Murdoch Jnr recalled to Parliament for more questions over hacking

News Corp deputy chief suffers setback as 35 per cent of shareholders vote against his re-election
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The Independent Online

James Murdoch is to be recalled to Parliament to answer questions on phone hacking – just days before he must fight for his future as chairman of the satellite broadcaster BSkyB.

The deputy chief operating officer of News Corp will be questioned by MPs on 10 November about allegations he misled them over the extent of his knowledge of phone hacking by the News of the World.

Mr Murdoch will be asked by the committee about two meetings with executives in 2008 when he was allegedly told there was evidence that phone hacking was being carried out by more than one reporter.

Mr Murdoch's career hangs in the balance. Last night he suffered a sharp rebuke from News Corp shareholders, with nearly 35 per cent of its investors voting against his re-election to the board. The percentage of votes cast against Mr Murdoch is even higher when the fact the Murdoch family controls 40 per cent of News Corp's voting shares is taken into account.

Also, the company's largest individual shareholder, Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, voted his 7 per cent stake in favour of the family.

Next month, after he gives evidence to a parliamentary committee investigating phone hacking, he will face calls at BSkyB's annual general meeting for his removal as chairman.

His role in the affair was defended yesterday by one of his father Rupert's most trusted lieutenants. Les Hinton, who resigned from News Corp in July after working for the company for 52 years, told the Commons Culture, Media and Sport committee that there was "no reason" why James Murdoch should stand down.

Appearing before MPs yesterday via a video link from New York, Mr Hinton was asked by the Labour MP Tom Watson whether James Murdoch, who took over from Mr Hinton as head of News International in December 2007, should also resign over the company's handling of the scandal.

"Should James Murdoch take responsibility for what happened on his watch?" asked the MP.

"I see no reason why James Murdoch should resign," Mr Hinton replied.

The Murdoch loyalist exasperated his questioners by professing ignorance of what was known within News International while he was running the company. The Conservative MP Damian Collins said: "Forgive me Mr Hinton, for someone who has worked for a news company for 50 years, you don't seem to have a very inquiring mind." Mr Hinton said he was running a company of 4,000 and had "a lot of other things to do". He said: "You can, in retrospect, challenge whether I was sufficiently inquiring, it's a fair point."

But he claimed that News International's response to the scandal, which emerged with the jailing of journalist, Clive Goodman, and private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire, had been "thorough" – despite the subsequent multiple arrests of NI employees.

Mr Hinton challenged the idea that News International had misled the committee. "It's clear some of the answers were not accurate, whether you would call them untruthful, I don't know."