The News of the World was “the centre of my life”, its former managing editor told the hacking trial today.

Kuttner was giving evidence despite suffering ill-health.

Kuttner was giving evidence despite suffering ill-health.

Retired Stuart Kuttner, 74, who is accused of being part of a conspiracy to hack phones, spoke of his dedication to the newspaper as he gave evidence in the witness box at the Old Bailey.

He said: “May I just say something? I’m trying to say I was dedicated to a large newspaper. The News of the World was the centre of my life.”

He told the court that his responsibilities included approving cash payments and keeping the newspaper on budget during his 22 years in the role. He retired four years ago.

Before joining NotW, he had worked for other national newspapers as a reporter covering stories including the Profumo affair and the Moors murders.

At the NotW, he said: “My responsibility was to bring in the paper within or beneath the annual budget.”

On cash payments, he said: “A very few stories were made in cash – a tiny minority, small minority. And just as I signed off approval for financial documents including payments for stories, pictures and articles and the like, I was asked to approve cash payments.”

Describing his relationship with former editor Rebekah Brooks, he said: “Rebekah Brooks was a long-time colleague of mine and I noticed on the report from court weeks ago she spoke of a generation gap and that’s true. I admired her.”

He said she was “ambitious in a perfectly natural way”.

He also described Brooks’s successor as NotW editor, Andy Coulson, as “professional” and “focused”.

But he said former royal editor and co-defendant Clive Goodman was an “enigma”.

Kuttner said: “I think my concern about Clive was he did not want to go out on a story, which seemed to be a thing that journalists should do.”

He said he and Brooks travelled to Paris in his place on one occasion to secure a story.

Kuttner was giving evidence despite suffering ill-health. He has had two heart attacks and a stroke in recent years, the Old Bailey heard.

He began his evidence in place of Goodman, who was still too unwell to continue with his cross-examination, the jury was told.

Kuttner, of Woodford Green, Essex, denies conspiring with former NotW editors Brooks and Coulson, and others, to hack phones between October 3 2000 and August 9 2006. His evidence is expected to last for four days.