking. Neville Thurlbeck, Sue Akers lists

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the payments to police and public officials, do you recognise that

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culture in your newsroom? Not in the News of the World. In my time

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there when I was news editor, 2001- 2003, I was in charge of looking at

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what payments were being made, and to whom. At no time was I even

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requested by a reporter to pay a police officer, it simply didn't

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cross our radar. The editor at the time, during my period on the news

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desk was Rebekah Brookes, and latterly, Andy Coulson, and again,

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those two individuals they never requested we pay anyone. You insist

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it only happened it at the Sun and never at the News of the World?

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don't say it happened at the Sun either, I don't say that at all. We

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have to see where the evidence takes us on that. You are saying

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you think she's wrong? That the criminality exists on the Sun.

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There was a very strayed forward remark from Akers, there was a cull

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-- straight forward remark from Sue Akers, there was a culture of

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paying officials, thousands of pounds are you saying that didn't

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happen at the Sun? I don't think anybody knows outside the police

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force. She also said that people who were connected to these public

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officials were being paid. Now that is often the case. Sometimes

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journalists get information, secondhand, not necessarily from

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the film star, or the police officer, but from a friend of the

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film star or the friend of the police officer. Did that happen at

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News of the World? These people wouldn't always reveal their

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sources or how they got the information. You knew money was

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changing hands and going to sources? It would be up to us to

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check the information. You couldn't check out the voracity of every

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single contact that came into the office. It wouldn't have been a

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surprise to you to know that money was being paid to sources for the

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kind of scoops that News of the World was clearly getting at the

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time? Newspapers right across Fleet Street, historically, have always

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paid money for good stories. This has been going on for 150 years, I

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don't think there is anything new in that. Presumably you paid money

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to those friends, to friends of friends, to officials? We paid

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money to a variety of sources. But what I'm telling you now. Including

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police officers, including? Not at all. I'm making myself very clear

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on this, forgive me for repeating it one more time. We never paid

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police officers money for stories. Could you have paid friends of

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police officers, could you have paid police officers through other

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means? I have got no way of telling if that happened. I think it would

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be a physical impossibility, to check out the family tree of every

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single person that came knocking at our door. It is interesting that,

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for example, one journalist submitted one expense of �150,000

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over the years, to pay out sources. That's entirely credible. And one

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person received �80,000? Let's put this into perspective. A journalist

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who pays 150,000 to his contacts, over 20 years, isn't a significant

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amount of money. When he might be paying, for example �15,000, or

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�20,000. We don't know if it was twenty years, it could have been

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two years? Some of the people had been on the newspapers for 40 years.

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These were crime stories, who was being paid, who would have the

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information, if it wasn't the police and the public bodies, who

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do you think the money was going to? There is a variety of sources.

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When I was crime reporter, a lot of my sources came from people who

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were connected to the investigations, they might even be

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criminals themselves. They might be police informants. Did you pay

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criminals and police informants? didn't pay criminals. Who did you

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pay? You would pay people who would have knowledge of what is going on.

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Who were those people? They would be people who knew police officers,

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people who were perhaps friends of police officers. You know people,

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the information is given...It highly possible that some of that

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money went back to the police or public officials? We have no way of

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telling that. What I'm telling you is, that information can often, is

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often frequently given to newspapers second and third hand.

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Now the originator of that information might inadvertantly be

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a police officer, but the person who comes to you is perhaps two or

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three people down that chain. It is the same with showbiz and short.

