James Murdoch hearing - live-blog

Instant coverage and analysis as the MPs question the News International chairman about phone-hackin

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13.37: And on that note, the inquiry is over. Thanks for joining us.

13.32: Why were Mulcaire's legal costs paid, asks Farrelly? Murdoch replies that his understanding is that legally, if he was acting on the company's behalf, then it was their responsibility to pay his legal costs. Farrelly presses the point of how unpalatable it is to be paying the legal fees of the man who hacked Milly Dowler's phone.

13.27: Back to Paul Farrelly for a final question on Glenn Mulcaire. He asks whether Murdoch was involved in anyway with the rumoured £1m payment to Max Clifford. Murdoch says he was not directly involved with this settlement. Farrelly points out that Clifford, too, is not a member of the royal family and repeats his line about the elder Murdoch: "I've got this Australian voice rattling around in my head..."

13.23: Murdoch tells Therese Coffey that the people who are allowed to make cash payments has been seriously restricted.

13.17: Bit of a digression here, as Steve Rotheram asks about the Hillsborough case. "Is it in the public interest to tell lies?" he says. Murdoch apologises for the coverage. Rotheram asks whether the Sun will be closed too if it is found that there was phone-hacking there. Murdoch says he can't "prejudge" what the corporate response would be but nothing is ruled out. This is the first time a News International executive has said that they could close other papers.

13.13: It gets personal. Watson says that a former NI employee claimed Rebekah Brooks had a "pathological dislike" for him (Watson). He reads out comments Brooks allegedly made to Tony Blair, calling on the then PM to reign the backbencher in: "he's mad". Watson asks if Murdoch knows about this. Murdoch is awkward, and says he had very little to do with the former prime minister.

Watson says that "the diktat went out" to staff to "dig up as much dirt as you can" on the culture committee. Murdoch says he had no knowledge of this.

13.09: Watson gets Murdoch to check with his counsel whether they knew about computer hacking in cases that were settled. After a pause, Murdoch says "they'd like to come back to you".

13.06: Whittingdale (the chair) turns back to Watson, given Mensch's line of questioning. Murdoch accepts that the use of surveillance of public figures was too widespread, in answer to Watson, who has listed the names of private investigators who worked for NI. He says that new guidelines at News International ban the use of private investigators without approval from the chief executive.

13.02: Mensch suggests it would have been better for News International to give a full disclosure rather than allow the damaging drip drip drip of revelations. Murdoch says that in future, the company will be "transparent and appropriate as possible".

12.58: She's asking about the surveillance of lawyers of plaintiffs. He says that it is "unacceptable" behaviour that he would "never condone" and that he was shocked to find it out. "The whole affair is just not acceptable, and not on," Murdoch says. On the surveillance of committee members (including Tom Watson), Murdoch apologises and says that although there is sometimes cause to trail public figures in investigative journalism, in this case it was unjustifiable.

12.53: Louise Mensch takes over, saying that she will have to leave as soon as she's finished asking questions so that she can collect her children from school. She asks how many other News International titles have been hacking phones, "to your knowledge". Murdoch looks unsettled. He says he can't speculate, but that they are taking it very seriously.

She's following up on accounts of people being hacked on American soil. He says he has no knowledge of this. "You're coming up blank," she says.

12.50: "Do you think you have handled this competently?" Murdoch pauses, and then says that he behaved reasonably given the information that he had. He says that he "shares" responsibility for the fact that the company took a long time to see the issue as legitimate criticism rather than simply attacks, and he will make sure this doesn't happen again.

Farrelly presses the issue, asking whether Murdoch's failure to ask screamingly obvious questions makes him incompetent. "No, it does not," says Murdoch, adding that he would not characterise it that way.

12.48: The complete contradiction between Myler/Crone's testimony and Murdoch's is being spelt out. Farrelly says that if they are telling the truth, Murdoch is lying, and vice versa. Murdoch replies by questioning the reliability of their testimony, saying it is full of supposition.

