Nick Clegg On Phone Hacking And The Eurozone Crisis
Nick Clegg has refused to divulge the details of conversations he had last May with David Cameron over the appointment of the prime minister's former spin doctor Andy Coulson.
Speaking at his end-of-term press conference in London, the deputy prime minister was asked what discussions he and the Conservative leader had over Coulson's appointment to Number 10. He said there had been "constant conversations" about who would be employed in the government in its first few days last May. But he said "at the end of the day it was the prime minister's decision" to bring Coulson into Number 10.
Asked to elaborate on the precise discussions between himself and Cameron about Coulson, Clegg refused, saying: "I don't think it really helps anyone".
When pressed further with more questions on why Coulson was hired, Clegg replied: "I think I've said enough."
He also refused to speculate about any conversations between the spin doctor and Neil Wallis, while Coulson worked for Cameron, saying that would be a "fruitless thing to do".
Wallis, a former News of the World deputy editor who later worked as an adviser for Scotland Yard, is one of a number of former executives who have been arrested in connection with the phone hacking and corruption investigation.
Nick Clegg is now trying to take the credit within government for the two inquiries which it has set up in the wake of the phone hacking revelations.
He told the news conference: "I was the first person in government to say there should be a judge-led inquiry. I pushed that case and thankfully we've now got the right kind of inquiry".
He also addressed today's crunch eurozone summit, warning that a breakup of the single currency would have "dramatic and catastophic consequences" for milions of people across Europe, including in Britain.
However he accepted that there were divisions within the coalition over Europe.
When asked how he felt about reports that David Cameron had yesterday told the backbench Tory 1922 Committee that he would look to redefine Britain's relationship with the EU, Clegg said: "I'm not some sort of starry-eyed naive believer in Europe".
Yet he warned against people crowing over the potential collapse of the single euro currency.
"There are parts of the eurozone doing much better than we are," he said, but blamed the failure of some eurozone economies on the bankers.
"The opportunity to introduce big, bold, radical structural reforms to their economies were not taken, basically because the banks were throwing money at consumers."
However he promised that Britain wouldn't be asked to contribute financially to saving the eurozone, saying that would be "wholly wrong", adding that he didn't think any British contribution would increase the UK's influence in Europe anyway.