19 Jul 2011

LIVE BLOG: the Murdochs and Rebekah Brooks face MPs

The “most humble” day of Rupert Murdoch’s life, apologies, regret, revelations and foam pie. As MPs grilled the key players in the phone-hack crisis, here’s how the day unfolded – start at the bottom.

LIVE BLOG: Murdochs face MPs in phone-hacking scandal.

Rupert Murdoch: ‘This is the most humble day of my life’

Intruder interrupts hearing and throws foam pie at Murdochs

Ten members of Met Police have worked for News International

19.20: Questioning ends. Rebekah Brooks tells MPs she would like to come back to answer more questions once she is “free from legal constraints”. Brooks concludes: “I know you’ve heard unreserved apologies from Rupert and James Murdoch. I just want to reiterate my own. The most important thing that I feel going forward is to discover the truth behind the allegations, particularly for the family of Milly Dowler.”

Channel 4 News Political Editor Gary Gibbon blogs - The Murdochs face MPs: a surreal blame exercise

19.16: Brooks denies that News International subsidised Andy Coulson‘s salary while he worked for the Tories.

19.12: Brooks attacks rumours surrounding her closeness to the PM. “I have never been horse-riding with David Cameron,” she tells MPs. But she says she is a friend and neigbour of Mr Cameron’s.

19.07: Brooks: “I went to Downing Street regularly while Brown and Blair were at Number 10”. She adds: “Strangely it was while Labour PMs were in Downing St that I went regularly, not under the current administration”.

19.01: Brooks says she did not know that Neville Thurlbeck was an alleged “informant to police”.

18.55: Brooks is questioned about her communications with Scotland Yard regarding the case of Dave Cook, a policeman allegedly put under surveillance by NoW. On 5 July, Channel 4 News reported that Brooks had been informed of the allegations at the time in 2002.

Brooks tells MPs: “My recollection of that meeting was entirely different… on a completely different subject. They [Channel 4 News] say it was a meeting in November.. I checked my diary as much as possible and there was no meeting in November, however there was a subsequent meeting in very early January.

“On the other hand because of my Sarah’s Law campaign I did have some pretty regular meetings at Scotland Yard, mainly with the paedophile unit.”

18.50: Brooks: “[Phone intercepting] was not a practice that was condoned or sanctioned under my editorship.”

18.30: A row erupts involving former NoW editor and US TV presenter Piers Morgan after committee member Louise Mensch alleged the CNN anchor had written in his book about using phone tapping to “get scoops”. Mr Morgan said this was a lie and demanded an apology. They later clash on US television, with Morgan calling Mensch a “coward” for refusing to repeat the claim without the protection of parliamentary privilege – watch here.

18.28: Brooks: “The Milly Dowler story went on for many years. What you are asking me is when did I first hear that [her] phone had been intercepted? The first time I heard that was two weeks ago.”

18.15: Brooks says when Andy Coulson left NoW he had an agreement his legal fees would be paid and it was the same for Clive Goodman.

18.10: Rebekah Brooks says she has never “knowingly sanctioned” a payment to a police officer.

Conservative Party statement:
"There have been some questions about whether the Conservative Party employed Neil Wallis.
"We have double checked our records and are able to confirm that neither Neil Wallis nor his company has ever been contracted by the Conservative Party, nor has the Conservative Party made payments to either of them."It has been drawn to our attention that he may have provided Andy Coulson with some informal advice on a voluntary basis before the election. We are currently finding out the exact nature of any advice.
"We can confirm that apart from Andy Coulson, neither David Cameron nor any senior member of the campaign team were aware of this until this week."

18.00: It is reported by the BBC that Neil Wallis (former deputy NoW editor) was informally advising Andy Coulson before the general election.

17.50: Tom Watson asks Brooks “how extensively” she worked with private detectives during her time as editor of The Sun and the News of the World. She says the use of private detectives in the late 1990s “was a practice” but after the “What price privacy?” report it was stopped. She concedes that NoW used private investigators but will not say if she personally approved payments to them.

More from Channel 4 News: Watching the detectives

17.45: Former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks begins giving evidence.

Rupert Murdoch's wife Wendi Deng fights off an intruder with a foam pie.

(Above: Rupert Murdoch’s wife Wendi Deng fights off an intruder with a foam pie.)

17.30: Rupert Murdoch says he intends to “work tirelessly” to put things right. He says we now know things “went badly wrong” at NoW which led to the paper “betraying readers, me and the magnificent professionals around the world”.