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What type of some would you imagine changing hands for that kind of

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scoop? What sort of scoop. A major front page scoop on News of the

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World, a cover story? A front page splash of the News of the World, is

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that what you are asking me to give you a figure on? It would be in the

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order of between �5,000 to �25,000, depending on the priority the

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editor gave the story at the time. For a crime story? Not necessarily

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that much for a crime story. These days they tend to command smaller

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currency, I would say, probably talking in the order of hundreds

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rather than thousands. You could be paying that kind of money to one

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source? That is not unusual, that is Fleet Street-wide, it is not

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unique to News International titles. Sue Akers is saying that there was

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a culture of illegal payments, she stresses there was illegal payment,

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why would she say illegal if it wasn't payment that had been

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outlawed, for example, going to the wrong people? This act, the 1906

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anti-Corruption Act was frameed, prevention of Corruption Act, was

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framed to discourage police officers from turning a blind eye

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toe armed robberies. Under the terms of that act we are now

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prosecuting, potentially, journalists for taking possession

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of what Sue Akers called today salacious gossip. These people,

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these journalists could be potentially facing three years in

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jail, and the loss of their careers, their livelihoods and reputation

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for the sake of this 1906 act. She's talking about illegal

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payments and people being put on retainers? I have no knowledge of

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this. But it is possible, that happened. That people were put on

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retainers, presumably those are the people that give you not just one

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story, but story after story? not here to defend any criminality,

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all I'm saying is this. Were you aware of those retained?

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Nottingham Forest aware of any criminality, I'm not -- I'm not

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aware of any criminality, I'm not here to defend it. I'm saying there

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should be a perspective put on this, and it shouldn't be looking through

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the prisism of the Prevention of Corruption Act, it is too heavy a

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sledgehammer to crack the nut. Let's hear about the e-mail from

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Tom Crone to Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, that there was

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widespread hacking, and Rebekah Brooks was consulted by the police

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on how far the investigation should go. What are we to make of that?

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have said, before I came on the show tonight, I'm not going to

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discuss anything to do with Operation Weeting tonight. We're

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encrouching on that by talking about that particular memo, I'm

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afraid, Emily. You think this suggests a major cover-up,

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somewhere at the top of News International? I didn't say that.

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Do you think that it does? I didn't say that, I'm not going into any

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matters concerning Operation Weeting. Do you think you reached a

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point in your career, you have been very clear with with where you

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stand and what you think happened at the newspaper, when you were

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there, did you reach a point in your career when you felt things

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had gone too far, they were the wrong side of the moral equation?

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All I will say is this, if there was a say the of criminality

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reached, on our newspaper, it was confined to a very tiny number of

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desperate people, but by and large, almost 99.9% of my colleagues were

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first class decent, honourable journalists.

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Thank you very much. Joining me now, the former deputy

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PM, John, now Lord Prescott, the former Chief Constable of Thames

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Valley Police, Peter Neyroud, author of an official review of

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police ethics, and Jeff Edwards, the former chief crime

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correspondent for the Daily Mirror, President of the Crime Reporters'

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Association. What do you make of what you have

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just heard? From someone who has been campaigning for five years

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suggesting they were doing all these things, as Akers point the

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out in the inquiry today, it is not just -- pointed out in the inquiry

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today, it is not just that it happened, but it was that it was

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maintained a lie, they said it was one rogue reporter and only the

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News of the World, and now it is the Sun, all maintained they did

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full investigations and there was no evidence to prove it. Now it is

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their own people that give e-mail that is clearly shows bribery of

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the police was under way. Let's see what comes out of the investigation

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and the crime. Getting together in a kind of conspiracy of silence, to

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and perpetuate the lie. The papers used to say when I attacked them

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and others, they quoted what Mr Yates says, and there was no

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evidence. And when the police said, they said quote what the

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investigations of the press have done. Both xierd to maintain the

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lie. That is what -- conspired to maintain the lie. Sue Akers talked

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about Whitehall and other public officials? That has extended it

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further than we thought. We have heard a systemic system to bribe

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anywhere on a long-term basis to get the stories. It tends to

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concentrate on celebrities or people like myself that are known.

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What were they doing on the thousands of other cases, it is the

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ordinary people, the police in this case lost the trust and confidence

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of people, because they were allowing this to go on. It was a

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total contempt of trust. Peter Neyroud, you could say this is

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actually the most frightening element of this whole inquiry, a

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tight knit circle of influence and corruption between public

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institutions? There is two or three things that have emerged. The level

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of corruption of police officers through the organisation, which

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started off as stkwrus a few, now seems to be -- just a few, now

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seems to be quite considerable. It needs to be dealt with. It is easy

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to think about corruption that has been there, go back into the 1970s

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there were periods of corruption, this appears to be another one of

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those T appears to be the organisation just didn't appreciate

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how damaging the relationship could be and has become.

