James Murdoch has claimed that former News of the World editor Colin Myler and News International’s former Legal Affairs Manager Tom Crone gave “misleading” and “inconsistent” evidence to the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee on the phone hacking scandal. The comments were made yesterday as he gave evidence to the Committee for the second time.
The News International chief executive disputed their testimony when confronted with the accusation that he had previously misled the Committee:
I believe this committee was given evidence by individuals either without full possession of the facts, or now it appears in the process of my own discovery … it was economical… I believe their testimony was misleading and I dispute it.”
He rejected claims that Mr. Crone had made him aware that the contents of the notorious “For Neville” email indicated phone-hacking was widespread and not limited to a single rogue reporter, which James Murdoch has maintained was the extent of his knowledge of the scandal in 2008.
“The nature of the so-called ‘For Neville’ e- mail… any wider spread or evidence or suspicion of wider spread of wrongdoing – none of these things were mentioned to me,” Mr Murdoch said.
In a statement released after the hearing Tom Crone upheld his own position:
“I can perfectly understand why James Murdoch felt the need to discredit Colin Myler and myself. The simple truth is he was told by us in 2008 about the damning email, and what it meant in terms of wider NoW involvement. It seems he now accepts he was told of the email, of the fact that it contained transcripts of voicemail interceptions and that those interceptions were authorised by the News of the World.
“Perhaps Mr Murdoch could explain who he thought was doing the authorising at the News of the World? At best, his evidence on this matter was disingenuous.”
Mr Murdoch was also questioned about the circumstances surrounding a settlement paid in 2007 to Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the PFA, after his mobile phone messages were allegedly hacked by News International’s private investigator Glenn Mulcaire. Murdoch’s apparent lack of interest in the £700,000 settlement awarded to Taylor has been described as “absolutely incredible” by Damian Collins MP.
In an interesting line of questioning Labour MP Tom Watson compared Murdoch to a capo and the culture at News International to that of the Mafia.
The reaction to this is mixed – it has been described as “silly” and damaging to the credibility of the investigation, but other commentators have noted his “antipathy is understandable” after it was revealed on Newsnight that Watson was monitored by private investigators hired by the News of the World. Murdoch apologised to Watson for this and also slammed the surveillance of lawyers representing phone-hacking claimants as “appalling”, “shocking” and “unacceptable”.
Much has been made of Murdoch’s professed ignorance of the goings-on in his own company, with Damian Collins commenting that News International’s handling of the situation
“may not be the Mafia, but it doesn’t sound like Management Today”,
It was, however, announced this afternoon that BSkyB directors are unanimous in their endorsement of James Murdoch after concerns about his integrity were raised by shareholders.
Laura Sandwell is a graduate of the University of East Anglia with a particular interest in public law.