UK

Rupert Murdoch arrives to take charge of hacking crisis

  • 10 July 2011
  • From the section UK
  • comments

Rupert Murdoch has arrived in the UK in the midst of the phone-hacking crisis, as he faces growing pressure to scrap his company's takeover bid for BSkyB.

Labour leader Ed Miliband urged him to abandon the bid and also to sack News International (NI) chief Rebekah Brooks, an ex-News of the World editor.

The BBC understands News International found e-mails in 2007 that appeared to show police were paid for information.

News International said it was "co-operating fully with the police".

The evidence of alleged criminal behaviour was not handed to the Metropolitan Police for investigation until 20 June, 2011, BBC business editor Robert Peston reported.

Sources told our correspondent that the e-mails were in the possession of the firm of solicitors, Harbottle & Lewis, before being passed to detectives.

He said the e-mails appear to show Andy Coulson, editor of the News of the World from 2003-2007, authorising payments to the police for help with stories.

And they also appear to show that phone hacking went wider than the activities of a single rogue reporter, which News of the World claimed at the time.

Rupert Murdoch arrives, reading the News of the World
Rupert Murdoch arrives at Wapping to take charge of the crisis

News International says James Murdoch, Rupert's son, had no knowledge of the e-mails that Harbottle & Lewis were asked to review.

Rupert Murdoch flew into the country on Sunday morning and immediately went to News International's head office in east London for talks with key executives.

Mrs Brooks has visited the 80-year-old newspaper tycoon's London home for talks.

The last edition of the News of the World was published on Sunday, with a full-page apology for hacking mobile phones of hundreds of people, including murdered teenager Milly Dowler.

On Thursday, James Murdoch announced the paper would be closing down in the wake of the latest revelations and in its final editorial the paper said: "Quite simply, we lost our way".

Mrs Brooks has been under pressure over staying in her role while journalists on the paper have lost their jobs.

Meanwhile, Mr Miliband said he would force a Commons vote to delay News Corporation's proposed takeover of the whole of BSkyB, until the investigation into the NoW was completed.

Mr Miliband denied he had "declared war on Rupert Murdoch" but also called on him to abandon the BSkyB bid.

Campaigners, including actor Hugh Grant, have claimed the closure of the paper was a cynical move designed to protect the BSkyB takeover.

Mr Miliband said the takeover should be referred to the Competition Commission rather than "relying on assurances from News International".

He said he did not want to force a vote in the Commons but Prime Minister David Cameron had left him no option.

'Disgusting revelations'

"He has got to understand that when the public have seen the disgusting revelations that we have seen this week, the idea that this organisation, which engaged in these terrible practices, should be allowed to take over BSkyB, to get that 100% stake, without the criminal investigation having been completed and on the basis of assurances from that self-same organisation - frankly that just won't wash with the public," he told BBC1's Andrew Marr programme.

A man reads NoW on the bus
The print run was doubled for the final edition with many extra readers expected to buy it as a souvenir

The Labour leader also denied there were similarities between former NoW editor Andy Coulson, who went on to work for the Conservatives, and his own director of strategy Tom Baldwin, a former journalist at the Times.

Mr Coulson resigned as the prime minister's spokesman in January, saying ongoing hacking claims were distracting him from his job. He denies knowledge of phone hacking during his NoW editorship from 2003-07.

Earlier Andrew Marr asked Mr Miliband about allegations made by Michael Ashcroft, a former deputy Conservative chairman and major donor, that Mr Baldwin had recruited a private investigator to hack into payments made into a Conservative Party bank account by Lord Ashcroft.

Mr Miliband said the claims were not true, Mr Baldwin had denied it and it did not bear comparison with Mr Coulson's situation.

Energy Secretary Chris Huhne, a Liberal Democrat, did not rule out voting for the motion in the Commons but said he would have to study the wording.

Meanwhile, Scotland Yard Assistant Commissioner John Yates has expressed "extreme regret" for not reopening the phone hacking investigation two years ago.

'Emotional' final day

In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, he said he regretted the way he had handled it after reviewing the initial police investigation which led to the conviction of private investigator Glenn Mulcaire in 2007.

Mr Yates said he did not re-examine the 11,000 pages of material recovered from Mulcaire's home but spent eight hours considering the matter, and consulted the Crown Prosecution Service, but decided there was no likelihood of further convictions.

He admitted the Metropolitan Police's reputation had been tarnished by the scandal, but said he had no intention of resigning.

Colin Myler and his staff
Around 200 people will lose their jobs with the closure of the NoW

During a short speech to more than 200 staff outside the paper's offices late on Saturday night editor, Colin Myler held up the 8,674th and final edition, saying: "This is not where we want to be and not where we deserve to be."

The NoW doubled Sunday's print run to five million, with money from the sales being donated to four charities.

The National Federation of Retail Newsagents said sales figures from its members suggested an average increase in sales at midday of more than 30% compared with the total sales from last Sunday.

The family of Milly Dowler, whose phone was allegedly hacked after her abduction in 2002, are set to meet all three main political party leaders this week.

Home Office Minister Damian Green said their views on how the media should now be regulated will be carefully listened to.

Milly's relatives will meet Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg on Monday to discuss the independent inquiries related to the phone hacking scandal before meeting Mr Miliband and Mr Cameron later in the week.

In a letter to MPs released on Saturday, Mrs Brooks denied all knowledge of alleged hacking of Milly's phone or any other case while she was editor.

Around the BBC

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites