Ex-prime minister issues statement voicing concern over lack of 'satisfactory explanation' for how Sun learned of child's health
Gordon Brown and his wife Sarah have challenged Rebekah Brooks's claims at the Leveson inquiry that the ex-prime minister was content to see details of his son's cystic fibrosis published in the Sun.
Former advisers have already made clear that in November 2006 Brown was deeply upset when his staff was informed by political journalists that the Sun had got hold of the story that his four-month-old son Fraser had been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis.The Sun team wanted to know how Brown, who was chancellor at the time, and his staff wanted to handle the fact and whether it wished to issue a statement to the paper.
Following consultations, Brown told his communications staff to tell the Sun that he planned to make a statement to the Press Association and that he did not want it to be seen that he was giving an exclusive about a story of this nature to the newspaper.
Following this, there were further personal private phone calls between Brooks and Sarah Brown, as well as Gordon Brown himself.
It is alleged that in this series of discussions, Brooks objected to the idea of the Browns giving their exclusive to the press in general, and said that once he was prime minister, he would not be able to handle these kind of personal issues in this way.
Hours after Brooks had appeared at the inquiry, the Browns said they had always tried to keep their children away from the limelight, adding: "The idea that we would have volunteered our permission or were happy that a story about our son's health was about to enter the public domain is untrue."
"We were presented via the Treasury press office with the notification that the Sun had obtained information about our newborn son's health a few months after his birth in 2006 and was preparing to run a story."
The statement went on: "At no stage did anyone from the Sun ask permission to publish this story. Given that we were presented with a fait accompli, our whole objective was to minimise the damage. We handled it as best we could at the time.
"Sarah Brown did speak at length to Mrs Brooks to ensure that reporting was not unduly negative about the prospect for her son's health, mindful of her own family and of other CF families around Britain. She then quickly contacted her wider family and friends as they had not yet been notified. Every subsequent action that followed was an attempt to reduce any future coverage about our children."
"We remain concerned that there is no satisfactory explanation of how private medical information, known to very few people, got into the hands of The Sun and the possible payments involved."
Asked by Jay at the inquiry if she had the express permission of the Browns to publish the story about their son, Brooks replied: "Absolutely."
In a series of exchanges, she added she would not have published the story if the Browns had asked her not to run it.
"There are many examples [of] very tragic situations in people's lives where people have asked me not to run the story and I haven't, and I wouldn't have done – they gave me permission to run it. It is the only way we would have put that in the public domain," said Brooks.