More from Channel 4 News: Murdochs express ‘great regret’ over phone hacking

He concludes: “Invading privacy is wrong, paying police is wrong, neither has any place in any part of the company I run. No excuses. This is why News International is cooperating to see that justice is done.”

Invading privacy is wrong, paying police is wrong, neither has any place in any part of the company I run. No excuses. Rupert Murdoch

17.25: Concluding his questioning, Labour MP Tom Watson tells Rupert Murdoch “your wife has a very good left hook” (although Wendi Deng’s slap was actually executed with her right hand).

17.22: Louise Mensch, a Conservative MP, asks if Rupert Murdoch has considered resigning as CEO of News Corp. He says “no” adding that “I am the best person to clean this up”.

17.10: The hearing gets under way again with MPs thanking the Murdochs for agreeing to continue.

16.55: The hearing is interrupted. An intruder with a plate of foam lunges at Rupert Murdoch. Mr Murdoch’s wife Wendi Deng jumps up to defend her husband, slapping the attacker away. As the man – named as comedian Jonnie Marbles – is led away, Deng throws the empty plate at him.

16:51: James Murdoch says “we haven’t seen the end of this” but denies he knows what Rebekah Brooks meant when she told staff that “in a year” they would understand why the News of the World had to close. He adds “we are where we are” and that the company has acted “as fast as possible”.

16.47: Rupert Murdoch: “I was brought up by a father who was not rich but was a good journalist. He says his father taught him to “do good” and that he would like his children to follow that.

16.40: Rupert Murdoch draws parallels between under-fire practices at News International and the Daily Telegraph “buying stolen documents” in the MPs’ expenses scandal.

16.20: The Murdochs are questioned about the law firm hired to look at thousands of internal e-mails, which appeared to contain evidence of wrongdoing. James Murdoch says he does not know if Les Hinton, Colin Myler or Tom Crone knew about the contents of these emails. He says Rebekah Brooks brought the files to his attention only recently.

16.05: Both Murdochs are initally elusive on the subject of whether convicted phone hacker Glenn Mulcaire (whose detailed notes have revealed the wide scope of possible victims) has had his legal fees paid by News Corp.

James Murdoch then says he was “surprised and shocked” to learn some fees have been paid.

Murdoch Senior says he would ask for any payments to Mr Mulcaire to stop, providing it did not breach any legal contract. Biographer Michael Wolff tweets “Okay, they paid, they paid Mulcaire”.

Murdoch biographer @MichaelWolffNYC tweets: James seems too young (the reason he doesn't know), Rupert too old (the reason he doesn't know)

16.00: MPs ask whether the News of the World was sacrificed to try and save Rebekah Brooks. Rupert Murdoch says that was not the case. James Murdoch says the paper’s closure was a “serious matter of regret”. Rupert Murdoch said “I do trust her” of Brooks. She’s due to be grilled next.

What is the favourite word used by the Murdochs in evidence? COMPANY. See our word cloud of the first 15 minutes

15.44: Rupert Murdoch tells MPs that “I am not really in touch” but that he speaks on the phone with editors of The Times and Sunday Times roughly every month. He says he speaks more frequently with the Wall Street Journal. When he calls he simply asks “What’s doing?”. He tells the committee he never asked NoW about payments to hacking victims.

Mr Murdoch adds: “The News of the World, maybe I lost sight of… maybe because it was so small in the frame of our other things…”

15.41: Rupert Murdoch says “We were not ever guilty” of “wilful blindness”.

15.40: James Murdoch says he has “no knowledge” of Andy Coulson’s wages after he left News International. It follows allegations NI subsidised his salary while he worked for David Cameron.

15.30: Rupert Murdoch says the UK is “better and stronger” because it has a “free” press. Both men say there are no plans at this stage to launch a new Sunday title in place of the News of the World. “This is not the time to be worrying about that,” says James Murdoch.

15.25: James and Rupert Murdoch explain how payments are authorised by News Corp papers. James Murdoch says sometimes it is appropriate for cash to be paid out. But Murdoch senior says reporters do not have the authority to pay cash on their own.

15.13: Rupert Murdoch says he does not feel personally responsible for the “fiasco”, adding that he had trusted his staff and would “trust Les Hinton with my life”.

15.12: James Murdoch reiterates “what happened at NoW was wrong. We have apologised profusely”.

Read here: Full written statement from Rupert Murdoch apologising for the 'horrible invasion' into people's lives

15.09: Questioned on alleged hacking of 9/11 victims’ families by Jim Sheridan MP, Mr Murdoch says he cannot imagine that happening in America but promises a full investigation if this claim proves to be true.

