MP's bid to recall Murdoch rebuffed
Friday 29 July 2011
Labour MP Tom Watson said his attempt to recall Rupert Murdoch and his son James to give more evidence to the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee over phone-hacking has been voted down.
Mr Watson revealed the rebuff by his colleagues at a news conference after the committee met today to discuss its next steps in its investigation of the scandal.
Further written evidence has to provided by August 11. The committee will then decide which witnesses to recall.
MPs will write to law firm Harbottle & Lewis to see whether it can provide further evidence about the extent of the phone-hacking scandal now that News International has relaxed the confidentiality clauses in its contract.
Chairman of the committee John Whittingdale said: "We have considered this morning the evidence we received last week from Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks and subsequent statements by certain individuals have raised questions about some of the evidence we have received.
"As a result of that, we are going to write to ask for further details from various areas where evidence is disputed.
"We are writing to Colin Myler, Tom Crone and Jon Chapman. We are also writing to James Murdoch to follow up on a number of questions which he promised us further information on last week."
Mr Whittingdale said it was highly likely James Murdoch would be recalled to give evidence to the committee but he wanted to receive written evidence first.
"I think the chances are that we will reissue to take oral evidence but before doing so I want to get the answers to the detailed questions that we have," Mr Whittingdale told a news conference in Westminster.
He said the letters to Crone, Myler, and Chapman asked them to detail exactly what they dispute about the evidence provided to the committee by the Murdochs and Rebekah Brooks.
He said Crone and Myler's claims to the committee two years ago that an email headed "For Neville", a reference to the News of the World's chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck, was not of any significance now was "directly contradictory" to the statements they gave last week.
"There is no question that Tom Crone and Colin Myler appeared before the committee to give oral evidence and told us they had discovered no evidence that anyone else beyond Clive Goodman had been involved," he said.
"We are now told, we understand from a statement issued to the media, that they had drawn James Murdoch's attention to the significance of the 'For Neville' email. It appeared that when they appeared before us that they didn't think it was significant but they now suggest it is."
Mr Watson said Myler and Crone had been "tricky witnesses" in the original inquiry but the committee was now looking into the cover-up of the phone-hacking scandal.
He said: "What we have got is a flat contradiction between James Murdoch's evidence by two very senior executives (Myler and Crone) in the company."
Mr Whittingdale added: "Obviously we want to see the responses that they send to the letters that we are writing, but Tom Crone and Colin Myler and Jon Chapman have all said that they dispute the evidence given to this committee by James Murdoch.
"We want to hear exactly how they dispute that. I suspect it very likely that we will want to hear oral evidence. If they do come back with statements that are quite plainly different from those given by James Murdoch, we will want to hear James Murdoch's response to that.
"The chances are that this may well involve oral evidence from him as well."
He said it would have made no difference whether the Murdochs or Brooks had given evidence to the committee on oath. The select committee was looking into whether it had been misled but was not concerned with an entire investigation into phone-hacking, he added.
Earlier, a friend of the mother of the murdered schoolgirl Sarah Payne said she was "absolutely devastated" after being told she may have been targeted by a private investigator who hacked phones on behalf of the News of the World.
Sara Payne, who worked closely with the Sunday paper to campaign for tougher child protection laws, previously said she had not been told she was a victim of phone hacking.
But her friend Shy Keenan revealed that Scotland Yard this week told her that her contact details were found in notes compiled by private detective Glenn Mulcaire, who was jailed over phone hacking in January 2007.
Former News of the World editor Ms Brooks, who became close friends with Ms Payne during the paper's campaign, said the latest allegations were "abhorrent".
It is believed that the evidence found in Mulcaire's files relates to a phone given to Ms Payne by the News of the World so she could contact her supporters, the Guardian reported.
Ms Brooks said in a statement: "For the benefit of the campaign for Sarah's Law, the News of the World have provided Sara with a mobile telephone for the last 11 years. It was not a personal gift.
"The idea that anyone on the newspaper knew that Sara or the campaign team were targeted by Mr Mulcaire is unthinkable. The idea of her being targeted is beyond my comprehension."
A source close to News of the World staff said it was understood that Ms Payne's phone did not have voicemail until 18 months ago.
Ms Payne wrote a column for the final issue of the News of the World on July 10 after it was closed amid growing political and commercial pressure over the phone hacking scandal.
Describing the paper as "an old friend", she said it became a driving force behind her campaign for a "Sarah's law" to give parents the right to find out if people with access to their children are sex offenders.
News International, which owns the tabloid, which was forced to close in the wake of the scandal, said it was taking the matter very seriously, was deeply concerned and would cooperate fully with any potential criminal inquiries.
The latest revelation, which comes following allegations the paper illegally accessed the voicemails of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, 7/7 victims' relatives and grieving military families, will ratchet up the pressure on the publishing company and its embattled head James Murdoch.
Mr Murdoch has faced growing scrutiny about his governance in the wake of the scandal, but yesterday reports suggested he been unanimously backed by the board of BSkyB to remain in his role as chairman.
The broadcaster, which is partly-owned by News Corp, News International's parent company, is expected to formally announce its show of support today following lengthy discussions between directors yesterday.
The board meeting was the first since News Corp abandoned a takeover bid for BSkyB because of the hacking furore.
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