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Sue Akers says she will route out all those who received bungs,

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bribes -- root out all those who received bungs, bribes whatever,

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what would you do if you were head of the Met, would you go and seek

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these people? Yes, exactly as is being done. You have to, we now

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understand, not just the activities of individuals, but the damage that

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Lord Prescott has pointed out, it is doing to the police's reputation,

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and the trust the public has about how the information the police have

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got is being used. Do you think differently about the police now,

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do you think about become ago police commissioner? It wasn't

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because of -- Becoming a police commissioner? It wasn't because

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what the community had some influence over the police, in a

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democracy, it is the other way round. That question is raised with

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the arguments of regional police commissioners. The police have been

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in the spotlight, Neville Thurlbeck is making it clear that it is a

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normal part of life in Fleet Street, and that kind of payment just goes

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on? I can absolutely refute that. Certainly when I was at the Mirror,

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there was not a culture like that at all. Interestingly, between

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1980-1985, I was employed at the News of the World as crime

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correspondent, I was removed from my post because of my complete

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reluctance and refusal to pay police officers. You think you lost

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your job because of that? I was told so. I didn't leave the company,

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but I was removed from that post and somebody else was put into it

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who was more prepared to take that kind of action. Shortly after that

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I got another job somewhere else, because you know...Describe What

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you knew from that newsroom then? think there was, it was very hard

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to think back about specifics then, but there was always, I thought, at

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the News of the World, a deeply rooted culture of underhandness, of

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corrupt practice. I think that I had come in from London evening

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newspapers where there was no history or tradition of that sort

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of behaviour, and I built my reputation on doing the job

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transparently and honestly, being an honest broker. To an extent I

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knew what I was entering, but I was hoping that I would actually be

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able to change things. That wasn't the case at all. Did you know this

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existed, did everyone quietly accept that it existed? Not to this

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scale. Certainly, when in Thames valley and earlier on I was a press

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officer in Hampshire earlier on in my career, I certainly was awar of

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individual police officers, for example, who were passing

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information -- aware of individual police officers passing

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manufactures off logs. They wouldn't be disciplined? We tried

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to seek them out and prosecute, in Thames valley. We certainly sought

0:22:550:22:58

them out. I think Lord Leveson has made it clear it is no longer

0:22:580:23:05

business as usual. There is a total and utter failure

0:23:050:23:10

of the press complaints industry, there was the body not able to do

0:23:100:23:14

anything about it and admit the press was lying to them. What was

0:23:140:23:16

interesting about Neville Thurlbeck, is he made it sound like friends

0:23:160:23:19

and friends of police, might have received payments, but they never

0:23:190:23:23

received them directly, did you know that went on, was that a

0:23:230:23:29

recognised pattern? Some of that, and certainly the looking for the

0:23:290:23:33

cousin, the niece, the wife, et cetera, I have had some

0:23:330:23:37

investigations in Thames valley that led to that. I think the

0:23:370:23:39

biggest problem that the Metropolitan Police have certainly

0:23:390:23:47

faced is a very small number of former police officers, who have

0:23:470:23:51

been quick to exploit being a conduit between acting police

0:23:510:23:55

officers, acting as a cut-out, they are the people who get paid. They

0:23:550:23:58

probably pass money on to the serving police officers. Is it ever

0:23:580:24:05

OK to leak to the press? No. It isn't. I think it is. I think it is

0:24:050:24:08

sometimes. You would be amazed at the sort of level I have had

0:24:090:24:12

information leaked from, up to Chief Constable level, on occasions.

0:24:120:24:16

Sometimes it has been, sometimes it has been well thought through, it

0:24:160:24:23

there has been a specific purpose behind it. One man's leak is

0:24:230:24:27

somebody else's pro-active piece of information. When the person acting

0:24:270:24:33

for the Met said it is right to have lunch with the News of the

0:24:330:24:37

World, under investigation, what other Police Authority does that?

