The cover-up, the lieutenants, and the blame game: MPs go on record
Select committee's findings lay bare how News Corp 'misled Parliament'
James Cusick is political correspondent of The Independent and The Independent on Sunday. As an experienced member of the lobby, he has previously worked at The Sunday Times and the BBC. His career as a journalist has been split between print and television, including senior positions as producer with Sir David Frost and at BBC Newsnight. He is also an award-winning golf and travel writer, working for over a decade as the UK contributing editor for one of the USA’s leading golf magazines. He broadcasts regularly for the BBC and CNN. He lives in London.
Wednesday 02 May 2012
Perhaps the most succinct summary of the Media Select Committee's report came from one of the Labour MPs who helped write it. "We have been led up the garden path," Paul Farrelly said. Beyond its conclusion that News International and the News of the World "misled Parliament", the report contains numerous damning findings.
News International's misleading investigations
In 2006, Clive Goodman, then the royal editor of the NOTW, and Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator, were arrested on suspicion of illegally intercepting voicemails. They were convicted and jailed in 2007. News International still insists it carried out internal investigations to try to discover if there were others involved but, says the committee, these investigations were part of "an elaborate strategy to exaggerate evidence in support of the company's innocence".
Beginning of the cover-up
When Goodman came out of jail in 2007, NI paid him a year's salary of £90,000. Les Hinton, then executive chairman, authorised a further £153,000. This was described as "extraordinary... it is impossible not to question the company's motives". Of Mr Hinton's evidence on the pay-off, there was "a deliberate effort to mislead the committee".
Keeping Mulcaire off the radar
The committee found NI was determined to cover up the true extent of phone hacking and was willing to meet all Mulcaire's legal bills to prevent him from revealing, in court, the names of those who instructed him at the NOTW.
Keeping Taylor out of court
Phone hacking went beyond Goodman and his royal targets. The footballers' union boss Gordon Taylor launched a hacking claim and settled out of court for £700,000. The report found "keeping the settlement out of the public eye was absolutely central to the agreement". NI's legal boss, Tom Crone, "misled the committee" about what lay behind negotiations with Taylor's lawyer, Mark Lewis.
'Rogue reporter' line exploded
The report says the Taylor deal was done to "buy silence" and to avert future civil claims. Settling at £700,000, according to the report, indicated "some senior people at NI were aware ... that the 'rogue reporter' claim was untrue".
Keeping silent on the real evidence
In their evidence to the committee, Mr Crone and the NOTW editor at the time, Colin Myler, offered assurances that nothing would be found on hacking beyond Goodman. The report says categorically: "This was not true". Both Mr Crone and Mr Myler "deliberately" avoided disclosing what they knew. Both also attempted to "downplay" the significance of a key piece of evidence – the "For Neville" email. This showed hacking went beyond Goodman.
What James Murdoch was told
Mr Crone claimed he showed James Murdoch the email that revealed the rogue reporter line was unsound. Mr Murdoch says Mr Crone and Mr Myler's account of this is false. The report attacks Mr Murdoch's lack of curiosity and criticises his "wilful ignorance" as "astonishing". The episode raises questions about his competence, it says.
NI's strategy to blame the lieutenants
Senior figures at the company realised at the end of 2010 that it needed a new strategy. It decided to "lay the blame on certain individuals" including Colin Myler and Tom Crone "whilst striving to protect more senior figures, notably James Murdoch". The report says this strategy demonstrates "huge failings of corporate governance".
Verdict on Rupert Murdoch
The report concludes Rupert Murdoch did not take steps to become fully informed about phone hacking. In MPs' words, he "exhibited wilful blindness to what was going in his companies and publications". Although the committee was split on whether this conclusion should appear, these words jump out of page 70: "Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company."
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