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Andy Coulson paid by News International while working for David Cameron?

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Andy Coulson

© Rex Features / Steve Back

Andy Coulson was receiving payments from News International while he was employed as David Cameron's communications director, it has been alleged.

The BBC's business editor Robert Peston has claimed that the ex-News of the World editor was receiving contractual severance payments from the newspaper group following his resignation as editor of the Sunday tabloid.

Coulson - who has repeatedly maintained that he was unaware of any phone hacking taking place at the paper - resigned as editor in January 2007, and is alleged to have been paid by his former employers until the end of that year.

He began work as Cameron's director of communications in July 2007, when the British prime minister was leader of the opposition. He stepped down from this post in January 2011, saying that "continued coverage" of phone hacking allegations at the News of the World was making it difficult for him to continue doing the job at the highest level.

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Peston has alleged on his official BBC blog that Coulson received "several hundred thousand pounds" as part of his severance package.

"I am told that Mr Coulson also continued to receive his News International work benefits, such as healthcare, for three years, and he kept his company car," the journalist further wrote.

News International refused to confirm or deny Peston's allegations on Monday night, saying: "News International consistently does not comment on the financial arrangements of any individual."

Coulson himself has not yet commented on the claims.

> George Osborne 'regrets' recommending Andy Coulson
> James Murdoch 'likely' to be recalled over phone hacking evidence

The finances of the under-fire newspaper group have been subject to intense scrutiny since further revelations about phone hacking emerged earlier this summer.

Labour MP Tom Watson, who sits on the culture, media and sport committee, told Peston on Twitter that he intends to refer the matter to the Electoral Commission, describing it as "an undeclared donation to the [Conservative party] by News International".

Watson also told The Guardian: "We need to be certain that everyone involved in hiring Andy Coulson was not aware of these additional payments from [News International]. We need a cast iron guarantee nobody knew."

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