29/03/2012 08:07 BST | Updated 29/03/2012 09:27 BST

Leveson Inquiry: Kit Malthouse Reveals £40m Cost Of Phone Hacking Probe

The deputy mayor of London has defended his questioning of police spending on phone hacking, saying Scotland Yard already struggles to fund its fight against serious crime and spends less money per year tackling child abuse.

Kit Malthouse told the Leveson inquiry into press ethics on Thursday that the cost of police operations into phone hacking was going forecast to cost the force around £40m, while only £36m per year is spent on tackling child abuse.

London's deputy mayor for policing also noted the amount of officers deployed to the phone hacking investigation, which he said would rise to 200 next year and was currently at 150, telling the inquiry: "We only have 27 [officers] engaged on tracking down paedophiles."

He admitted he had questioned Met assistant commissioner Cressida Dick and former Met police commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson about the resources police were giving to the re-opened investigation into phone hacking in January 2011, but said he was only doing his job.

He claimed that at the time the Met were struggling with a backlog of 400 rape cases, telling the inquiry that having seen "tears roll down the faces of rape victims" he was concerned about the inquiry being a "large drain on resources."

"As we moved into early 2011 and the investigation was launched and it became apparent that it was going to be a large drain on resources from what is a valuable and finite resource I was keen to ensure that they were not undertaking this investigation to the detriment of, for instance, rape victims," Malthouse said.

His evidence came on the day former director of press for the Met Police Dick Fedorcio, who had been on extended leave from Scotland Yard since August, resigned.

Malthouse, who faced calls to resign when former Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson said he had raised concerns about the amount of money spent on Operation Weeting, claimed he was entitled to ask questions about the resources of the Met in his then capacity as head of police regulator the Metropolitan Police Authority.

"It came as a shock to me that people thought I was not allowed to ask legitimate questions," he said.

Sir Paul had told the inquiry Malthouse had questioned the resources given to phone hacking investigation Operation Weeting on several occasions, asking if they were "consequence of media-driven 'level of hysteria'."

Labour's Chris Bryant had accused Malthouse of a "political intervention designed to intimidate the Met into dropping an investigation."

Labour's London mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone had agreed with the Labour MP, saying: “Chris Bryant is right. Either Kit Malthouse should quit his position as the deputy mayor for policing, or Boris Johnson should sack him. The Mayor’s deputy abused his position to influence a police investigation into serious criminal allegations."