Coulson: 'I assumed my security access would be appropriate'

Andy Coulson
Mr Coulson admitted to owning shares in News Corporation when working for David Cameron Photo: REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett
  • Andy Coulson said he "may" have had access to top-secret state material, even though he only had low-level clearance.
  • He retained shares in News Corporation worth £40,000 during his time working in Downing Street but was "never asked about any share or stock holdings" by David Cameron.
  • He was not involved in the handling of News Corp's bid for full control of BSkyB.

Andy Coulson, the Prime Minister's former spin doctor, has told the Leveson Inquiry that his previous level of security clearance would allow occasional access to top-level paperwork and participation in secret meetings.

He said when he arrived at Downing Street he did not ask what level his clearance was and assumed it would be the appropriate level.

"I should say that I never asked for special access and did not ask for special authority over the Civil Service," he said in his written statement.

"I went to the meetings I was invited to and got on with my job."

The lack of a comprehensive vetting process of Mr Coulson by Downing Street also became clear during his evidence.

As Keir Simmons reports, Mr Coulson said Mr Cameron had not sought any further assurances over his links to the phone-hacking scandal after July 2009, despite allegations about pay-offs for victims starting to emerge in The Guardian newspaper:

He also revealed that he held stocks in News Corporation worth £40,000 while working as the prime minister's press chief, but stressed that in his opinion, he did not consider it any form of conflict of interest.

Mr Coulson also dismissed rumours that he kept a potentially explosive diary of his time in the job.

He played down the closeness of his relationship with Rupert Murdoch - his boss while editor of the News of the World.

Asked by Robert Jay QC, counsel for the inquiry, whether he had kept a diary between 2007 and his departure from Downing Street in 2010, Mr Coulson replied that he had not.

However, he did say there were "notes that I would take in the course of my work both in opposition and in government".

Mr Coulson said he had "thoroughly enjoyed" working for Mr Murdoch until he was forced to resign by the conviction of News of the World royal reporter Clive Goodman for phone hacking.