Ed Miliband against Rupert Murdoch's planned BSkyB takeover

Rupert Murdoch's media empire must not be allowed to take over BSkyB while the police are still investigating phone hacking at the News of the World, Ed Miliband said today.

The Labour leader warned Prime Minister David Cameron that unless he stepped in to postpone the deal, he would force the issue to a potentially-damaging Commons vote.



"He has got to understand that when the public have seen the disgusting revelations that we have seen this week, the idea that this organisation, which engaged in these terrible practices, should be allowed to take over BSkyB, to get that 100% stake, without the criminal investigation having been completed and on the basis of assurances from that self-same organisation - frankly that just won't wash with the public," he told BBC1's Andrew Marr show.



News Corporation chairman Mr Murdoch is due to fly into London today to deal with the mounting fallout from the revelation of the scale of the hacking operation.



The final edition of the News of the World went on sale today after it was closed down as a result of the mounting scandal - in what Mr Murdoch said was a "collective decision".



It emerged today that police contacted Sara Payne, the mother of murdered schoolgirl Sarah Payne, to confirm she had not been phone hacked.

Child welfare campaigner Shy Keenan, who with Mrs Payne is of the Phoenix Chief Advocates group, said their names and numbers were checked against the Operation Weeting database.



Police told them yesterday that "the result of the search on the information provided is no trace within the phone billing data held by us or the evidence retrieved from Glenn Mulcaire's notes".

The BSkyB takeover bid has increasingly become the political battleground in the hacking row - with Mr Miliband hoping to exploit serious Liberal Democrat concerns to pile pressure on the Government.

While a vote on Labour's motion on Wednesday would not be binding, it would be hard for ministers not to act if MPs backed a pause.



A consultation on News Corp's bid to buy the remaining BSkyB shares it does not own ended on Friday - with the Government signalling that it could take several months before Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt was in a position to make a ruling.



But Mr Miliband and other senior figures argue that the takeover should have been referred to the Competition Commission and have urged media regulator Ofcom to consider whether the hacking controversy alters its view on whether News Corp was "fit and proper" ti run BSkyB.



Liberal Democrat deputy leader Simon Hughes signalled his support for a delay and called on Labour to consult with the junior coalition party in a bid to formulate a motion both could support.



He told Sky News' Murnaghan: "I would suggest if Labour want our support they come and talk to us about that but if a motion can be formulated that can command wider than Labour party support, that isn't a partisan Labour motion, then I would think they would get wider support," he said.



"My recommendation to my colleagues - and it's not my final decision, it's a parliamentary party decision - would be that we as a parliamentary party make clear that it is our view that the merger should not go ahead until the criminal investigations are completed."



Energy Secretary Chris Huhne did not rule out support for a motion either but said the detail of the wording would have to be studied.



As the hacking controversy unfolded further today, Scotland Yard Assistant Commissioner John Yates expressed his "extreme regret" that he did not act to reopen police inquiries into the allegations two years ago.



Speaking after this week's revelation that the mobile phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler was among those targeted, Mr Yates, who ruled in July 2009 that there was no new evidence, told the Sunday Telegraph: "It is a matter of massive regret we didn't deal with it earlier."



Milly's family will be among hacking victims holding talks at Downing Street with Mr Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg tomorrow about what action the Government is taking.



The Prime Minister announced on Friday that there would be two public inquiries, one led by a judge and looking into phone hacking by newspapers and possible corruption involving police officers taking cash for information - and another into the wider question of press regulation.



Labour has accused him of acting too slowly, blaming his links to figures such as Andy Coulson - the former News of the World editor arrested on Friday as part of the investigations into hacking and police corruption - who he employed as his Number 10 communications director.



Mr Miliband said Mr Cameron still had questions to answer about what he knew about Mr Coulson's past activities when he personally approved his appointment and said he had concerns over whether the twin inquiries would cover "all the major issues".



Talking about the takeover, he said: "After this week I don't believe it's right, and I don't believe the public will accept a position whereby this bid is waved through over the coming months, even if it is in September, on the basis of assurances from News Corporation.



"That is why we are saying the process cannot be competed by Jeremy Hunt until after this criminal investigation."



He said Ofcom "must have a chance, when this criminal investigation is complete, to consider the fit and proper person test".



"I say this to the Prime Minister candidly: I hope, over the next 72 hours, I hope he changes his position on this because I don't want to have to force this to a vote."



He said the judge-led inquiry should look beyond the News of the World and take in practices in the wider media.



Rebekah Brooks, the chief executive of News International which published the Sunday tabloid as well as the Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times, has insisted there was no reason to suspect hacking had taken place at any of the other titles.



Mr Miliband has publicly called for the resignation of Ms Brooks - who edited the News of the World at the time of the Milly Dowler hacking.



Asked if he had been warned off taking a stand, he said: "I don't think people at News International were very happy about what I have been saying this week.



"We speak to them; they were not very keen for me to say what I said."



He conceded that Labour leaders including himself had become "too close" to News International and other media groups - leading to a failure to speak out about problems.



One result of the present crisis should be to ensure politicians were no longer afraid to speak out, he said.



The News of the World signed off with the front-page headline: "Thank you & goodbye and admitted to readers in a page three apology: "Quite simply we lost our way."



Mr Miliband denied that his strategy director, Tom Baldwin, a former Times journalist, had been involved in wrongdoing.

Conservative Party donor Lord Ashcroft has alleged Mr Baldwin asked a private investigator to obtain information about his bank account.



Mr Miliband told Marr: "People are trying to make a comparison between Andy Coulson, who resigned from the News of the World over phone hacking of the Royal Family, and Tom Baldwin, who works for me.



"I think this is ridiculous, let me just explain why. Tom Baldwin was engaged in The Times newspaper including an investigation of Michael Ashcroft, about whom there was massive public interest."



Asked about the specific allegations, he said: "Tom Baldwin absolutely denies this.



"And I have to say that this is pretty desperate stuff because the Prime Minister must answer the real questions at the heart of this affair - about his error of judgment in hiring Andy Coulson and the mounting evidence there now is about the warnings that were given to him before he brought Andy Coulson into the heart of the Government machine."



Mr Miliband also renewed his demands for Mrs Brooks to be sacked.



"I think it beggars belief that Rebekah Brooks is still in her post - Rebekah Brooks was the editor at the time that Milly Dowler's phone was hacked," he said.



"The idea she's still in her post, I don't think the public can understand how that can possibly be the case."



Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Joe Cocker performing on the Stravinski hall stage during the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland in 2002
musicHe 'turned my song into an anthem', says former Beatle
News
Clarke Carlisle
sport
Sport
footballStoke City vs Chelsea match report
Arts and Entertainment
theatreThe US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
News
Coca-Cola has become one of the largest companies in the world to push staff towards switching off their voicemails, in a move intended to streamline operations and boost productivity
peopleCoca-Cola staff urged to switch it off to boost productivity
Environment
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Chessington

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Service Desk Analyst - Chessington, Surrey...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

Ashdown Group: Analyst Programmer (Filemaker Pro/ SQL) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days, pension, private medical : Ashdown Group: A highly...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Chessington

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Service Desk Analyst - Chessington, Surrey...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there