The opposition British Labour Party has demanded that the investigation of the phone-hacking scandal that has engulfed the News of the World (NOTW) commence immediately so that more crucial evidence is not lost.

The NOTW will publish for the last time on Sunday after almost 170 years.

Labour’s shadow culture secretary, Ivan Lewis, wrote to Prime Minister David Cameron asking for immediate discussions so that by the end of the day we are in a position to agree the appointment of the judge to lead independent inquiries into the scandal.

Harriet Harman, Labour's deputy leader, told Sky News: Think about what is going to happen at the end of today: the News of the World is going to be closed down, all the staff are going to be disappearing. What will happen to the computers? If a judge is really to find out what happened, not to mention the police inquiry, if all the staff are going off in different directions it would be very difficult for the judge to call on them to come and give the evidence that they know.

Harman added: Action should have been taken and could have been taken before by our government... for us there was a sense that the Murdoch empire was too powerful when we were in government.”

The office of Cameron (who has close ties with some NOTW editors) said it is taking steps to probe the paper as rapidly as possible and legally permissible and will soon appoint a judge to lead the investigation.

Meanwhile, News International (the company that publishes NOTW) has described as “rubbish” an article in the Guardian report that alleged that company executives might have deleted millions of e-mails related to hacking activities.

A spokeswoman for the company stated: This assertion is rubbish. We adopted a documented e-mail retention policy in line with our US parent's records management policy. We are co-operating actively with police and have not destroyed evidence.

Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of News Corp., which controls NOTW and is the parent of News International, will arrive in London on Sunday to deal first-hand with the gathering storm.

But, News Corp. faces other headaches beyond the closure of a high-circulation newspaper and the ongoing criminal probes. Advertisers and stockholders are pulling out in droves.

Even the Church of England has threatened to withdraw its £3.7-million investment in News Corp. unless senior executives are punished for the phone-hacking scandal.