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'I don't recall' - David Cameron and his foggy memory at the Leveson Inquiry

Original Source: Telegraph: 14 June 2012
By Matthew Holehouse
3:45PM BST 14 Jun 2012

 David Cameron's memory appeared to fail him as he gave evidence to the Leveson Inquiry.

(Clockwise from top left) James Murdoch, Prime Minister David Cameron, Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson

Jay: In your dealings with third parties, to what extent, if ever, did you offer an opinion which was not the opinion of your minister, without making it clear that it wasn't?


Cameron: Well, it's quite a long time ago, so it's hard to remember all the interactions I had... On occasions I'm sure I would have made clear to people my own view about something, but I can't think of particular instances.



Did he discuss the Information Commissioner's report on unlawful data access at dinner with Paul Dacre, the Daily Mail editor, in 2006?



Cameron: I don't remember, I'm afraid. I can't even remember where the dinner was. I think also he's had dinner in my home as well. The trouble with that one is I can't remember where it was, let alone what we talked about.



On meeting Matthew Freud and Rebekah Brooks on Rupert Murdoch's yacht in Santorini



Cameron: My memory is it came together quite quickly. I seem to remember I was on some tour day around the country. I got a call or a text from Matthew. I was just about to go off to Georgia, to visit Georgia at the time of the Russian invasion, and it just seemed like a possible opportunity to link up and - but I seem to remember it all came together very quickly at the last minute. But I might have got it wrong.


Jay: We know that Rebekah Wade was there, but did you have a conversation with her about this before you flew out or not?


Cameron: I don't recall that, I'm afraid.


On lunch with James Murdoch in 2009


Jay: Would you think it's possible on that occasion that you discussed regulatory issues, including Ofcom and the BBC?


Cameron: Well, I don't recall what was discussed directly at the lunch. I'm sure that over the years I've discussed some of those issues with James Murdoch. He has very strong views on them, I have very strong views, they're not really the same views, and I'm sure we would have had discussions about it. Perhaps particularly -- well, I think probably on both. I don't recall the specifics, but I'm sure we must have discussed our views.


Jay: This was a few months before his MacTaggart lecture, which was delivered in late August 2009. Did you have any discussions with him about the subject matter of that lecture, either before he gave it or afterwards?


Cameron: Not to my memory, no. I think these would have been... you know, as I say, most of these meetings were really about me trying to promote Conservative policy, the Conservative approach and the rest of it, but sometimes because I'm interested in media issues and have longstanding views on them, sometimes I'm sure we would have discussed them.


On lunch with Sun editor Dominic Mohan in 2009


Jay: Do you think on that occasion the issue of support of the Sun for you and your party was discussed or not?


Cameron: I wouldn't -- I don't recall. By this stage obviously I was making arguments that Sun readers were coming over to the Conservatives and our approach was what the country needed and all the rest of it, but I don't remember the specifics of that conversation, no.


On dinner with James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks in 2009, following a drink with James Murdoch at which he said the Sun would back Cameron.


Jay: Can you remember anything about where the political issues, perhaps regulatory issues were discussed on that occasion?


Cameron: I don't particularly recall what was discussed then, no.


Jay: But for support the upcoming support of the Sun is likely to have been mentioned, isn't it?


Cameron: Yes. I think I'm trying to remember the exact date of the Labour conference.


Jay: I think we're onto about 27 or 28 September.


Cameron: Right. I expect that would have been discussed. In terms of what the Sun was going to do, it was - but I don't... I remember the drink, I remember what he said about the Sun supporting the Conservatives. I don't particularly remember the dinner.


Jay: Rightly or wrongly, the Sun had timed it for maximum political damage to Mr Brown's government, that goes without saying. It seems at least plausible again that that sort of point was discussed on this occasion. Would you agree?


Cameron: As I say, I recall the drink, I don't recall the dinner.


On meeting Rupert Murdoch in December 2009


Jay: Can you remember anything about that conversation, particularly about the change of support?


Cameron: Not particularly. I mean, in most of my lunches or breakfasts with Rupert Murdoch, the conversation has always been predominantly about economic issues, security geo-political issues, he was very interested in what was happening in Afghanistan, very interested in global markets.


On when Cameron realised Rebekah Brooks backed the Tories


Jay: When did you think Mrs Brooks was on onside? Six months, a year?


