UK

Phone hacking: MPs vote not to recall James Murdoch

  • 29 July 2011
  • From the section UK

MPs have voted against recalling News International chairman James Murdoch to give more evidence on phone hacking.

Labour MP Tom Watson had wanted Mr Murdoch and two ex-News of the World (NoW) executives to appear before MPs.

The former NoW men dispute Mr Murdoch's claim to have been unaware of an email suggesting hacking was widespread.

The culture committee will ask for more details, and chairman John Whittingdale said it was "very possible" Mr Murdoch would be asked to reappear after that.

The Tory MP said it would also write to law firm Harbottle and Lewis which investigated the phone-hacking claims on behalf of News International.

He told a news conference that the Commons culture, media and sport committee would meet again once it had received replies.

Later, Mr Whittingdale told the BBC: "The areas where I'm particularly keen to get additional information is from [former legal manager] Tom Crone, [former editor] Colin Myler and [former legal director] Jon Chapman, where they say the evidence we were given by James Murdoch was wrong.

"So what we've agreed to do is to ask them to give us those extra details. When we have received that response we may well wish to call them in and take oral evidence.

"On the basis of that I think it's very possible we will want to put those points to James Murdoch."

'For Neville'

In other developments:

Earlier this month, James Murdoch told the committee that he was not aware of a key document - known as the "for Neville" email - when he approved an out-of-court settlement with Gordon Taylor, the Professional Footballers' Association chief executive.

But the two former NoW executives, Mr Myler and Mr Crone, later released a statement saying they did inform him of the email.

Mr Murdoch has said he "stands by his testimony" to the committee.

Mr Watson told BBC Two's Newsnight programme on Thursday that he would make the recall requests to the committee on Friday "so that we can get to the bottom of this, find the facts and Parliament can then move on and let the police do their inquiry".

In April 2008, James Murdoch authorised the payment of an out-of-court settlement of more than £600,000 to Gordon Taylor over the hacking of his phone.

Mr Murdoch has said that, at the time, he did not know the full extent of hacking that may have been going on at the NoW.

That paper's royal editor Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire were both jailed for hacking into phones of the royal household in 2007.

Sarah Payne
Ms Payne started campaigning after her daughter Sarah was killed in 2000

But the email in question was marked "for Neville" and is said to have implied the NoW's chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck was also implicated in malpractices.

Before the committee's decision was announced, Labour's deputy leader Harriet Harman told the BBC it was right to recall Mr Murdoch before the committee.

She said he gave evidence that had "now been flatly contradicted" by Mr Crone and Mr Myler and that "in the face of a complete conflict of evidence, the committee is entitled to get to the bottom of where the truth lies".

Shadow culture secretary Ivan Lewis also said it was vital the select committee heard more evidence from Mr Murdoch.

"[News Corporation and News International] now claim they're in full co-operation mode. If that's the case, and there are discrepancies, it's very, very important that he, and other people who are relevant to this, go back to that select committee and give evidence," he said.

Sarah's Law

The latest development comes after the mother of murder victim Sarah Payne learned she may have been a phone hacking victim.

Police told Sara Payne her details were in notes compiled by Mulcaire, who was used by the NoW, which championed her Sarah's Law child protection campaign.

According to a report in the Guardian, the evidence uncovered by police in Mulcaire's notes is believed to relate to a phone given to Ms Payne by the NoW's then-editor Rebekah Brooks "as a gift to help her stay in touch with her supporters".

The BBC has not been able to confirm whether the evidence relates to this particular mobile.

But Mrs Brooks, who left her role as NI chief executive because of the hacking scandal but denies having had any knowledge of the practice while at the paper, says the phone "was not a personal gift".

She said the allegations were "abhorrent and particularly upsetting as Sara Payne is a dear friend".

In a statement , Ms Payne's charity, Phoenix Chief Advocates, said she was "absolutely devastated" by the claims.

News International said it would co-operate fully with any potential criminal inquiries or civil proceedings which may arise.

The Metropolitan Police's Operation Weeting is investigating claims of phone hacking at News of the World, which was shut down earlier this month after it emerged that the phone of murder victim Milly Dowler had been hacked.

'Shareholder base'

On Friday it was announced that James Murdoch had received the backing of the BSkyB board to remain as the company's chairman. The decision was confirmed in BSkyB's annual results statement .

BSkyB chief executive Jeremy Darroch told the Today programme the decision to keep Mr Murdoch in the position had been unanimous.

"I think James has got strong support in the shareholder base, he's got strong support in the management base and unanimous support in the board."

Mr Darroch said the board would keep a watching brief on external events but when asked what it would take to get Mr Murdoch to step down, refused to speculate.

He said: "I'm not going to speculate on things in the future, there are a whole set of inquiries that are going on, they will establish the full facts of what's happened, what we will do is focus on our business - Sky - and keep developing that and keep delivering."

Meanwhile, a man has admitted throwing a shaving cream pie at News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch during his select committee appearance with his son James.

Jonathan May-Bowles, 26, of Windsor, Berkshire, admitted behaviour causing harassment, alarm or distress in a public place under Section 5 of the Public Order Act.