UK

Leveson Inquiry: Piers Morgan explained phone hacking - Paxman

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Media captionJeremy Paxman said Piers Morgan told him he would be a fool if he did not protect his voicemail messages

Jeremy Paxman has told the Leveson Inquiry Piers Morgan explained to him 10 years ago how to hack mobile phones.

The Newsnight presenter said it happened at a lunch at which Mr Morgan, then Daily Mirror editor, teased Ulrika Jonsson that he knew about her phone conversations with Sven-Goran Eriksson.

He said the incident happened at a lunch organised by Trinity Mirror.

Mr Morgan has Tweeted: "That's the last time I'm inviting Jeremy Paxman to lunch. Ungrateful little wretch."

Former Labour Home Secretary Lord Reid has also given evidence to the inquiry into press ethics, saying he first became aware of the inquiry into phone hacking through the media reporting of it.

And Mr Paxman's BBC colleague Andrew Marr said Labour favoured certain reporters, including Rupert Murdoch's staff.

'Close to bullying'

Mr Paxman said he remembered the lunch at Canary Wharf for two reasons - because of what Mr Morgan said and because he wondered why he himself had been invited.

"Mr Morgan was teasing Ulrika that he knew what had happened in a conversation between her and Sven-Goran Eriksson," said Mr Paxman.

"I don't know if he was repeating a conversation he had heard or he was imagining this conversation."

Television star Ms Jonsson admitted in April 2002 she had been in a relationship with the then-England football manager, a fellow Swede.

Mr Paxman said Mr Morgan put on a "mock Swedish accent" and did "rather a bad parody" of Mr Eriksson.

It struck him as "close to bullying", he added.

He said: "I don't know if he was making this up, making up the conversation.

"But it was clearly something he was familiar with and I wasn't. I didn't know that this went on.

"He turned to me and said 'Have you got a mobile phone?'

"I said yes and he asked if there was a security setting on the message bit of it. I didn't know what he was talking about.

"He then explained the way to get access to people's messages was to go to the factory default setting and press either 0000 or 1234 and that if you didn't put on your own code, his words, 'You're a fool'."

Esther Addley, of the Guardian, tweeted that when Mr Paxman left court he confirmed he had not told the story before .

Mr Morgan has always denied phone hacking, including when he gave evidence at the Leveson Inquiry.

He told the inquiry last December he was not aware of any phone hacking taking place at the Mirror while he was editor between 1995 and 2004 and said: "I have no reason... to believe it was going on."

Politicians 'not scoundrels'

Mr Paxman also said there was no case for government control of the media and said the nature of the BBC sometimes confused people abroad who had assumed it was a "state broadcaster" and wrongly assumed that meant it was under government control.

He said he did not reject the idea that political journalism could influence politics.

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Media captionMarr: "I think that a decision was taken that it was very important to keep the Murdoch papers onside"

"But politicians seek to tell the rest of us how to live our lives - I have no desire to do that," he said. "My job is to hold to account."

Mr Paxman said politicians were not all "scoundrels" and he occasionally took politicians to dinner as it was a good way of finding things out but he found it better to keep a distance from them and regarded none as friends.

Earlier, Mr Marr also said there were no longer any politicians he regarded as friends, but added: "I am friendly with politicians, and many I like and admire.

"Contact with politicians is part of my professional life and was never easy."

He said without individual contacts, and a little "wining and dining", the public would not have known about the difficulties within the relationship between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, which "came out because politicians were talking privately with journalists".

Mr Marr said he believed the Labour government thought having a positive relationship with News International titles as well as newspapers such as the Mirror and the Guardian was "well worth doing".

Asked if New Labour favoured some journalists because they worked for News International, Mr Marr - who before joining the BBC worked for non-Murdoch newspapers - replied: "Yes, absolutely".

Mr Marr said the rise of internet news had meant people did not buy newspapers to simply find out what had happened and papers had adapted and now looked to get readers "emotionally engaged in the news".

Mr Marr said there were differences between working for newspapers and for the BBC.

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Media captionStephen Dorrell said he wrote minutes while a minister "in English that didn't require decoding"

He said the BBC's editorial code was stringent and carefully monitored and anything he did was being watched for impartiality. He said it meant he was largely unaware of the regulatory work of Ofcom.

'No favourable coverage'

Mr Reid, who was Mr Blair's home secretary between 2006 and 2007, said when the news of phone hacking first broke "my reaction went beyond surprise".

He said he spoke to the permanent secretary's office and to the Metropolitan Police commissioner to ask "what the hell is going on?".

He said the Met confirmed the media stories but added he was not given any information that was not in the public domain.

Mr Reid said the phone hacking investigation in 2006 was "a very tiny dot at the far edge of a very crowded radar screen in the Home Office".

He said his knowledge of the investigation had been limited and he had not been receiving briefings.

Mr Reid denied he was given favourable coverage in the Sun or News of the World as a result of providing preferential access to government information.

He said there were thousands of articles written about him when he was in government and there were stories that praised him or were fair in other newspapers too.

He said if the Sun praised him it may have been to make then Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott look bad in comparison.

Earlier the inquiry heard from Conservative MP Stephen Dorrell, who was national heritage secretary in the mid-90s under John Major, with responsibility for media policy.

Mr Dorrell told the inquiry the government at the time preferred to avoid statutory regulation of the press and said he was "personally hostile for any proposal for official regulation of freedom of expression".