MPs to quiz executives on James Murdoch's evidence
Politicians recall witnesses to explain inconsistencies
Andrew Grice has been Political Editor of The Independent since 1998. He was previously Political Editor of The Sunday Times, where he worked for 10 years, and he has been a Westminster-based journalist since 1982. His column, Inside Politics, appears in The Independent each Saturday.
Thursday 28 July 2011
Two senior executives from the News of the World are expected to be summoned back to Parliament to be questioned over James Murdoch's conduct during a critical episode in the phone-hacking scandal.
Colin Myler, the newspaper's former editor, and Tom Crone, its former legal manager, are both known to be angry about their treatment by News International – and they are set to return to face questions from the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee about Mr Murdoch's involvement in paying off hacking victims.
Last week, the two men issued a statement flatly contradicting Mr Murdoch's evidence to the committee two days earlier. They insisted they had told him about an email containing evidence of hacking that would have scuppered the Murdoch newspaper group's repeated claims that only one "rogue reporter" was involved in the criminality.
The "for Neville" email, a reference to Neville Thurlbeck, the paper's former chief reporter, lies at the heart of the hacking scandal. It played a critical role in NI's decision to pay a reported £700,000 to Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, in an out-of-court settlement after he claimed his phone had been hacked. The payment was sanctioned by Mr Murdoch, now chairman of News Corp in Europe and Asia.
The two executives say they told Mr Murdoch about the "for Neville" email, which included transcripts of voicemail messages suggesting the practice was not limited to Clive Goodman, the paper's former royal editor, and the private investigator Glenn Mulcaire; they were jailed in 2007. The committee will discuss its next moves tomorrow. MPs on the committee believe they need to investigate the dispute on the grounds that either Mr Murdoch or Mr Myler and Mr Crone may have made a misleading statement. "We will probably recall Colin Myler and Tom Crone to give evidence again," a committee source said yesterday.
The MPs are thought to be reluctant to recall Mr Murdoch for another grilling so soon after last week's session, but that has not been ruled out. He has told the committee he is sticking to his evidence that he was "not aware" of the email. "I answered truthfully. I stand by my testimony," he said.
Yesterday Paul Farrelly, a Labour member of the committee, called for an assurance that the Metropolitan Police will investigate an alleged cover-up by NI during its current inquiry into the affair. In a letter to Sue Akers, the deputy assistant commissioner heading the inquiry, the MP said it would be "immensely helpful" as the committee considers what to do next to know that the police will look at "what appears to be a cover-up of evidence" as well as the full extent of hacking. He said the police should consider whether there have been "acts or omissions, which have not only misled Parliament, but may have led to a perversion of the course of justice."
Mr Farrelly said: "This would include not only concealment of evidence, but payments knowingly intended to buy silence and co-operation."
Mr Myler and Mr Crone said in their joint statement that Mr Murdoch's recollection was mistaken. "In fact, we did inform him of the 'for Neville' email which had been produced by Gordon Taylor's lawyers, " they said. The claim suggests that Mr Murdoch misled MPs.
When they appeared before the Culture Committee in 2009, Mr Myler said of the Taylor settlement: "Mr Crone advised me what the legal advice was and it was to settle. James Murdoch was advised of the situation and agreed with our legal advice that we should settle."
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