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James Murdoch to be recalled by MPs over phone hacking

By
James Murdoch

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A committee of MPs is to ask News International chairman James Murdoch to give more evidence on phone hacking after doubts emerged about his statements on the scandal.

Labour MP Tom Watson confirmed that he will also call ex-News of the World editor Colin Myler and the paper's former legal affairs manager Tom Crone to answer questions.

Murdoch told MPs on the culture, media and sport select committee last week that he had not been "aware" of an email suggesting that the practice of phone hacking went beyond a "rogue" News of the World reporter.

He claimed that he had not seen the email in question before agreeing to a more than £600,000 out-of-court settlement with Gordon Taylor, the Professional Footballers' Association chief executive.

Myler, who edited the Sunday tabloid until it was shut down on July 10, and Crone have since said that they "did inform" Murdoch about the email, known as the "for Neville" message due to its connection to former News of the World reporter Neville Thurlbeck.

Murdoch has said that he stands by his evidence, but select committee member Watson told BBC Two's Newsnight programme that he would make a request to recall the committee "so that we can get to the bottom of this, find the facts and parliament can then move on and let the police do their inquiry". The committee is meeting this morning behind closed doors to discuss the matter.

The "for Neville" email, along with Murdoch's knowledge of the message, is being viewed as a vital piece of evidence in revealing how widespread knowledge of phone hacking practices was within News International.

The email is said to have implied the News of the World's chief reporter Thurlbeck was also implicated in malpractices, but Murdoch has always maintained that he was not aware of the full extent of phone hacking at the Sunday tabloid.

Labour's deputy leader Harriet Harmen told BBC News that it was the right decision to recall Murdoch before the select committee. She said that "in the face of a complete conflict of evidence, the committee is entitled to get to the bottom of where the truth lies", adding: "I don't think it's right for James Murdoch to decide whether or not it's convenient for him to come."

Shadow culture secretary Ivan Lewis said that it was vital for the select committee to hear more evidence from Murdoch.

"The whole reason we're in this situation is because we never got to the bottom of it at the time, and News Corporation, and News International did not co-operate with the authorities," he said.

"They now claim they're in full co-operation mode. If that's the case, and there are discrepancies, it's very, very important that he, and other people who are relevant to this, go back to that select committee and give evidence."

Yesterday, The Guardian reported that police had told Sara Payne that her details were in notes compiled by Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator used by the News of the World.

The revelation was made all the more shocking as the newspaper had been such a vocal supporter of Payne's child protection campaign, launched after her 8-year-old daughter Sarah was murdered in 2000.

Former News of the World deputy editor Paul Connew has said that this latest phone hacking allegation would send "seismic waves of disgust through the country". But he also said that he would be surprised if former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks knew about the hacking of Sara Payne's phone.

Meanwhile, there was better news for James Murdoch yesterday after he was given the unanimous backing of the Sky board to continue as chairman of the pay-TV giant.

Sky also reported bumper pre-tax profits of £1 billion in the year to the end of June, as the satellite broadcaster announced a £750m share buy-back scheme to placate investors unhappy at the failed takeover bid by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.

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