Cameron: I would have to go through my diary and try and remember the... but I can't give you a date.


Jay: Not even a sense of when it might have been? Was it months, was it weeks, was it years?


Cameron: I don't want to get it wrong. It certainly wasn't weeks. It was I think more than that. But I can't really give you any more than that.


Did Rekebah Brooks ask Cameron to open a police review into the Maddie McCann case?


Jay: Were you asked by Mrs Brooks to support or indeed cause to take place a review of the McCann case within the Metropolitan Police?


Cameron: I don't 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, and anyone who's met them or obviously read about the story, you can't fail to be incredibly moved by what has happened to them and all the efforts they've made to try and get Madeleine back, and I followed this up as Prime Minister, but I can't remember the exact provenance of who called who and when, and what have you, but I think it was... the police clearly had played a role in trying to keep the investigation going, and the Government has helped them with that.


Jay: But in terms of any interaction between you and Mrs Brooks, was it drawn to your attention that Mrs Brooks went to see two of your special advisers, I think on 11 May?


Cameron: I don't recall. It might well have been. I don't recall the exact conversations.


About hiring Andy Coulson, and what they asked him about phone hacking


Jay: Mr Osborne's evidence was that he asked for and obtained assurances. Were you aware of that?


Cameron: I don't recall, but if George says that, I have no reason to doubt it.




Jay: You say that you are sure that you would have discussed his appointment with Rebekah Wade. To be clear, by this time, it's May 2007, would you have counted her as amongst your friends?


Cameron: Yes. I think I would. As I say in the evidence, I can't recall when I discussed it with her, whether it was before, during or after, but I'm sure I would have at some stage had a conversation with her about it.


Jay: Can you remember how many conversations?


Cameron: No




Jay: Sometimes discussions of these nature go into people's character and integrity. Do you think you had a discussion along those lines with Mrs Brooks about Mr Coulson?


Cameron: I'm afraid I don't... I don't recall. But I think the most important thing I would have wanted to know is would he be good at the job.


Did David Cameron ask Andy Coulson about phone hacking by phone while on holiday in Cornwall, or in person at his office in Westminster, or both?


Cameron: My recollection is that I raised the issue of phone hacking and sought the assurance in the face-to-face meeting we had in my office. That's my recollection. I vaguely remember the further telephone call, but that's - I've obviously racked my brains to try and remember exactly the sequencing, but my recollection is that I knew it was very important that I needed to ask hinm that question, and therefore did so, as it says in my evidence...




When did Andy Coulson repeat his assurances about phone hacking?


Jay: And to be clear, the repetition of the assurance, was it sought in a face-to-face meeting or phone call or by some other means?


Cameron: To the best of my recollection, although it's very difficult to do the specifics on this, the best of my recollection it was because of the impending Select Committee hearing, and I think... obviously the embarrassment there was that he was being taken through a Select Committee hearing while he was working for me, and it was in that context that I think we had this discussion.


Jay: I'm sure it was in that context, but just the means of communication.


Cameron: I don't recall.


Jay: Call him into your office, phone call, can you recall?


Cameron: I don't recall.


Why did Nick Clegg - and others - not want Andy Coulson around?


Jay: What was the basis if any for his concerns, at least as he expressed them to you?


Cameron: As far as I recall, it was just, you know, there has been controversy about this; are you, you know, sure he's the right man for the job?


Jay: Did he elaborate on the controversy or not?


Cameron: I don't remember. I don't remember the conversation in any great detail. I think it was just he wanted to register the point.


Jay: Was it part of a wider conversation about other matters or was it a conversation devoted to this one issue?


Cameron: I don't recall that. I think it was, I think, a specific conversation. It may have been bound up in us wanting to make sure that people were, as it were, sort of Coalition-friendly, so that may have been an additional concern.


Jay: Okay. Were similar concerns expressed to you directly by anybody else, to the best of your recollection?


Cameron: Some people did have concerns. I can't remember exactly who and when, but as I said, this was a controversial appointment. I've read in some of these books about a number of people who have made these points, but I don't recall many specifics, but clearly some people did have concerns, yes.


Jay: And were they concerns expressed from within your own party?


Cameron: I think there might have been one or two, I think there might have been a specific MP. That's not something I recall directly, but something that has been pointed out to me, but he may have expressed concerns to me.


