David Cameron is facing a showdown over News Corporation which could see Conservative MPs forced to vote on whether to censure three of Rupert Murdoch's senior lieutenants accused of misleading Parliament.
The Prime Minister, who will have to account for his own links with the Murdoch empire in an appearance before the Leveson Inquiry later this month, will be anxious to avoid confrontations which renew scrutiny of the Tory high command's relation with News International. But a motion will be tabled in the coming days asking MPs to endorse the findings of this week's report by the Culture Select Committee, which found that three Murdoch executives – News of the World lawyer Tom Crone, the paper's former editor Colin Myler and Les Hinton, the former executive chairman of News International – misled Parliament.
If the motion is recommended for debate, it will leave Conservative MPs having to vote on whether to back the committee's findings.
Mr Cameron is already facing the dilemma of how to deal with embattled Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt over last week's revelation that his special adviser was providing News Corp with a running commentary on the progress of its bid for BSkyB during the time when the minister was charged with ruling on the takeover.
The threat of a split in the Coalition increased yesterday when the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg admitted there were "big questions" about News Corp and the fitness of Mr Murdoch to run it.
It remained unclear what sanction, if any, the Parliamentary authorities might be able to apply against the three former NI executives despite the conclusion of the committee that they had committed a contempt of Parliament by failing to disclose their knowledge of crucial aspects of the hacking scandal. Paul Farrelly, a Labour member of the committee, said he hoped the report would be used as an opportunity to introduce a meaningful deterrent against witnesses who mislead Parliament.
The board of News Corp issued a statement last night saying it had "full confidence" in Rupert Murdoch.