Tony Blair was targeted by private detective, MP claims

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Media captionPMQs: Tom Watson's tabloid phone hacking 'cover-up' claims

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair was targeted by a private detective who did work for a newspaper group, a Labour MP has claimed.

Tom Watson told MPs Mr Blair was subjected to covert surveillance by private investigator Jonathan Rees, a contractor for News International.

The Guardian has claimed Kate Middleton and several other members of the Royal Family were also targeted.

Scotland Yard confirmed it had received several allegations since January.

The Guardian said Miss Middleton - now the Duchess of Cambridge - Prince Edward, the Countess of Wessex, the Duke and Duchess of Kent and former Home Secretary Jack Straw were all believed to have been victims of hacking.

A Met police spokesman said: "We can confirm that since January 2011 the Metropolitan Police Service has received a number of allegations regarding breach of privacy which fall outside the remit of Operation Weeting.

"These allegations are currently being considered."

The Met has written to the Guardian and the Independent to deny the force is failing to take seriously allegations that a private investigator targeted politicians, royals and others on behalf of News International.

Officers were assessing the "considerable information in their possession" to see whether the available evidence would support further criminal investigations", the force said.

The Met reopened its inquiry - known as Operation Weeting - in January into claims that staff at News International's News of the World newspaper had hacked into the phone messages of celebrities and other public figures.

On Thursday, Mr Blair's Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott told peers the police, the Crown Prosecution Service and the courts were being "polluted" by the phone hacking scandal.

During a debate in the Lords, he accused the Met Police and the CPS of withholding information about his phone allegedly being hacked by the News of the World.

He called for an independent public inquiry into the scandal and said the press were engaging in criminal behaviour on a massive scale.

'Witness testimonies'

Speaking on BBC Breakfast on Thursday, Mr Blair said he knew no more than what he had read and was not intending to speak to the Metropolitan Police to find out more.

"I assume that if someone's got something, they will get in touch with me," he added.

In the Commons, Mr Watson, MP for West Bromwich East, said: "Jonathan Rees, a contractor to News International, targeted former prime minister Tony Blair for covert surveillance."

He was speaking following a statement by Home Secretary Theresa May about setting up the National Crime Agency to replace the Serious Organised Crime Agency.

Mrs May told the Commons the US-style agency would have sweeping new powers to step in and co-ordinate police forces in a bid to tackle organised crime and secure the UK's borders.

Mr Watson raised the allegations over Mr Rees and asked the home secretary: "It is likely that witness testimonies have been available to the Metropolitan Police for a number of years on this?

"Is this the sort of case that she would take from the Metropolitan Police and give to the new National Crime Agency?"

News International apology

In response to the allegations, News International said: "It is well documented that Jonathan Rees and Southern Investigations worked for a whole variety of newspaper groups.

"With regards to Tom Watson's specific allegations, we believe these are wholly inaccurate.

"The Met police, with whom we are co-operating fully in Operation Weeting, have not asked us for any information regarding Jonathan Rees. We note again that Tom Watson MP made these allegations under parliamentary privilege."

On Tuesday, the News of the World's owner, News International, formally apologised in court to the actress Sienna Miller for hacking into several of her mobile phones.

The 29-year-old actress, who was not at London's High Court, formally settled for £100,000 damages and costs.

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