0:24:370:24:41

Thank you very much gentlemen. There is more pressure tonight on

0:24:410:24:45

the welfare-to-work company, A4e, who have hundreds of millions worth

0:24:450:24:51

of Government contracts, and are at the centre of a police fraud

0:24:510:24:56

inquiry. There was always for the - - calls for the contracts to be

0:24:560:25:00

extended. Emma Harrison, the chair of the company, has quit her job.

0:25:000:25:06

We heard further allegations from A4e from a former client.

0:25:060:25:12

It was all pally once, the employment consultancy A4e, was

0:25:120:25:15

making millions from Government contracts, the Government, like the

0:25:150:25:19

last, happy to use a private sector specialist to get the unemployed

0:25:190:25:24

back into work. It was pally too between A4e's boss and David

0:25:240:25:29

Cameron, he made her his back to work Tsar. Now the relationship is

0:25:290:25:33

mired in accusations of fraud and cover-up.

0:25:330:25:38

Last week four former staff at A4e were arrested for fraud. Emma

0:25:380:25:41

Harrison stepped down as David Cameron's adviser, and then as the

0:25:410:25:46

boss of A4e itself. But questions remain. What did the Government

0:25:460:25:50

know about A4e and its boss, and when? When you are appointing

0:25:500:25:55

advisers for a half a billion pound programme, you normally make

0:25:550:26:00

background checks. We want to know did the Prime Minister ask the back

0:26:000:26:08

office were there any problems appointing Harrison. Did the office

0:26:080:26:11

say there was a fraud investigation under way in Emma Harrison's

0:26:110:26:15

company, at the moment we haven't any answers. This woman, unemployed

0:26:150:26:19

from Leicester, has raised questions about A4e's practices,

0:26:190:26:24

she was offered a job on in sales on �7,000 a year plus commission.

0:26:240:26:29

When she asked for the terms and conditions in writing, things got

0:26:290:26:32

complicated. A4e called me on Monday to say I had the job. I

0:26:320:26:35

asked if I could have that in writing, if I could have the

0:26:350:26:38

details of the job, the pay, the hours, the terms and conditions of

0:26:380:26:43

the job, just in writing, just so I knew exactly what it was I was

0:26:430:26:47

agreeing to. What did they say? They said that would make me seem

0:26:470:26:52

awkward to the employier, and that is not how -- employer, and that is

0:26:520:26:58

not how businesses work. It was then she said they made an

0:26:580:27:02

extraordinary suggestion? They said you don't have to tell the

0:27:020:27:05

Jobcentre, try it for a week without telling the Jobcentre.

