London, July 7 – British lawmakers staged an emergency debate Wednesday to vent their outrage over a widening phone hacking scandal in which a tabloid allegedly targeted missing schoolgirls and the families of London terror victims in addition to celebrities and royals.
Prime Minister David Cameron called for inquiries into the News of the World’s behavior as well as into the failure of the original police inquiry to uncover the latest allegations now emerging.
London’s Metropolitan Police, meanwhile, confirmed they were investigating evidence from News International, parent of the tabloid, that some officers illegally accepted payments from the newspaper in return for information.
“It is absolutely disgusting what has taken place,” Cameron said, speaking in the House of Commons shortly before the debate opened. However, he said any inquiry into the News of the World would have to wait until the police investigation is concluded.
News International was under intense pressure following reports that its tabloid had hacked into the cell phone of missing 13-year-old Milly Dowler in 2002, deleting messages and giving her parents and police false hope that the girl was still alive.
Milly had been abducted and murdered, and the search for her transfixed Britain at the time.
Members of Parliament seized on the case to demand a full debate as pressure rose for the chief executive of News International, Rebekah Brooks, to resign, since she was a former editor of News of the World. Major advertisers – including Ford UK and leading mortgage lender Halifax – pulled their ads from the paper.
The scandal widened further Wednesday with new allegations that Glenn Mulcaire, a private detective employed by News of the World, had obtained telephone numbers of relatives of some of the 52 people killed in the 2005 terrorist attack on London’s transit system. It was unclear whether any of those phones had been hacked.
Cameron on Wednesday again rejected calls to refer – and thus delay – any BSkyB takeover by referring the issue to the Competition Commission. Cameron and his wife are friends with Brooks, the News International chief.