19 Jul 2011

Murdochs and Brooks face MPs’ grilling

News Corporation bosses Rupert and James Murdoch, and former executive Rebekah Brooks, are set to be quizzed by MPs over the phone-hacking scandal.

Rupert and James Murdoch, and Rebekah Brooks, set to face MPs over phone hacking (Reuters)

The trio will appear before the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee to answer questions over their roles in the phone-hacking saga which has engulfed the News Corp empire, rocked British politics, and claimed the scalps of two of its most senior policemen.

The two policemen, former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson and Assistant Commissioner John Yates, will also give evidence today, to a different committee in the same building. They face the Home Affairs Committee over the role of the Metropolitan Police in the scandal. Both of them have already resigned as a result of the allegations.

Their colleague, the Met’s Director of Public Affairs Dick Fedorcio, is also due to appear. He was referred this morning to the Independent Police Complaints Commission over his role in the employment by the Met of the ex-News of the World journalist, Neil Wallis.

In a statement, the Metropolitan Police Authority said: “The MPS can confirm that this morning, Tuesday 19 July, it has referred Dick Fedorcio, Director of Public Affairs, to the IPCC.

“The context of this referral is in connection with the ongoing high level public interest in the relationship between News International and the MPS and, in particular, the relationship between Neil Wallis and Mr Fedorcio and the circumstances under which the contract was awarded to Chamy Media.”

Rupert Murdoch and his son James only agreed to appear in front of the committee after it issued summonses ordering them to attend, or face fines or even imprisonment, if they stayed away.

In a defiant interview last week with the Wall Street Journal, owned by News Corp, Rupert Murdoch said he would use the hearing to expose the “total lies” spread about his company. But since then he has struck a more conciliatory note, including taking full page apology adverts in newspapers at the weekend.

Read more: how are the police, politicians and press connected in phone-hack scandal?

Rebekah Brooks, former News International chief executive and News of the World editor, confirmed on Monday that she would still attend despite her arrest on Sunday. She was released on bail later that day.

The Murdochs appear at 2.30pm, followed by Rebekah Brooks. In addition to the Met chiefs, the Home Affairs Committee will hear from former Director of Public Prosecutions Lord Macdonald of River Glaven, as well as the current director, Keir Starmer, the Dowler family solicitor Mark Lewis and other alleged phone-hacking victims.

Watch: James Murdoch and former Met Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson arriving in London ahead of the hearings

Worsening crisis

The Murdochs will give their evidence against the backdrop of a worsening crisis both for their own company and for the British Prime Minister, who is flying back from Africa early to deal with the fall-out. David Cameron has postponed the parliamentary recess by one day so he can make a statement to MPs in an emergency Commons session.

As well the wider implications of the scandal for Britain, Mr Cameron’s personal judgement has also been called into question due to his recruitment of Andy Coulson, former News of the World editor, as his communications chief. Mr Coulson stepped down from the role in January.

The scandal has also spread to the United States, where relatives of 9/11 victims have asked the FBI to brief them on its investigations into allegations News Corp journalists tried to hack victims’ phones.

In another development, it emerged last night that one of the first News of the World whistleblowers, Sean Hoare, had been found dead in “unexplained circumstances”, although his death was not being treated as suspicious.