There are so many unanswered questions regarding the hacking scandal and each day brings new revelations, but backtracking for a moment and looking at the transcript from the Rebekah Brooks evidence at our select committee meeting last week, a very interesting new line of enquiry jumps at you.
In answer to Tom Watson Rebekah Brooks may have revealed the person at the heart of the operation.
Q430 Mr Watson: So you would have approved payments to them.
Rebekah Brooks: That’s not how it works, but I was aware that we used them.
Q431 Mr Watson: Who would have approved the payments?
Rebekah Brooks: The payments system in a newspaper—this has been discussed at length—is simply that the editor’s job is to acquire the overall budget for the paper from the senior management. Once that budget is acquired, it is given to the managing editor to allocate to different departments. Each person in that department has a different level of authorisation, but the final payments are authorised by the managing editor, unless there is a particularly big item such as a set of photographs or something that needs to be discussed on a wider level, and then the editor will be brought in.
Q432 Mr Watson: So Stuart Kuttner would have discussed some payments to private detectives with you?
Rebekah Brooks: Not necessarily, no. We are talking about 11 years ago. He may have discussed payments with me, but I don’t particularly remember any incidents.
Q433 Mr Watson: You don’t remember whether you would have discussed any payments at all?
Rebekah Brooks: I didn’t say that; I said in relation to private detectives. I was aware that the News of the World used private detectives, as every paper in Fleet Street did.
Q434 Mr Watson: So you don’t recall whether you authorised payments or talked with Stuart Kuttner?
Rebekah Brooks: The payments of private detectives would have gone through the managing editor’s office.
Q435 Mr Watson: You can’t remember whether Kuttner ever discussed it with you?
Rebekah Brooks: Sorry. What?
Q436 Mr Watson: You can’t remember whether Kuttner ever discussed it with you.
Rebekah Brooks: I can’t remember if we ever discussed an individual payment, no.
While News of the World lawyer Tom Crone and Editor Colin Mylor have set some hares running since the session by contradicting James Murdoch’s answers, they are not the key. Stuart Kuttner is.
Kuttner made every payment and Brooks effectively fingered him when she told us “The managing editor made all the payments”.
This suggests Kuttner has formal knowledge of all the wrongdoing. According to Brooks he must have paid the police and the private detectives.
As a former Murdoch employee explained to me, in his day Rupert Murdoch authorised all payments over a certain value. So the next issue is who authorised Kuttner to make the payments?
Mr Kuttner needs to answer.