No escape as Murdoch faces date with phone-hacking victims


Rupert Murdoch will come face to face with victims of his employees' systematic phone hacking next week after the media mogul gave way and agreed to give evidence on the scandal to Parliament.

The head of the House of Commons committee John Whittingdale, who will lead Tuesday's historic examination of Mr Murdoch and his son James, told The Independent he would try to ensure the family of Milly Dowler and other victims could be present. At least one member of the committee to question Mr Murdoch was targeted by the News of the World: the MP Tom Watson.

Mr Murdoch will be asked by MPs to apologise for the first time on behalf of his company for the hacking. He will also be questioned on whether he knew, approved or suspected any cover-up by News International.

His son James will be asked to detail when he discovered that his key lieutenants had misled Parliament over the affair and why he approved a secret £700,000 payment to one of the phone hacking victims.

In the coming days, MPs are to meet with Parliamentary lawyers to ensure that the Murdochs cannot evade their questions on the grounds of cutting across the continuing police investigation. Speaker's counsel is also expected to be present at the hearing to provide advice to MPs on the Culture, Media and Sport Committee.

Initially just Rebekah Brooks, the embattled chief executive officer of News International, had agreed to appear – although she made clear she might not answer many of the MPs' questions.

James Murdoch told the committee he could not make that date and offered alternatives of 10 or 11 August, in the middle of the Commons summer recess, while his father simply said he was unavailable. Their defiant response provoked fury across the political spectrum, with David Cameron leading demands for them to attend. Mr Whittingdale also warned he would report them for contempt of Parliament, which led to theoretical sanctions including a fine or even imprisonment.

The prospect of such humiliating treatment appeared to have forced the dramatic change of heart by the trio.

Speaking about Tuesday's meeting – which will attract worldwide interest – Mr Whittingdale said he would ensure that the Murdochs would not be able to get out of answering key questions about the affair on legal grounds.

"My intention is to have a briefing for members by Speaker's Counsel before the meeting to ensure out questions do not cut across the police inquiry.

"But James Murdoch has already gone on the record to say that the committee was misled by News International executives. We will want to know in what way, who was responsible and when he first discovered what was going on."

In his letter confirming his attendance James Murdoch said he was concerned that his evidence did not cut across other inquiries.

"We have been advised that, in the light of the fact that there are to be multiple reviews of the issues, this does carry the risk of prejudicing other judicial proceedings in particular the ongoing police investigation," he wrote.

"I would therefore respectfully asked that you take the utmost care."

Mr Whittingdale added that while space would be tight, he would ensure that if the Dowler family wanted to attend the hearing they could and added that he would liaise with the Parliamentary authorities to try to provide access to the other victims of hacking.

The Tory MP Therese Coffey, who is also on the committee, said: "We want to get to the bottom of why their executives misled the previous committee and what the truth was behind the situation at the News of the World."

The Lib Dem Adrian Sanders added: "We will be asking what happened when, who knew what when and who ultimately took the decisions."

He said the MPs would almost certainly quiz Rupert Murdoch over the extent of alleged wrong-doing at the News of the World.

Commons summons

Imprisonment is among the theoretical sanctions facing people who refuse to comply with a summons to appear before a House of Commons select committee.

If there were two empty chairs where the Murdochs should be sitting next Tuesday, the committee chairman, John Whittingdale, would report them for contempt to Commons Speaker, John Bercow. It would then be considered by the Committee on Standards and Privileges.

Had they chosen not to attend, the Murdochs could have been summoned to the bar of the Commons for a dressing-down by the Speaker – a punishment last administered in 1957.

They could be fined, although that sanction has not been used since the 17th century. They could in theory be jailed.

The punishment would be enforced by Jill Pay, the Serjeant at Arms, pictured above, in charge of Commons security.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Database Executive - Leading Events Marketing Company - London

£23000 - £25000 per annum + 25 days holidays & pension: Ashdown Group: Databas...

Recruitment Genius: Publishing Assistant

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for a...

Guru Careers: Graduate Account Executive / Digital Account Executive

£20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate Digital Account Exec ...

Guru Careers: Print Project Manager

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: A Print Project Manager is needed to join one...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living