London: A leading lawmaker examining the country's phone hacking scandal Wednesday called on Rupert Murdoch's news empire to confirm whether it is paying the legal fees of the former editor of the now shuttered News of The World tabloid.
Andy Coulson quit in 2007 as the editor of the tabloid after a reporter and a private investigator were jailed for hacking into the voicemails of royal staff.
He served as communications chief to David Cameron, then Britain's opposition leader from late 2007 until January of this year.
News Corp.'s British arm, News International, declined to comment Wednesday on a Financial Times report which claimed the company was still paying Coulson's legal expenses.
"What it is about this news and information conglomerate that prevents them from giving a yes or no reply to a straight question," opposition Labour Party lawmaker Tom Watson said.
Watson has been a leading figure in the campaign to expose illicit practices in British journalism, and is a member of Parliament's Culture, Media and Sport Committee, which is investigating the scandal.
"I call on James Murdoch to just say whether or not his company is paying Andy Coulson's legal fees," Watson told The Associated Press.
News International has also declined to discuss a previous BBC report that claimed Coulson received severance pay amounting to several hundred thousand dollars in the months after he quit in 2007, including during a period after he was working for Cameron.
The BBC, which did not cite sources, reported that Coulson had also kept his health care plan and company car.
Coulson received a reported salary of about 300,000 pounds (USD 491,500) as editor of the tabloid.
Coulson is among 15 people arrested in case only one of whom has been cleared so far. He denies any wrongdoing.
First Published: Thursday, August 25, 2011, 11:45