The Home Affairs select committee taking evidence from the Met might not have had the Murdochs, mass media attention or a foam throwing twat, but it was where the real meat happened. Sir Paul Stephenson and John Yates, recently resigned senior officers, and Dick Fedorcio, the Met's Director of Public Affairs, are all the subject of investigations by the IPCC, and they all had various questions to answer.
Sir Paul Stephenson looked irritated while giving evidence. He was adamant that he'd done nothing wrong and had only resigned to remove "distractions" in the run-up to the Olympics (Boris Johnson got "almost emotional" asking him to stay). It seems it was the connection between Neil Wallis and Champneys spa, where Stephenson accepted £12k of hospitality while recuperating from illness, that finally persuaded him to go:
I became much clearer when I was contacted on Saturday about the Champneys story, for which I am not apologetic at all, by the way... I think it was damnably unlucky, frankly, that it seems Wallis was connected with this. That was devastating news when I heard it.
"Devastating news", apparently. Not news that some of his officers seem to have been taking bribes from News International, not news that his officers' failure to fully investigate phone hacking may have contributed to a News International cover-up, but news that his £12k freebie wasn't as pure as he'd thought - that's devastating news.
As for his role in the phone hacking affair, Stephenson's line was that he was too busy with counter-terrorism, the night stalker and Stephen Lawrence cases to worry about phone hacking. In what became the standard phrase of the afternoon, he relied on what he was told by John Yates.
Moving on to Dick Fedorcio, who employed Neil Wallis - who was deputy editor of the News of the World during the period being investigated - as a senior media advisor, to provide cover for his sick deputy, which none of his other 45 employees could do, even though Wallis was only needed for two days a month. Oh, and this was one of Wallis's first jobs after leaving the paper. If it's that easy to pick up major contracts as a start-up, we wonder why everyone doesn't do it.
It started to get interesting when MPs asked Fedorcio about background checks done on Wallis.
- John Yates and Neil Wallis have been friends since 1998 (Yates: "I would see Mr Wallis, I reckon... two or three times a year. I do not go round to his house on a regular basis... It is mostly sport related with other people")
- John Yates reviewed the phone hacking evidence in July 2009 and found nothing to justify re-opening the investigation
- In September 2009 Fedorcio asked Yates to do due diligence on Wallis. Fedorcio says he didn't realise Yates and Wallis were friends
- Yates asked Wallis if there was anything that could embarrass the Met in relation to phone hacking. Wallis said no
- Yates told Fedorcio to go ahead.
Even before we get onto considering the appropriateness of employing a former senior member of the News of the World while allegations of hacking were still swirling, this hiring process looks massively dodgy. Fedorcio and Yates probably think so too, since they started blaming each other:
Fedorcio: John Yates conducted a form of due diligence on Mr Wallis. He can probably explain that to you later better than I can... I accept the integrity of Mr Yates. He is a senior officer in the organisation.
Yates: Due diligence is in the proper letting of a contract. I had absolutely nothing to do with that or the tendering process. That was a matter for Mr Fedorcio.
As for the accusations that Yates got Wallis's daughter a job within the Met, Yates is very clear. He did nothing wrong, he was just a "post box for a CV for Mr Wallis's daughter... I had absolutely nothing to do with her employment". Apart from then emailing that CV to the Met's Director of HR. Are we alone in being staggered that an Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police can't see how his personal intervention could be seen, minimum, as a recommendation?
While everyone was dumping on Yates, Yates decided to dump on News International. He insisted their lack of co-operation meant the Met couldn't get something called a production order, an assertion the Home Affairs Committee has agreed with in a report - though it's worth reiterating Mark Reckless MP's point that "if [the Met] had gone through those [11,000 documents] and perhaps found the names of a few News of the World journalists, might not that have allowed [the Met] to put the evidence to a court to get a production order?".
Yates's evidence also let slip the fact that's been engulfing David Cameron today, that his chief of staff Ed Llewellyn deliberately intervened to stop his boss being briefed on new phone hacking revelations.
None of what happened yesterday was particularly heartening - lots of denial of knowledge and passing the buck. We're not really any nearer to finding out the truth about relationships between the Met and the media and the influence our coppers may have been under - but we certainly found out a lot about their attitude. And that attitude was? Sorry, but for that answer you'll have to ask Mr. Yates.
Londonist - watching seven and a half hours of select committees so you don't have to. Or if you really want to, you can read the full transcript (PDF). Photo by yorkshire stacked from the Londonist Flickr pool.