- Associated Press - Monday, July 18, 2011

LONDON — Prime Minister David Cameron called Monday for an emergency session of Parliament on the phone hacking and police bribery scandal as the spreading crisis forced two of Britain’s top police officers to resign in less than 24 hours.

Scotland Yard chief Paul Stephenson stepped down Sunday night, followed out the door Monday by Assistant Commissioner John Yates. Yates was the official who decided two years ago not to reopen police inquiries into phone hacking, saying he did not believe there was any new evidence.

The high-profile resignations are making it harder for Cameron to contain the intensifying scandal that is threatening his leadership and knocking billions of Rupert Murdoch’s global media empire.

Parliament was to break for the summer on Tuesday after lawmakers grilled Murdoch, his son James and Murdoch’s former British chief executive Rebekah Brooks in a highly anticipated public airing about the scandal. Cameron said “it may well be right to have Parliament meet on Wednesday so I can make a further statement.”

Cameron spoke in Pretoria, South Africa, on the first day of a two-day visit to Africa. He had planned a longer trip, but cut it short as his government faces a growing number of questions about its cozy relationship with the Murdoch empire and a scandal that has taken down top police and media figures with breathless speed.

** FILE ** British Prime Minister David Cameron gestures during a press conference at 10 Downing St. in London on Friday, July 8, 2011. (AP Photo/ Peter Macdiarmid, Pool)
** FILE ** British Prime Minister David Cameron gestures during a press ... more >

Opposition leader Ed Miliband said Cameron needed to answer “a whole series of questions” about his relationships with Brooks, James Murdoch and Andy Coulson, the former News of the World editor that Cameron later hired as his communications chief. Coulson resigned from that post in January and is one of 10 people who have been arrested in the scandal.

“At the moment, he seems unable to provide the leadership the country needs,” Miliband said of Cameron.

Cameron insisted his Conservative-led government had “taken very decisive action” by setting up a judge-led inquiry into the wrongdoing at the now-defunct Murdoch tabloid News of the World and into overall relations between British politicians, the media and police.

“We have helped to ensure a large and properly resourced police investigation that can get to the bottom of what happened, and wrongdoing, and we have pretty much demonstrated complete transparency in terms of media contact,” Cameron said.

Still, Cameron is under heavy pressure after the resignations of Stephenson and Yates, and Sunday’s arrest of Brooks — a friend of his — on suspicion of hacking and police bribery.

Brooks was detained and questioned for nine hours Sunday before being released on bail. Her lawyer, Stephen Parkinson, released a defiant statement Monday professing her innocence and claiming that London police faced serious questions about her arrest.

Parkinson said police would “have to give an account of their actions” considering “the enormous reputational damage” Brooks‘ arrest had caused to the social and political insider.

Police are under pressure to explain why their original hacking investigation several years ago failed to find enough evidence to prosecute anyone other than News of the World royal reporter Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire. Detectives reopened the investigation earlier this year and now say they have the names of 3,700 potential victims.

Stephenson, the police chief, resigned Sunday over his ties to Neil Wallis, a former News of the World executive editor who has been arrested over the scandal. Stephenson said he had nothing to do with the earlier apparently flawed phone hacking inquiry or Wallis, but was resigning to allow his agency to focus on the London 2012 Olympics instead of leadership changes.

But in his resignation speech on Sunday, Stephenson made pointed reference to Cameron’s hiring of Coulson.

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