0:27:050:27:10

they told you to work without telling the Jobcentre how did it

0:27:100:27:13

make you feel? Well I want to be a police officer, and I'm interested

0:27:130:27:20

in the law and abiding by it. To be told to be against the rules of my

0:27:200:27:30
0:27:300:27:46

benefit claim, that is not OK to me. A4e has launched its own internal

0:27:460:27:50

investigation into the fraud claims. But pressure is growing in

0:27:500:27:54

parliament to suspend its contracts. I have been astonished by the

0:27:540:28:01

number of e-mails, letters and phone calls I have had, both from

0:28:010:28:07

ex-employees and clients of A4e, full of allegations, both of

0:28:070:28:12

malpractice and of poor practice. That is why I have consistently

0:28:120:28:16

said that any common sense attitude by the Government now would mean

0:28:160:28:22

that they should call a halt to the A4e work, suspend the contracts,

0:28:220:28:27

right across Government, carry out their own investigation, don't

0:28:270:28:30

depend on the A4e's internal investigation, and refer all

0:28:300:28:34

further allegations to the police. Companies that help ministers meet

0:28:340:28:37

targets can find it easy to make friends in high places, while it

0:28:370:28:43

was bidding for work, under Labour, A4e employed the former minister,

0:28:430:28:48

David Blunkett, as a consultant. Then it employed a former Cameron

0:28:480:28:56

staffer, one Jaunty Olive Cooper as head of strategy. Now it has viewer

0:28:560:29:00

friends and faces questions. A4e said the Government was told of the

0:29:000:29:04

fraud investigation in November 2010, ten days before David Cameron

0:29:040:29:08

appointed Emma Harrison as his adviser. Tonight the DWP said they

0:29:080:29:12

were only formally notified in February 2011. The question is who

0:29:120:29:19

is right? In a molt the Russian oligarch,

0:29:190:29:29
0:29:290:29:31

Beresford bears, will debate -- -- In a letter co-signed by the Lib

0:29:310:29:35

Dem peer Shirley Williams, he said he backed amendments to limit

0:29:350:29:40

competition and the role of the private sector, will pressure from

0:29:400:29:46

the Lib Dems, even at the top, have an affect on David Camerons plans

0:29:460:29:49

for the health service. Was the letter a surprise? Not really,

0:29:490:29:52

today, Monday and Wednesday, would always be the big votes in the

0:29:520:29:57

Lords, and the Liberal Democrats in the Lords are amongst the most

0:29:570:30:00

vocal opponents of the bill. It would always come to a head. Now we

0:30:000:30:04

have this letter, Nick Clegg and Shirley Williams co-signed. What is

0:30:040:30:08

interesting is you have spring conference, where you will see all

0:30:080:30:13

the activists. Alongside the Lib Dem peers you have another

0:30:130:30:16

disgruntled group. He had to be seen to come out and get something

0:30:160:30:19

from the Government in terms of the bill. That is what we have seen

0:30:190:30:23

from the letter. What is interesting from the clip we will

0:30:230:30:26

play, is he's self-conscious that the Prime Minister knew and the

0:30:260:30:29

Prime Minister gave him the OK to go ahead and write the letter.

0:30:290:30:36

course we have discussed these in Government, there are, as you know,

0:30:360:30:40

a much wider range of amendments being debated in the coming days.

0:30:400:30:43

It is important to address the concerns people have expressed

0:30:430:30:47

about the role of competition. I have always regarded competition as

0:30:470:30:52

a means to a better NHS and not an end in itself. That is why the

0:30:520:30:56

amendments will make it clear that competition is the servant of the

0:30:560:31:01

NHS, never the master. It sound perfectly choreographed, were the

0:31:010:31:06

Tories upset by the demands? They would say, actually these demands,

0:31:060:31:11

it sounds like he's calling for an end to capitalism when you read the

0:31:110:31:15

letter, but when you boil them down, they are five or six demands across

0:31:150:31:20

disparate areas of the bill. If he wanted to go for the area he said

0:31:200:31:24

he did, which is competition, he would strike out section 3, which

0:31:240:31:28

the Labour Party say they will do, he's not calling forethat. They are

0:31:280:31:31

incredibly complicated things he's calling for, and they are

0:31:310:31:35

meaningful, but they are not there, let's get rid of that, we have done

0:31:350:31:41

it. It is difficult to fully agree with how he has claimed it. The

0:31:410:31:44

other thing, you have to remember there is a series of things being

0:31:440:31:48

negotiated across Government, not just the NHS bill, a huge budget is

0:31:480:31:50

being negotiated, every time the Liberal Democrats come forward and

0:31:500:31:55

say they want this on an area like public policy, on an area like the

0:31:550:31:58

NHS, the Tories are thinking we will keep that, and when we have a

0:31:590:32:04

debate about mansion taxes and increase in tax thresholds. What

0:32:040:32:08

about their backbenchers? We have a clip from one, Nick de Bois, they

0:32:080:32:11

are fed up that the Liberal Democrats are negotiating in public

0:32:110:32:17

and the Tories are more discreet. I'm surprised by the intervention.

