James Murdoch accused of misleading parliament
JAMES MURDOCH was last night accused by two former senior executives at the 'News of the World' of misleading the UK parliament over his previous knowledge of phone hacking at the tabloid newspaper.
A former editor of the newspaper and the paper's lawyer said that, in 2009, they told Mr Murdoch, the News International chairman, about evidence suggesting the phone hacking scandal was not restricted to a single "rogue" reporter.
However, appearing before parliament earlier this week, Mr Murdoch said that he had not been aware of the evidence at the time -- a statement which has now been called into question by two men who claim they told him personally.
Last night, MPs announced that Mr Murdoch would have to explain the alleged discrepancy in his evidence to the Parliamentary Committee. Misleading a committee is potentially a criminal offence.
News International is under growing pressure amid claims it orchestrated a cover-up amid allegations that executives and lawyers acting for the firm were aware of widespread potential criminality several years ago.
The "smoking gun" piece of evidence was an email which suggests that the newspaper's chief reporter, Neville Thurlbeck, had requested a transcript of a hacked voicemail by another reporter in 2005.
Last Tuesday, Mr Murdoch was asked by MPs whether he had been aware of the key email. "No, I was not aware of that at the time," he said.
However, Colin Myler, the former editor of the 'News of the World', and Tom Crone, the newspaper's lawyer, last night issued a statement which said they had told Mr Murdoch about the email.
The son of Rupert Murdoch was allegedly informed about the email during a discussion about making a payment to Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, whose phone had been hacked. In their statement, the two 'News of the World' executives, who only left the now defunct newspaper earlier this month, said: "Just by way of clarification relating to Tuesday's Select Committee hearing, we would like to point out that James Murdoch's recollection of what he was told when agreeing to settle the Gordon Taylor litigation was mistaken."
Last night, News International issued a statement in which it insisted that Mr Murdoch stood by the evidence he gave to MPs earlier this week.
Tom Watson, a Labour MP on the Culture and Media select committee which questioned the Murdochs earlier this week, said: "Either Myler and Crone are wrong or James Murdoch is wrong and if it's Murdoch he's misled parliament."