10/07/2012 14:59 BST | Updated 10/07/2012 16:04 BST

Former Editor Andrew Neil Questions Rupert Murdoch Evidence To Leveson Inquiry

A former newspaper editor has recalled an incident which "undermined" the accuracy of evidence media tycoon Rupert Murdoch gave to an inquiry into journalistic ethics.

Andrew Neil, former editor of The Sunday Times - which is owned by Mr Murdoch, wondered whether the tycoon had "forgotten he was testifying under oath" at the Leveson Inquiry in London.

Mr Neil, Sunday Times editor between 1983 and 1994, described a conversation with Mr Murdoch in a written witness statement published today on the inquiry website, the Press Association reported.

He also outlined his views on Mr Murdoch's relationship with former prime minister Tony Blair's New Labour government.

And he questioned the accuracy of a "claim" Mr Murdoch made about never asking politicians for anything.

Mr Neil told inquiry chairman Lord Justice Leveson of Mr Murdoch's ideological "soul mates" relationship with former Conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher, now Lady Thatcher.

He said he remembered an incident in late 1985, shortly before an industrial dispute at Mr Murdoch's new printing plant in Wapping, east London.

"There was at least one time... when Mr Murdoch's support for Mrs Thatcher paid business dividends and undermines the accuracy of his claim to the inquiry that he has never asked politicians for anything," said Mr Neil, in his statement.

"In the run up to the Wapping dispute he made it clear to me one night in late 1985 in my office that he had gone to Mrs Thatcher to get her assurance - to 'square Thatcher' in his words - that enough police would be made available to allow him to get his papers out past the massed pickets at Wapping once the dispute got under way.

"She was fully 'squared', he reported: she had given him assurances on the grounds that she was doing no more than upholding the right of his company to go about its lawful business.

"I remember this because he added that he could never have got the same assurances from the mayor of New York or the NYPD, which was why, he told me, he could not 'do a Wapping' on his US newspapers, despite the grip of the print unions there too."

Mr Neil also said New Labour did nothing to threaten Mr Murdoch's British media interests, kicked demands for a privacy law into the "long grass", "tolerated" a 37% control of national newspaper circulation, "resolutely repelled" tougher cross-ownership rules and "paved the way" for Mr Murdoch's News Corporation to attempt to buy the 60% of BskyB it did not own.

"This was something Mr Murdoch's people lobbied hard for, with his support, and they had unique and extensive access to the levers of power at the heart of the Blair government to make this lobbying effective," added Mr Neil, in his statement.

"When Mr Murdoch testified before this inquiry that he had never asked government for anything it gave me cause to wonder if he had forgotten this - or forgotten he was testifying under oath."

Mr Neil said Mr Murdoch had a "virtual ringside seat" at the Labour cabinet on the issues of Europe and Iraq.

He added: "A Labour minister once said to me that when it came to these issues 'Rupert Murdoch was the 24th member of the Blair cabinet'."

The Leveson Inquiry did not sit on Wednesday but continues on Thursday.