Phone hacking: Rupert Murdoch 'could face MPs'

Rupert Murdoch and Rebekah Wade Rupert Murdoch arrived in the UK on Sunday to handle the crisis

News Corporation boss Rupert Murdoch may appear before an MPs' committee next week over the phone hacking scandal - a senior MP has claimed.

But committee chairman John Whittingdale later told the BBC there was "some confusion" over whether he would accept the invitation.

MPs have also asked James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks to attend a hearing.

David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband met on Tuesday to discuss details of proposed hacking inquiries.

The three party leaders held an hour-long meeting in No 10 and it is expected the prime minister will make a statement to MPs on Wednesday on the terms and parameters of the inquiries.

On a day in which further allegations were made about journalistic practices at News International, the culture, media and sport committee submitted a "polite request" to Mr Murdoch, his son James and News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks to appear before it next Tuesday.

Mr Murdoch, the head of News Corporation, flew into the UK on Sunday to take charge of the phone hacking crisis at its UK newspaper arm.

He and his son James, the chairman, and chief executive of News International Mrs Brooks - a former editor of the News of the World - have been asked, but not summoned, to appear before the committee next week.

'Take on their critics'

It is unclear whether the committee could compel the Murdochs, who are US citizens, to attend but could do so with Mrs Brooks.

The culture, media and sport committee, chaired by Conservative MP Mr Whittingdale, looked into phone hacking allegations in 2009, as part of a wider inquiry.

Mr Whittingdale had told the BBC he had been told the three would attend the hearing and said he was pleased they had chosen to attend and "take on their critics and account for themselves in Parliament".

Start Quote

We have been made aware of the request from the CMS committee to interview senior executives and will co-operate”

End Quote News International

But he later told BBC Radio 4's PM programme was "still hoping" that they would but that there "was some confusion reigning".

"We understood a News International spokesman said all three would attend but it appears that we haven't had final confirmation of that," he said.

A spokeswoman for News International did not say whether all three executives would attend but said: "We have been made aware of the request from the CMS committee to interview senior executives and will co-operate. We await the formal invitation."

In 2003, when she was editor of the Sun, Mrs Brooks appeared before the committee during an inquiry into media intrusion when she famously told MPs: "We have paid the police for information in the past."

'Complete picture'

It is not currently holding an inquiry into the latest phone hacking allegations - next Tuesday's hearing would be a specially convened one-off evidence session.

Tom Watson - a Labour member of the committee who has led a campaign against phone hacking - told BBC Radio 4's World at One: "We want to ask Rebekah Brooks about her knowledge of payments to the police, we'd like to ask James Murdoch about how he authorised payments to silences Gordon Taylor and I think we'd like to ask Rupert Murdoch, he might be the most powerful media oligarch on the planet, I think he owes Mr and Mrs Dowler an apology."

Mr Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, received an out-of-court settlement over claims his phone was hacked in April 2008. James Murdoch said last week he regretted having approved out-of-court settlements when he did not have "a complete picture".

Start Quote

Rupert Murdoch must now recognise the strength of public feeling and the will of all the major parties”

End Quote Ed Miliband

He also said the paper had "made statements to Parliament without being in the full possession of the facts".

Calls have been growing for News Corporation to scrap its bid to fully takeover BSkyB - in which it already owns a 39.1% share - since new phone hacking allegations about the News of the World emerged last week.

Both Mr Miliband and Deputy PM Nick Clegg have urged Mr Murdoch to reconsider the bid - while Prime Minister David Cameron said the company should "focus on clearing up the mess that there is rather than focus on the next corporate move".

On Tuesday it was referred to the Competition Commission by Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, after News Corp withdrew its undertaking to spin off Sky News as a separate company.

But on Wednesday, MPs will be asked to vote on a Labour motion that "this House believes that it is in the public interest for Rupert Murdoch and News Corporation to withdraw its bid for BSkyB".

Downing Street has said the government, with the exception of Mr Hunt who has a quasi-judicial role in the final decision, will back the motion. The prime minister's spokesman said the motion essentially reflected what Mr Cameron had said on Monday.

Mr Miliband welcomed the news and said: "Rupert Murdoch must now recognise the strength of public feeling and the will of all the major parties."

Mr Miliband and Mr Clegg this week met the Dowler family - whose daughter Milly was murdered in 2002 and, it is alleged, had her mobile phone hacked into by a private investigator working for the News of the World. Mr Cameron is due to meet them on Wednesday.

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