0:32:170:32:25

I think it is more about politics than substance. The key thing is,

0:32:250:32:31

if that what it takes to get the bill on the statute bill, then so

0:32:310:32:36

be it. The idea it could be about to go on to the statute book, they

0:32:360:32:40

can't believe they are about to possibly get this bill all the way

0:32:400:32:46

through to being policy. It has been a headache for the Government.

0:32:460:32:49

Russia's state-controlled television has said the Government

0:32:490:32:53

has foiled a plan to assassinate the Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin.

0:32:530:32:58

Channel One TV, says the plot, previously unreported, has come

0:32:580:33:03

from terrorists in the Ukraine, who plan to kill Vladimir Putin after

0:33:030:33:08

the next election. The timing, before Russians go to the polls,

0:33:080:33:13

has caused some to question the official version of the news.

0:33:130:33:17

We will be speaking to our panel in a moment. First we report from

0:33:170:33:22

Moscow. The Russian TV report showed

0:33:220:33:26

Ukrainian forces storming a building in Odessa three weeks ago.

0:33:260:33:35

Inside was a man said to be on an international wanted list. Adam

0:33:360:33:39

Osmayev. Russian TV said he previously lived in this house,

0:33:390:33:46

rocked by an explosion, in which an accomplice died. He told

0:33:460:33:49

interrogators they were going to Moscow to try to assassinate

0:33:490:33:53

Vladimir Putin. He said they would use mines, but he wasn't going to

0:33:530:33:58

do it himself, the guy who died was. The deadline was after the

0:33:580:34:03

presidential election. Another man, arrested with him,

0:34:030:34:08

said they were told to go to Odessa, to learn to make bombs. Then in

0:34:080:34:12

Moscow, they would engineer diversions at economic facilities.

0:34:120:34:16

Finally, would come the attack on Putin.

0:34:160:34:21

This laptop, shown to the reporter, by an investigator, from Russia's

0:34:210:34:24

FSB security agency, supposedly shows details of the plot.

0:34:240:34:30

Including, it was said, a video of Mr Putin's motorcade.

0:34:300:34:36

But on the streets of Moscow itself, where Mr Putin is certain to be

0:34:360:34:40

elected President next month, the details of the plot weren't causing

0:34:400:34:46

much alarm today. Most people were cynical about its very existence.

0:34:460:34:51

TRANSLATION: It's not serious, it is not serious at all. It can't be

0:34:510:34:57

true. Why? TRANSLATION: Because it just can't be.

0:34:570:35:02

Tran tran -- TRANSLATION: We're in an election campaign, and this

0:35:020:35:10

story is just meant to get people interested. Many people condemn

0:35:100:35:15

Putin, his policies, so I think he thought this story up himself.