Jay: Did you have any private conversations with Rupert Murdoch in 2008 and 2010 about this issue?


Cameron: Not that I recall, no. I mean, I was very happy with Andy Coulson's work, and I had been planning on the basis that if we won the election, he would come into Number 10 Downing Street, and I don't recall any conversations with Rupert Murdoch about it.


On the New York Times article of December 1 2010 that drew Andy Coulson back into the hacking scandal


Jay: Were you made aware of it at the time or shortly thereafter?


Cameron: I can't remember the exact sequence of events that day, but yes, I was made aware of it, and I think the key point is that Andy Coulson directly denied and a statement was put out on his behalf by Number 10 Downing Street about this accusation. So that, I think, is pretty clear.


Jay: Although the accusation, which we can't go into in detail for obvious reasons, related directly to him?


Cameron: That's right, yes, but there was an instant and immediate denial.


Jay: You didn't return to him for any direct assurances, did you?


Cameron: I don't recall exactly the conversations that took place. It was on the day I moved into Number 10 Downing Street after the birth of our daughter, so that's the memory I have from that day rather than anything around this, but I'm absolutely clear he made an outright denial and that was that.


On what Rebekah Brooks told him about phone hacking at the News of the World


Jay: Mrs Brooks told us in evidence that she had a conversation with you about phone hacking, but not about Mr Coulson, in late 2010. Do you remember anything about that?


Cameron: I don't really remember the specifics. I saw in her evidence that this was perhaps something to do with me asking a question about some of these civil cases and what was happening. I suspect it could have been that. This was an issue that was obviously being discussed. It was a controversial issue with all the several cases and the rest of it, and I expect I could have asked some questions about that, but I don't recall the specifics.


On what David Cameron knew about the BSkyB bid in 2010


Jay: Do you recall having discussions with Mr Osborne about these matters?


Cameron: Well, obviously we discussed it on the day that Vince Cable's remarks were made public, and so there was a discussion what we were going to do as a government to deal with that. In terms of other discussions, I don't recall any, but we discussed lots of things so I wouldn't be at all surprised if we hadn't talked about it in passing.


Jay: Are you sure in your mind that the date of the formal announcement of the bid, which we know to be 15 June 2010, was the first you heard of it?


Cameron: That is my recollection. As I say in my witness statement, I can see there was some press speculation in advance of this, but I don't recall any discussions about it or any knowledge about it in advance.


Jay: As for the Culture Secretary, you say you don't remember any specific conversations with him, but are we to understand by that that it's possible that in general policy terms the merits of the bid might have been discussed with him?


Cameron: Well, I don't recall discussing it with him, but as I'm sure we'll come onto, he did send me some notes about it. But I don't recall specific conversations.


On the secret memo Jeremy Hunt sent to Cameron, supporting the BSkyB bid


Jay: Is it the position that it was received on your email system but you simply don't remember reading it, or what?


Cameron: No. It wasn't received on my email system. As I said, really, the notes I get all go into my box. The issue here is I don't particularly remember this note, and crucially, I didn't recall its existence on the day of 21 December when we were making this decision, and I say that frankly. Obviously if I had recalled it, I would have fed it into the system, as it were.


Did Cameron discuss the BSkyB deal with the Murdochs in the lead up to the bid being adjudicated?


Jay: You say you're confident that you had no inappropriate conversations on this subject, including with Rebekah Brooks and James Murdoch in November or December 2010. Can we start off by taking away the adjective "inappropriate" and just say whether there were any conversations at all on this subject?


Cameron: As I say here, I can't remember every conversation I've ever had, but the point I'm making here is that partly because I knew this was controversial, I had... I wasn't involved in making the decision anyway, but I'd gone even further than that, and I put it here, I'd recused myself from the decision altogether.


Did Cameron discuss the BSkyB bid with Rebekah Brooks at a Boxing Day party?


Jay: On Boxing Day, I think there was a picnic or something similar. Everybody wants to know about that as well, but only insofar as it's relevant to our Inquiry. So was there a conversation about the BSkyB bid on that day?


Cameron: No, I don't think there was. My memory is that Boxing Day was actually at Charlie Brooks' sister's house. There was a party, I think Rebekah was there briefly. I don't think there was, certainly I don't think there was, a conversation about BSkyB. I'm not even sure there was much of a conversation at all, but that's my recollection.


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