15.06: Rupert Murdoch says he entered the back door of Number 10 when he visited after the general election “because he was asked to”. He adds that he was invited for a “cup of tea” by David Cameron as a thankyou. He adds that he was also invited by Gordon Brown a number of times.

15.05: Mr Murdoch says “I don’t have any memory” of meeting Alex Marunchak, a former NoW employee. More from Channel 4 News: NoW journalist worked as interpreter for Met

15.04: Mr Murdoch says the News of the World was closed down because “we were ashamed” of what had happened.

15.00: On “endemic criminality” Rupert Murdoch says that is a “very wide” term, but says he was “shocked and appalled” at the Milly Dowler case when it was brought to his attention. On claims of “collective amnesia” Murdoch senior adds “you’re really not saying amnesia, you’re saying lying”.

More from Channel 4 News - Rupert Murdoch: 'most humble day of my life'

14.56: Rupert Murdoch is saying a short “no” to most of Tom Watson’s questions. James Murdoch interrupts to answer questions about settlement payments to hacking victims including Gordon Taylor.

Comment from g7uk: Rupert Murdoch coming across as rather frail here.

14.49: Murdoch senior has taken to thumping the desk as he explains that NoW was only a small part of his company. He tells the committee that he has “never heard” of Neville Thurlbeck – a former chief reporter at NoW – implicated in the phone-hack scandal.

This is the most humble day of my life. Rupert Murdoch

14.48: Tom Watson MP begins questioning Rupert Murdoch. He asks if he was aware Rebekah Brooks “admitted paying police”. Rupert Murdoch admits this was not investigated by News Corp or News International at the time but adds that “she amended that [statement] afterwards”. Tom Watson points out that it took several years for the statement to be amended. James Murdoch says that there is no evidence that there was any impropriety by Rebekah Brooks or Les Hinton in connection with the phone-hacking investigation.

14.39: Rupert Murdoch: This is the most humble day of my life.

14.38: James Murdoch starts by saying “how sorry I am” and that “these actions do not live up to the standards our company aspires to”.

14.37: John Whittingdale opens the questioning of Rupert and James Murdoch by the Culture, Media and Sport committee.

Political Editor Gary Gibbon blogs: Murdoch faces MPs - again

14.31: Yates is questioned about Dave Cook, a police officer who says he was a victim in the phone-hack scandal. It has been highlighted by Channel 4 News. Yates tells the committee he discussed personal security with Dave Cook. He says it was “common knowledge” that Cook had been put under surveillance by investigators, apparently working for the News of the World. At the time, Dave Cook was re-investigating the murder of Daniel Morgan in 1987.

14.30: Yates: “You know now something different, and God I wish I’d done something different”.

14.15: Yates on decision not to reopen inquiry in 2009: “You can criticise me with hindsight but there was a reasonably sophisticated process.”

14.10: On the matter of Neil Wallis’s daughter getting a job at Scotland Yard, Yates says he was merely a “postbox” handing the CV to the director of HR.

14.05: John Yates reveals that he offered to brief No 10 Chief of Staff Ed Llewellyn, David Cameron’s main adviser, on police protocol and language on hacking, but this offer was turned down. More via politics.co.uk

14.00: Former Assistant Commissioner John Yates begins giving evidence to MPs. He resigned on Monday, insisting his “conscience is clear”.

Channel 4 News Home Affairs Correspondent Andy Davies tweets YATES: After NOTW disclosures, I confidently predict a very small number of police officers will go to prison for corruption 

13.45: Mr Fedorcio says he got three quotes and of those, Mr Wallis, was “by far the cheapest”. He says Mr Wallis was employed to help with “corporate policy matters” – not “operational activity”. He says he “never” discussed the phone-hacking scandal with Mr Wallis.

13.30: Next is Dick Fedorcio, communications chief for Metropolitan Police since September 1997. Earlier he was referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission over his relationship with hacking suspect Neil Wallis.

More from the Channel 4 News: Who's doing the grilling? 

13.26: Sir Paul: “I sincerely regret that Mr Yates has gone. But the Met will recover. I sincerely regret going. I do think we need to handle the media differently in the future”.

“This is almost certainly my final public appearance after 36 years of service. But I am not leaving because I was pushed. I’m going because I’m a leader.

“Leadership is not about popularity, it is about putting your organisation first.”