0:35:150:35:21

REPORTER: He thought it up himself? TRANSLATION: Yes, I think so, he

0:35:210:35:28

did it all himself. TRANSLATION: I think it is a PR

0:35:280:35:32

campaign. TRANSLATION: What is the aim? TRANSLATION: To raise Putin's

0:35:320:35:42

rating, I suppose. The assassination story comes a day

0:35:420:35:46

after thousands of anti-Putin protestors formed a living ring

0:35:460:35:50

around the centre of Moscow, the latest demonstration in their

0:35:500:35:54

campaign for fairer elections. They say the Kremlin rigged the voting

0:35:540:35:57

for a new parliament three months ago, they are convinced the same

0:35:570:35:59

thing will happen again in the presidential poll this coming

0:35:590:36:05

Sunday. In reply, Mr Putin has suggested

0:36:050:36:10

his critics are serving an outside agenda, and that Russia needs to be

0:36:100:36:16

defended. TRANSLATION: We won't allow anyone to impose their will

0:36:160:36:20

on us, because we have our own will, that's always helped us to win. We

0:36:200:36:26

are a nation of victors, it is in our genes, it gets passed on from

0:36:260:36:31

generation to generation, and we will win this time. I want to ask

0:36:320:36:39

you, Welwyn. Today's story, about an assassination plot against Mr

0:36:390:36:46

Putin, is confusing in many details, Ukrainian security officials

0:36:460:36:50

initially refused to confirm they suspected any such conspiracy S

0:36:500:37:00
0:37:000:37:02

although they later said it was true. Many here feel the case will

0:37:020:37:07

be used to crackdown on opponents, who the Prime Minister likes to

0:37:070:37:11

portray as a dangerous fifth column. Russians remember that under both

0:37:110:37:17

Lenin and Stalin, assassination plots, real or contrived, triggered

0:37:170:37:22

waves of brutal repression. Even this business tycoon, who normally

0:37:220:37:26

avoids criticising Putin is worried. TRANSLATION: Who says history

0:37:260:37:31

doesn't repeat itself, it might be repeating itself.

0:37:310:37:38

All of the famous processes against the troits skiists, and right and

0:37:380:37:44

left centre. You are paralleling with 1930s? All built on conspiring

0:37:440:37:48

against Stalin or the revolution. Look at this, this morning's news

0:37:490:37:52

from Odessa, that they have actually arrested some people

0:37:520:37:59

trying to organise an attempt on Putin's life. There is already some

0:37:590:38:05

syllables about some London, exiles involvement, look at the

0:38:060:38:10

manifestations, Putin was talking to 130,000 people, in the January,

0:38:100:38:15

it was 19th of January 1937, 200,000 people were brought to

0:38:150:38:20

Moscow, they marched through the streets, and they spoke to crush

0:38:200:38:25

chof, in support of Stalin killing all of the opposition. These

0:38:250:38:32

similarities are sometimes rather unnerving. No wonder knows what

0:38:320:38:35

will happen after Putin declares his victory, of course there will

0:38:350:38:43

be no return to the 1930s, but more plots, that's pretty certain.

