- Associated Press - Monday, July 18, 2011

LONDON (AP) - British Prime Minister David Cameron, under huge political pressure over the intensifying phone hacking scandal at Rupert Murdoch’s embattled U.K. newspaper empire, said Monday that Parliament should delay its summer break so he can brief lawmakers.

Parliament is due to break up for the summer on Tuesday, but Cameron said that “it may well be right to have Parliament meet on Wednesday so I can make a further statement.”

Cameron was speaking in South Africa, on the first day of a two-day visit to the continent. He had planned a longer trip, but cut it short as his government faces increasing questions about its relationship with the Murdoch media empire amid a scandal that has tainted some of Britain’s top political, media and police figures.

London police chief Paul Stephenson resigned Sunday over his ties to a former News of the World executive editor who has been arrested over the scandal. In his resignation speech Stephenson made pointed reference to Cameron’s hiring of Andy Coulson, a former editor of the shuttered tabloid who was arrested earlier this month over hacking.

Murdoch’s former British CEO _ and Cameron’s friend _ Rebekah Brooks, was arrested Sunday on suspicion of hacking.

Cameron said his government had “taken very decisive action” by setting up a judge-led inquiry into wrongdoing by the newspaper.

Both Stephenson’s resignation and Brooks‘ arrest are ominous not only for Murdoch’s News Corp., but for a British power structure that nurtured a cozy relationship with his papers for years.

The arrest on Sunday of the 43-year-old Brooks, often described as a surrogate daughter to the 80-year-old Murdoch, brought the British police investigations into the media baron’s inner circle for the first time. She was released on bail some 12 hours later, Scotland Yard announced early Monday.

Brooks, the ultimate social and political insider, dined at Christmas with Cameron. His Conservative-led government is now facing increasing questions about its relationship with Murdoch’s media empire.

Rupert and James Murdoch are to be grilled by British lawmakers Tuesday over the scandal. Brooks also had agreed to be questioned before a parliamentary committee, but her arrest throws that appearance into doubt.

Stephenson said he did not make the decision to hire Wallis and had no knowledge of allegations that he was linked to phone hacking, but he wanted his police force to focus on preparing for the 2012 London Olympics instead of wondering about a possible leadership change.

“I had no knowledge of the extent of this disgraceful practice and the repugnant nature of the selection of victims that is now emerging,” Stephenson said. “I will not lose any sleep over my personal integrity.”

Cameron’s office says he is back in Britain on Wednesday. He will visit South Africa and Nigeria. He had also planned to visit Rwanda and Sudan but a decision was made last week to drop that part of the itinerary.

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