This is almost certainly my final public appearance… but I am not leaving because I was pushed. I’m going because I’m a leader. Sir Paul Stephenson

13.25: Ten members of the Metropolitan Police’s Directorate of Public Affairs have worked at News International in the past, Sir Paul Stephenson reveals. Read more here: Met employed 10 more ex-NI staff

13.24: Chair Keith Vaz asks Sir Paul about former News International staff and whether they have gone on to work for the Met, referring in particular to the case of Alex Marunchak which was revealed by Channel 4 News: NoW journalist worked as interpreter for Met. Sir Paul dismisses line of enquiry, saying he cannot possibly know about every single employee of the Met.

13.22: Sir Paul: “When people are asking if I supervised John Yates… he is a senior police officer… “

13.21: Regarding the bin bags and the chance to reopen the phone-hack inquiry in 2009, Sir Paul again says “Mr [John] Yates looked at it and he didn’t think there was anything new”.

More from Channel 4 News: Yates of the Yard - phone hacking, bin bags and regret

13.16: Labour MP Bridget Phillipson asks Sir Paul about the “senior official” regarding who knew what about Neil Wallis inside Number 10. Sir Paul says that is a question for John Yates.

13.04: Sir Paul repeats that he had “no reason” to doubt Mr Wallis at all.

13.00: Chris Herbert, editor of Jane’s Police Review, tells Channel 4 News: “He’s certainly under severe pressure due to the weight of innuendo and implied wrongdoing being brought forward.

“Hindsight is a useful tool though and we’re looking at decisions made two years ago in light of information that is only known now. As commissioner there’s no way he could possibly have known everything that goes on in a force of 50,000 people – you rely on your advisers and officers all the way down the management chain.”

12.55: Sir Paul tells MPs that £1000 per day for Wallis’s services was the “cheapest available”. Read more on Neil “Wolfman” Wallis

12.52: Sir Paul says he regrets the Neil Wallis contract, calling it “an embarassment”. He adds that he had nothing to do with the “procurement” of Mr Wallis. He says that was arranged by Met Director of Public Affairs Dick Fedorcio.

He’s certainly under severe pressure due to the weight of innuendo and implied wrongdoing being brought forward. Chris Herbert

12.50: Sir Paul says “I never Met Mr Wallis and Mr Coulson together” but agrees the pair must have talked once Coulson was working for PM. He adds: “It is a distortion to say that Mr Wallis worked for me [in the way that Coulson worked for David Cameron at Number 10]”.

12.43: On the matter of lunches and dinners with NoW execs, Sir Paul says it was not down to him that the News of the World was so “dominant in the market” but because of this it was right that he held regular meetings with executives from the paper.

12.40: Responding to David Winnick MP, Sir Paul says it was “damnably unlucky” that Neil Wallis was connected to Champneys. Sir Paul received free hospitality for five weeks at Champneys health spa in Hertfordshire following an operation earlier this year. At the time the spa’s public relations were being handled by a company whose managing director was Neil Wallis.

12.35: Sir Paul Stephenson tells MPs “when I took over as prime minister…”. Chuckles all round before the outgoing Met chief corrects himself.

Channel 4 News Home Affairs Correspondent Andy Davies tweets: Sir Paul's mentioned that "senior official at no 10" again in decision not to discuss Wallis contract with Cameron or May.

12.15: Keith Vaz, chairman of the committee, asks Sir Paul to say if he had intended to take a swipe at David Cameron in his statement of resignation. Sir Paul: “I was taking no swipe at the PM [with the comparison of Coulson/Wallis when he resigned]. I was trying to draw contrast that I had no reason to doubt Wallis.” (See video below)

12.10: Sir Paul responds: “I am not apologetic over Champneys. The mayor and Home Secretary Theresa May accepted my [resignation] very reluctantly. So did my wife.”

12.05: Sir Paul Stephenson, outgoing commissioner of the Metropolitan Police begins giving evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee. Sir Paul resigned on Sunday after revelations about his links to Neil Wallis, a former News of the World deputy editor who was arrested last week over hacking.

More from Channel 4 News: Met police chief Sir Paul Stephenson quits - his full statement

The three key figures in the phone-hacking crisis appear before the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee to answer questions over their roles in the scandal which is sweeping through the News Corp empire, British politics, and the Metropolitian Police.

Former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson and Assistant Commissioner John Yates also give evidence to the Home Affairs Committee. Both have already resigned as a result of their alleged links to News International.

LIVE BLOG: Murdochs face MPs in phone-hacking scandal

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