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Cameron says he regrets hiring ex-Murdoch man

British prime minister had ex-News of the World editor as comms director

British Prime Minister David Cameron has told the British parliament that he wishes he had never hired former News of the World editor Andy Coulson as his communications director.

Coulson, a former Murdoch man at the center of allegations of phone hacking, was employed by Cameron between 2007 and 2011.

In a statement to the House of Commons, posted on YouTube, Cameron said that if he knew then what he knows now, he would not have hired Coulson.

Cameron stopped short, however, of admitting error and added that, if it is proven that Coulson knew about phone hacking by the Murdoch tabloid — currently the subject of a parliamentary inquiry — he will have been lied to and Coulson will be open to criminal charges.

"I have said very clearly that if it turns out Andy Coulson knew about the hacking at the News of the World, he will not only have lied to me but he will have lied to the police, to a select committee, to the Press Complaints Commission and, of course, perjured himself in a court of law," he said.

Coulson remained as Cameron's communications director when Cameron became prime minister in 2010, despite allegations about Coulson's knowledge of phone hacking while at the News of the World. He resigned in January 2011, saying the continuing phone-hacking row was distracting him from his role.

The BBC published a timeline of Cameron's defense of his appointment of Coulson over the past two years.

On Sunday, Cameron cut shot a trip to Africa to talk to parliament about the phone hacking affair.

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His statement comes a day after Rupert Murdoch appeared before the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee to answer questions over alleged phone hacking by News of the World, describing it as "the most humble day of my life."

News of the World reporters have been accused of illegally accessing thousands of cellphone voice mails of celebrities, politicians, rival journalists and even murder victims.

U.K. lawmakers are seeking to uncover the extent of criminality at Murdoch's News of the World tabloid. But Murdoch and his son, James, told the inquiry that they had not been aware of any wrongdoing at News International, which owned the recently shuttered News of the World.

James Murdoch told the panel that he and his father had “great regret” about the phone-hacking.

Rupert Murdoch also gave up his bid for British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB) last week amid criticism from lawmakers — including British prime minister David Cameron, over the alleged phone hacking.

Meanwhile, Cameron, who has been criticized for his close association with Murdoch and executives from the British arm of News Corporation, News International, on Wednesday suggested that the bid for BSkyB came up in his private meetings with executives from the company, but insisted that all conversations were "appropriate," the Guardian reports. He said that he was not involved in the government's decision about the BSkyB bid.

This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.

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The Prime Minister's Office/Flickr

British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Youtube Video

Rupert Murdoch's prepared statement

This is the text of a prepared statement by Rupert Murdoch, chairman and chief executive of News Corp., to the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee.

Murdoch read the statement, released earlier by the AP, after answering the questions of committee members on Tuesday.

Mr. Chairman. Select Committee Members:

With your permission, I would like to read a short statement.

My son and I have come here with great respect for all of you, for Parliament and for the people of Britain whom you represent.

This is the most humble day of my career.

After all that has happened, I know we need to be here today.

Before going further, James and I would like to say how sorry we are for what has happened especially with regard to listening to the voicemail of victims of crime.

My company has 52,000 employees. I have led it for 57 years and I have made my share of mistakes. I have lived in many countries, employed thousands of honest and hardworking journalists, owned nearly 200 newspapers and followed countless stories about people and families around the world.

At no time do I remember being as sickened as when I heard what the Dowler family had to endure nor do I recall being as angry as when I was told that the News of the World could have compounded their distress. I want to thank the Dowlers for graciously giving me the opportunity to apologize in person.

I would like all the victims of phone hacking to know how completely and deeply sorry I am. Apologizing cannot take back what has happened. Still, I want them to know the depth of my regret for the horrible invasions into their lives.

I fully understand their ire. And I intend to work tirelessly to merit their forgiveness.

I understand our responsibility to co-operate with today's session as well as with future inquiries. We will respond to your questions to the best of our ability and follow up if we are not capable of answering anything today. Please remember that some facts and information are still being uncovered.

We now know that things went badly wrong at the News of the World. For a newspaper that held others to account, it failed when it came to itself. The behaviour that occurred went against everything that I stand for. It not only betrayed our readers and me, but also the many thousands of magnificent professionals in our other divisions around the world.

So, let me be clear in saying: invading people's privacy by listening to their voicemail is wrong. Paying police officers for information is wrong. They are inconsistent with our codes of conduct and neither has any place in any part of the company I run.

But saying sorry is not enough. Things must be put right. No excuses. This is why News International is co-operating fully with the police whose job it is to see that justice is done. It is our duty not to prejudice the outcome of the legal process. I am sure the committee will understand this.

I wish we had managed to see and fully solve these problems earlier. When two men were sent to prison in 2007, I thought this matter had been settled. The police ended their investigations and I was told that News International conducted an internal review. I am confident that when James later rejoined News Corporation he thought the case was closed too. These are subjects you will no doubt wish to explore today.

This country has given me, our companies and our employees many opportunities. I am grateful for them. I hope our contribution to Britain will one day also be recognized.

Above all, I hope that, through the process that is beginning with your questions today, we will come to understand the wrongs of the past, prevent them from happening again and, in the years ahead, restore the nation's trust in our company and in all British journalism.

I am committed to doing everything in my power to make this happen. Thank you. We are happy to answer your questions."