Phone hacking: Culture committee's verdict on Murdochs and other key players
- 1 May 2012
- From the section UK Politics
The cross-party House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee has published its report into phone hacking at the News of the World. Here is what it had to say about the key witnesses.
The committee's report says: "On the basis of the facts and evidence before the committee, we conclude that if at all relevant times Rupert Murdoch did not take steps to become fully informed about phone hacking, he turned a blind eye and exhibited wilful blindness to what was going on in his companies and publications.
"This culture, we consider, permeated from the top throughout the organisation and speaks volumes about the lack of effective corporate governance at News Corporation and News International. We conclude, therefore, that Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company."
The committee was split on party lines over the verdict on Rupert Murdoch and other key matters, with the Tories voting against and Labour and the Lib Dems in favour. But the committee was unanimous in its belief that Parliament had been misled by three former News International executives (see below).
The report says it is "simply astonishing" that James and Rupert Murdoch did not realise that phone hacking at the News of the World was not confined to "one rogue reporter" until December 2010. James Murdoch is accused of an "astonishing lack of curiosity" for not reading a chain of emails sent to him in 2008.
On the key issue of whether James Murdoch saw the "For Neville" email in 2008, MPs conclude he has "been consistent" in insisting he did not see a copy of the document until a redacted version was published by the committee in 2010.
Given conflicting accounts, the committee decides it cannot come to a definitive conclusion one way or another on the point, but it adds: "Surprising as it may seem, James Murdoch did not ask to see this crucial piece of evidence, nor the independent counsel's opinion, his lack of curiosity - but wilful ignorance even - subsequently is more astonishing".
The former News of the World editor was, with Les Hinton and Tom Crone, one of three former News International executives accused of giving misleading evidence about the extent of the internal investigation into phone hacking.
In their conclusion, the MPs say: "Corporately, the News of the World and News International misled the committee about the true nature and extent of the internal investigations they professed to have carried out in relation to phone hacking; by making statements they would have known were not fully truthful; and by failing to disclose documents which would have helped expose the truth."
But the report also suggests Mr Myler and the others were used as scapegoats, to some extent, by senior management.
It says: "News Corporation's strategy has been to lay the blame on certain individuals, particularly Colin Myler, Tom Crone and Jonathan Chapman, and lawyers, whilst striving to protect more senior figures, notably James Murdoch.
"Colin Myler, Tom Crone and Jonathan Chapman should certainly have acted on information they had about phone hacking and other wrongdoing, but they cannot be allowed to carry the whole of the blame, as News Corporation has clearly intended. Even if there were a 'don't ask, don't tell' culture at News International, the whole affair demonstrates huge failings of corporate governance at the company and its parent, News Corporation."
Mr Myler, who now edits the New York Daily News, has said he "stands by" his evidence to the committee.
In a statement, he said: "I have always sought to be accurate and consistent in what I have said to the committee. The conclusions of the committee have, perhaps inevitably, been affected by the fragmented picture which has emerged from the various witnesses over successive appearances and by the constraints within which the committee had to conduct its procedure.
"These issues remain the subject of a police investigation and the Leveson judicial inquiry and I have every confidence that they will establish the truth in the fullness of time."
The former legal manager of News Group Newspapers (NGN), which included the News of the World, was also accused of misleading the committee over a £750,000 payout to football union chief Gordon Taylor, whose phone was hacked.
The report says: "News International have told us that, contrary to the evidence previously supplied, the settlement made to Gordon Taylor was higher as a result of the confidentiality requirement sought by NGN. It is not necessary to quantify the amount that related to confidentiality. Keeping the settlement out of the public eye was absolutely central to the agreement.
"Tom Crone was involved in the negotiations and knew that NGN's desire for confidentiality had increased the settlement amount. In seeking to give a counter-impression when questioned about this, Tom Crone misled the committee."
Mr Crone also "sought to mislead the committee about the commissioning of surveillance", said the report.
The former News of the World editor must "accept responsibility" for presiding over a culture at the newspaper that led to journalists impersonating members of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler's family and hacking the teenager's phone, the committee said.
Mrs Brooks and legal affairs director Jonathan Chapman are criticised for her evidence about the level of pay-off offered to former royal reporter Clive Goodman, who was jailed for phone hacking. That evidence is judged to be incomplete either as a result of an attempt to play down the settlement or of ignorance of the full extent of the payments or both.
The former executive chairman of News International who resigned from his post as the publisher of The Wall Street Journal amid the hacking scandal was accused of misleading the committee over his repeated claim that hacking was not rife at the News of The World.
Former News International executive chairman Les Hinton said he was "shocked and disappointed" by MPs' claims that he misled Parliament and was "complicit" in a cover-up of phone hacking.
In a statement, Mr Hinton, who headed News International from 1995 to 2007, rejected the allegations and said the committee's conclusions about him were "unfounded, unfair and erroneous".
"I am shocked and disappointed by the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee's allegations that I have misled Parliament and was 'complicit' in a cover-up. I refute these accusations utterly. I have always been truthful in my dealings with the committee and its findings are unfounded, unfair and erroneous.
"To be clear, not once in my testimony before the committee did I seek to mislead it or pass blame for decisions to others. Nor did I participate in a 'cover-up'. Furthermore, there is nothing in my evidence to support the committee's findings that I did. I will be writing to John Whittingdale, the chair of the committee, to object formally."
The former Acting Deputy Commissioner at the Metropolitan Police was criticised, with Director of Public Prosecutions Kier Starmer, for failing to ensure hacking claims were properly investigated.
"Given the extraordinary revelations in the media and in civil court cases in the years that followed, however, they both bear culpability for failing to ensure that the evidence held by the Metropolitan Police was properly investigated in the years afterwards, given all the opportunities to do so, and that the sufficiency of the evidence was not reviewed by the CPS," the report said.