Letters could provide more details on James Murdoch's involvement


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The Independent Online

Written evidence from James Murdoch and the solicitors Harbottle & Lewis about their role investigating the phone hacking scandal at the News of the World four years ago could be published as early as this weekend.

MPs on the Culture, Media and Sport Committee are to use a scheduled meeting on Friday to consider whether to make public letters – due to be sent to them this week – "clarifying" evidence already given to MPs.

The letters are likely to provide a more detailed picture of exactly what information on the widespread use of phone hacking James Murdoch says he had when he signed off a payment of nearly £1m to Gordon Taylor, the professional footballers' representative, in 2009. The payment contained a gagging clause, preventing him from speaking about the hacking.

The new letters will also clarify the role of Harbottle & Lewis in the case. On Tuesday, Rupert Murdoch appeared to accuse the law firm of failing to fully examine emails which contained evidence of alleged criminality by senior staff at the News of the World. He said the firm had made a "major mistake".

Privately Harbottle & Lewis was said to be furious about the claim and demanded to be released from client confidentially so it could refute it.

On Wednesday News Corp agreed and authorised Harbottle to talk to the police and the select committee. Its evidence may be ready by Friday and if it is, it is likely to be released.

The Government will also publish this week details of all the meetings between cabinet ministers and senior representatives of News International.

These are expected to show that George Osborne, the Chancellor, flew to New York last December and had dinner with Rupert Murdoch, two weeks before Ofcom was due to rule on his bid to take over BSkyB. They will also show meetings between Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary, and News International before he was given responsibility for the BSkyB deal.

The issue of News Corp's lobbying to get approval for its takeover of BSkyB was highlighted yesterday by Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, who told the BBC that the company had employed "heavy lobbying" to get the deal through. It is thought to have pressured Lib Dems and asked them directly to lobby Mr Cable not to refer the bid to the Competition Commission.

Asked if he believed News International was a fit and proper organisation to run BSkyB, Mr Cable said: "That is a big question to ask in light of what has happened. Fortunately it is not for politicians to come to a definitive judgement on that. It is for the regulator and the regulator is now looking at whether they are fit and proper persons to continue to have their share in ownership and they are the people who will come to a decision."