Parliaments bared its teeth today, subjecting police officers to interrogation, summoning the Murdoch Three to answer them, and uniting to oppose the BSkyB takeover.
The Mother of all Parliaments bared her teeth today and showed who’s boss, subjecting senior police officers to interrogation, summoning the Murdoch Three to answer them, and pledging to unite tomorrow to say a big fat no to Rupert Murdoch’s big fat takeover of BSkyB.
All this as revulsion grew at the sickening revelations about News International’s intrusion into Gordon Brown’s private life, and as it emerged News Corporation executives could face trial for corruption in the US.
On another day of dramatic developments in the News International phone hacking scandal, the most compelling was the slow burn of the three-and-a-half hour session of the home affairs select committee in the Wilson Room of Portcullis House from 11, at which the Met’s John Yates, Peter Clarke, Andy Hayman and Sue Akers were grilled on the “unauthorised hacking of mobile communications”. Watch it in full here.
Former Deputy Assistant Commisioner Clarke said he came across “prevarication and what we now know to be lies” from NI, while Acting Deputy Commissioner John Yates said Murdoch’s firm “appears to have failed to co-operate” during his review of the phone hacking investigation – with the session bursting into life at the end of former Assistant Commissioner Andy Hayman’s testimony, in which he denied absolutely ever having taking payments from newspapers.
We will have more on the failings of the Met, in particular Yates and Hayman, on Left Foot Forward tomorrow.
Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks, meanwhile, were this evening summoned to appear before the culture, media and sport select committee next Tuesday, “to give evidence on developments in phone hacking”, committee chair John Whittingdale saying:
“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. In particular James Murdoch has said that Parliament was misled. That is a very serious matter that we will not allow to go unquestioned.”
The signals emerging from Westminster, however, appear to indicate all three will decline, committee member Tom Watson MP telling tonight’s Channel Four News:
“Rebekah Brooks has run scared three times before… There are lots of arcane rules [to compel witnesses to appear] but these are quite complex and very rarely successful. We’re asking them to play to their decency and submit themselves so we probably don’t have any chance…
“It’s like the parable of the Emperor’s clothes, everyone thought he was all powerful so he was… We’ve not seen any of them on TV for 48 hours. It’s ironic that this is a company that likes to stake people out and knock on doors and they’ve gone into hiding.”
Earlier, David Cameron joined the chorus of condemnation against the Sun for its intrusion into his predecessor Gordon Brown’s private life, calling the publication of Fraser Brown’s medical records “heartbreaking” and “completely unacceptable”.
“My heart goes out to Gordon and Sarah Brown. To have your children’s privacy invaded in that way, and I know that myself particularly, when your child isn’t well, is completely unacceptable and heartbreaking for the family concerned.”
It’ll come as no surprise at all to you that today’s Sun completely ignored the story. As pathetic as it was predictable.
Further afield, the outlook for Murdoch could get a whole lot worse if reports emanating from the States are realised. Executives at News Corporation, the parent company of News International, owners of the News of the World, could face prosecution in the US under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) for the alleged bribery of police officers. It is illegal under the act to pay bribes overseas to government officials.
According to the the Department of Justice, “The FCPA prohibits payments made in order to assist the firm in obtaining or retaining business”. Thus the papers’ use of bribery to obtain information which helped sell newspapers could fall under the act’s purview.
And even though the bribery occurred entirely in Britian, NewsCorp is an American company, incorporated in Delaware, and held accountable for its foreign subsidiary’s actions. Even if the corporation wasn’t directly involved in bribery, it could be found in violation of the law for turning a “blind eye”.
The legal experts told the AP they would be surprised if the Securities and Exchange Commission and the DoJ have not already opened investigations into the matter and said the decision to shutter News of the World was potentially an attempt to limit Murdoch and NewsCorp’s legal exposure.
“These revelations show a culture run amok within News Corp, and a board that provides no effective review or oversight.”
Tomorrow, after PMQs, the prime minister will make a statement outlining details of the inquiry into phone hacking, after which the debate on the BSkyB takeover will take place, with all 650 members – bar the Speaker and culture secretary Jeremy Hunt (who must remain impartial) – expected to stand up, stand tall and say no to Murdoch.
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