British PM says hacking scandal poses 'big problems'

19th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

British Prime Minister David Cameron on Tuesday said the widening phone hacking scandal in his country posed "big problems" that would however be resolved and not distract from other issues.

"These are big problems, but we are a big country and we are going to sort them out," he told reporters after meeting with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan in Lagos.

Cameron added that the government would not lose its focus on the key challenges facing Britain, including restoring growth after the recession.

"I don't underestimate the problems," he said.

"Parts of the media committed dreadful, illegal acts. The police have serious questions to answer about potential corruption and about a failed investigation. Politicians have been too close to media owners."

Cameron was to fly home later in the afternoon after cutting his trip short to deal with the hacking scandal, which has overshadowed his visit to Africa aimed at promoting trade.

He visited South Africa on Monday before travelling to Nigeria, Africa's largest oil producer.

Cameron has ordered a judge-led inquiry into the phone hacking scandal, and will announce further details in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

Cameron spoke as media mogul Rupert Murdoch, his son James and ex-aide Rebekah Brooks faced an extraordinary showdown with British MPs Tuesday over the scandal, and the prime minister has come under increasing pressure over the crisis.

He said during his press conference with the Nigerian president that "people are very concerned about our economy. They want to see real job growth and real investment and improvement. They want to see a government that keeps its promises on things like immigration and welfare."

Despite the turmoil dominating the headlines at home, Cameron continued his schedule as planned Tuesday morning, first by visiting a clinic where he met women bringing their babies to be vaccinated against yellow fever.

He later gave a speech to Lagos Business School at the Pan African University, ahead of his talks with Jonathan.

Cameron's visit was aimed at pushing a message of trade, aid and democracy, calling on the continent to make use of "Africa's moment."

He said aid should be used in a "catalytic way" to boost infrastructure and reduce trade barriers, saying that this, increased trade and a shift towards greater democracy on the continent could help transform Africa.

Cameron could not escape the scandal at home however, with one person in the audience at his speech on Tuesday morning asking him a question about the News of the World and media independence.

In his response, Cameron stressed the need for strong, independent news media, but also responsible regulation.

Cameron will arrive back in Britain late Tuesday to prepare for a statement to the House of Commons on the phone hacking crisis, and to answer questions about his own role in the affair.

He is under increasing pressure over his decision to hire Andy Coulson, a former editor at the scandal-hit News of the World, as his media chief until January.

Coulson was arrested earlier this month over alleged hacking and police corruption, although he denies any wrongdoing.

© 2011 AFP

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