Two senior executives from News International turned on James Murdoch last night, accusing him of misleading MPs in his evidence on phone hacking at the News of the World.
Colin Myler, the newspaper's former editor, and Tom Crone, its former legal manager, issued an extraordinary public statement disputing crucial evidence given by Mr Murdoch on Tuesday.
Mr Murdoch told Parliament that when he authorised a payment of more than £700,000 to a victim of phone hacking in 2008 he was "not aware" of an email about hacking which appeared to implicate the paper's chief reporter, Neville Thurlbeck, and which suggested that hacking went beyond one "rogue reporter". But in a statement released last night Mr Myler and Mr Crone disputed Mr Murdoch's version of events and said that they personally had drawn it to his attention.
"We would like to point out that James Murdoch's recollection of what he was told when agreeing to settle the Gordon Taylor litigation was mistaken," they said. "In fact, we did inform him of the 'for Neville' email." News International's parent firm, News Corp, said last night that Mr Murdoch "stands by his testimony".
The contradiction of Mr Murdoch's evidence by two of his most senior advisers, whom he chose to consult before authorising the payment, led to calls for an urgent explanation from him. Tom Watson, a member of the select committee, said: "If these allegations are true, you can only reach the conclusion that James Murdoch misled Parliament."It is a remarkable state of affairs and we require an urgent statement from News Corp as to what they would do to put this right, bearing in mind Rupert Murdoch's assurance that the company has a 'zero-tolerance' approach to wrongdoing."
Throughout his evidence Mr Murdoch insisted that the reason he authorised the payment to Mr Taylor, head of the Professional Footballers' Association, was because of legal advice that it would cost more to fight the case than to settle early outside of court. Campaigners claim that the real reason was to prevent further allegations being aired in court.
Both Mr Crone and Mr Myler are angry at the way they have been treated by News International and fear they are being set up to take responsibi- lity for failures to deal with the crisis.Reuse content