Murdochs, Brooks asked to appear before British lawmakers

12th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

British lawmakers on Tuesday called Rupert Murdoch, his son News International chairman James Murdoch and chief executive Rebekah Brooks to give evidence to parliament on phone hacking next week.

News International, the British newspaper arm of Rupert Murdoch's global media empire, said it would "cooperate" with the request from the House of Commons culture, media and sport select committee.

"In light of the extraordinary developments this week around phone hacking, serious questions have arisen about the evidence given to the committee by a number of witnesses in its previous inquiry into press standards, libel and privacy," said John Whittingdale, chairman of the committee.

"In particular James Murdoch has said that parliament was misled. That is a very serious matter that we will not allow to go unquestioned.

"We are therefore today calling James Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch, and Rebekah Brooks to appear before us next week."

In his statement last week announcing that the News of the World tabloid was closing because of the phone-hacking claims, James Murdoch admitted that the group was wrong when it asserted that the practice was confined to one rogue reporter.

"The paper made statements to parliament without being in the full possession of the facts. This was wrong," he said.

The committee is due to meet on July 19, their last meeting before parliament ends for the summer, a spokeswoman said. She said letters asking for the trio's appearance had not yet been sent out but they "have been orally informed".

The committee said it expected a response by Thursday.

A News International spokeswoman said in a statement: "We have been made aware of the request from the CMS Committee to interview senior executives and will cooperate. We await the formal invitation."

Tom Watson, a member of parliament with the main opposition Labour Party and a member of the committee, told BBC radio it "will be sitting next Tuesday and we expect them to attend".

"I suspect that some of them might be too cowardly to turn up but that is up to them to decide," he added.

Watson said lawmakers wanted to ask Brooks about her knowledge of payments to the police when she was editor of the News of the World from 2000 to 2003, and then when she moved to edit its sister daily, The Sun.

In 2003, Brooks, then known as Rebekah Wade, admitted to the culture committee that "we have paid the police for information in the past".

They also want to quiz James Murdoch on his involvement "in authorising payments to silence" Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, after his phone was hacked, Watson said.

In his statement last week Murdoch admitted: "The company paid out-of-court settlements approved by me. I now know that I did not have a complete picture when I did so. This was wrong and is a matter of serious regret."

Rupert Murdoch, whose News. Corp owns News International, flew into London on Sunday to take charge of dealing with the phone-hacking scandal, which has led to a delay in News Corp.'s controversial bid for control of BSkyB.

© 2011 AFP

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