0:38:430:38:47

Sergei Markov is what is known as an election representative for

0:38:470:38:53

Prime Minister Putin, he joins us from Washington, and Boris

0:38:530:39:00

Berezovsky, an oligarch, living in London, a known opposer to

0:39:000:39:05

President Putin. You heard what was said there, it is all part of an

0:39:050:39:10

election campaign, probably thought up by Putin himself? I feel strange

0:39:100:39:17

myself, frankly speaking, I respect the BBC, now this BBC looks like

0:39:170:39:27

anti-Putin propaganda special tape, maybe I don't know. A -- you had

0:39:270:39:33

three recordings, all anti-Putin, you mentioned about people

0:39:330:39:40

criticising Putin, I didn't see the name, I suppose it Alexander

0:39:400:39:47

Lebedev by voice, he's sponsoring very strong anti-Putin media in

0:39:470:39:52

Washington. Why did you tell him not to criticise others, it is not

0:39:520:39:58

true. We are happy for you to defend this. We all know it was

0:39:580:40:03

Vladimir Putin to crush, radical Islamists terrorist Government in

0:40:030:40:13
0:40:130:40:13

Chechnya, and also crushed tycoons like Boris Berezovsky, and

0:40:130:40:16

others...(inaudible) all them hate him. The reason we are talking

0:40:160:40:20

about this tonight, is we have only heard about this plot today, and

0:40:200:40:24

Russia is weeks away from an election, that is why many think

0:40:240:40:29

the timing is rather suspicious? Please don't stop me, why are you

0:40:290:40:35

interrupting me, I'm sorry, you are like Fox News, please, everybody

0:40:350:40:45

knows that Vladimir Putin has a lot of enemies, tycoons, and also this

0:40:450:40:51

radical Islamists also, and others. Of course they try to organise some

0:40:510:40:58

kind of killing of him a few times, just Russian Government inform

0:40:580:41:02

public opinion. Don't interrupt me, why you interrupt me.... I think we

0:41:020:41:05

have to go to the studio guest, there is no reason why this

0:41:050:41:09

wouldn't be a real plot against a man in power who clearly has

0:41:090:41:14

enemies? I think definitely, there should be conspiracy --

0:41:140:41:20

transparency that it was a real plot, and that it was not. My

0:41:200:41:23

understanding is it is really strange that every time, before

0:41:240:41:31

elections it has happened. In 2000, it happened, in 2004, it happened

0:41:310:41:37

in 208, it is almost the same story. In 2000 we have houses explosion,

0:41:370:41:44

Putin election campaign. And then the second Chechen war, in 2004 we

0:41:440:41:49

have, again, an attempt of assassination. To be fair the

0:41:500:41:54

Ukrainians have now admitted there was this plot, we know the plot

0:41:540:41:59

exists? I'm not sure, I don't believe in this story 100%. I can

0:41:590:42:04

refuse this story. But, again, for me it looks like a made up story,

0:42:040:42:09

because it is all the time the same, but today was very funny. You have

0:42:090:42:14

no evidence, have you? It is, you asked my opinion, and I just give

0:42:140:42:20

you answer. Let me go back to Sergei Markov, you mentioned

0:42:200:42:24

Lebedev, he thinks this will be used as an excuse to crack down on

0:42:240:42:28

opposition groups, make everyone who opposes Putin sound like a

0:42:280:42:37

terrorist? I mentioned it is not neutral journalism if you called

0:42:370:42:41

Lebedev, who didn't criticise Vladimir Putin, he criticising

0:42:420:42:49

Putin many times. He is financially supported by a very anti-Putin

0:42:490:42:54

media in Russia. I don't think this will be used for cracking down on

0:42:540:42:58

the position. Vladimir Putin has polarity, something about 60%,

0:42:580:43:06

according to all polls. Why a leader with 60% popularity needs to

0:43:060:43:10

support his position. That is a good point, I'm putting your point

0:43:100:43:14

to Boris Berezovsky, if Putin is doing so well in the polls why does

0:43:140:43:23

he have to pull a stunt? appreciate that he's supporting Mr

0:43:230:43:29

Putin in the campaign, he supported in 2004 and he lost completely the

0:43:290:43:34

other person, and I appreciate that he's supporting Putin in his

0:43:340:43:39

campaign. Why would you pull a stunt with these polls? I don't

0:43:390:43:45

believe the polls he's representing. I supported victor in election and

0:43:450:43:52

he won the election and then the revolution happened, and we didn't

0:43:520:43:56

prepare for that. I was talking that it will be revolution, I

0:43:560:44:00

predicted it would be revolution, but they didn't listen to us. They

0:44:000:44:04

believed that he won the election. In the election people will have

0:44:040:44:10

badges for the revolution, that will happen. Many people in Moscow

0:44:100:44:14

seem to question whether this plot was real or not, as you heard from

0:44:140:44:17

Boris Berezovsky, he says there is a pattern, this kind of thing

0:44:170:44:22

emerges ahead of every single election? Of course not every

0:44:220:44:27

single election. We remember that when Vladimir Putin had been

0:44:270:44:32

elected in the year 200, it was the -- 2000, it was the real war in

0:44:320:44:37

Chechnya, we remember, it was army, it was a big territory controlled

0:44:370:44:43

by terrorists. They directly repeated many times that they will

0:44:430:44:47

attack Russian civilians in Russian cities, in the heart of Russia.

0:44:470:44:54

They made it. It is everything clear only this. Then in the next

0:44:540:45:02

elections, 2008, and 2004, nothing happened. Boris Berezovsky, briefly,

0:45:020:45:04

do you think that these demonstrations that we have seen in

0:45:040:45:08

the past few days will result in anything, or do you think that

0:45:080:45:14

Putin's grip on power is pretty solid? I'm sure Putin could falsify

0:45:140:45:19

the election with the help of Mr Markov and people like him. But

0:45:190:45:29
0:45:290:45:31

Putin will be never in Russia. Briefly? All psychological points

0:45:310:45:35

are repeated and repeated, but Putin's popularity allows him to

0:45:350:45:40

win with something like 58%. What reason to make a falsification

0:45:400:45:43

before the election, if the polls show you. It is very strange, you

0:45:430:45:46

know. Thank you very much indeed.

0:45:460:45:50

That's all from Newsnight tonight. The Artist was last night only the

0:45:500:45:55

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