12.41: Farrelly says that Murdoch was "possibly the only person in London" to still believe that the hacking was the fault of one rogue reporter.

12.35: Farrelly is going over the same ground: why didn't Murdoch ask any further questions about what else Glenn Mulcaire was doing. He points out that Gordon Taylor was not royal -- and the "rogue reporter" narrative pinned the blame on Clive Goodman, the royal reporter. Would Rupert Murdoch not have asked how much more Mulcaire was going to cost? "I couldn't possibily speculate".

"It's remarkably incurious," he says. "Are you always so incurious?" All the MPs have made it clear they disbelieve Murdoch's account that he didn't know the extent of what was going on, but he is not budging. It is unlikely he will. The implication is that if he is not lying, he was recklessly hands off.

12.27: Paul Farrelly asks whether Murdoch will give Colin Myler (former NOTW editor) access to relevant documents so that he can "refresh his memory" as to whether a meeting took place. Murdoch evades the question, saying that he can show them his calendar, which has no reference to a meeting on that day. He pointedly refuses to say that he will grant Myler access to these documents, instead saying he will review News International procedures around that request.

12.22: The Guardian has a transcript of Watson's show-stopping revelation that he had spoken with Thurlbeck. Watson said:

Thurlbeck: I looked at it (the Neville email), no Tom, I never received it, I don't know. I'm looking at it and saying that surely somebody must have asked X to do this, X was asked to do so many of these by the newsdesk at the time.

So Tom comes to me and I tell him I had nothing to do with it. He tells me that it's gone through X in the office, so clearly News International are culpable, and I'm going to have to show this to James Murdoch.

He said is there any way we can get round this? And he says to me, Nev, I'm sorry I've got to show him this. I said Tom, I'm going to lose my job; he said not necessarily.

This is not some vague memory, I was absolutely on a knife edge. Tom took it to him. The following week I said "did you show him the email?" He said "yes I did". Now he can't remember whether he showed it to Mr Murdoch or not. He said "it's alright, it's fine, it's settled.

12.18: This is a clever line of questioning. Davies says that if, as Murdoch says, it was a culture where the top dogs basically ignored small parts of the business, then why would Crone have a strict ceiling on the level of payment he was allowed to authorise? (he couldn't authorise payments of more than £10,000). Murdoch responds:

The situation that we had here is one where a description was given very clearly by senior legal counsel that this case would be lost. There was an amount of money that was substantial, you are absolutely right. The way the company has always operated is to rely on executives responsible for a corner of the business to do what they need to do.

12.15: Davies says he can't even begin to believe that any self-respecting chief executive would fail to ask questions about such a substantial payment. He says he struggles to understand such a "cavalier" approach to money.

12.08: Philip Davies has taken over. "You seem more vague this time round than you were the first time round," he says, referring to Murdoch's repeated assertions that he does not recall exact details, etc. He continues to ask about the Taylor settlement.

He focuses on the advice given by Michael Silverleaf QC, which suggested the existence of evidence of a widespread culture of phone-hacking. Murdoch maintains that all he knew was what Silverleaf said about how much Taylor should receive in damages.

12.04: The general consensus is that Tom Watson has stolen the show. He has been building up to this moment. My colleague Jon Bernstein interviewed Watson in September, and discussed his questioning technique:

His probing was pithy and carefully sequenced, with the occasional leading question thrown in like a hand grenade. One lawyer suggested that all young barristers should be made to watch the exchange as part of their education.

Watson, who is now 44, puts the success of the session down, in part, to "massive preparation . . . For two years, I have been reading and absorbing this stuff. Then I worked for three days solid before we went in."

The other part, he says, was to work out what lay at the heart of the controversy. Once he had established that - "It's about the institutional culture at News International; this is about leadership" - he knew that Rupert, not James, should be his focus. Watson worked out how to order his questions. "At that point, I phoned up as many of my friends who are lawyers to say, 'This is how I want to do this - how would I lead it to this?'"

12.00: Murdoch continues to blame Myler and Crone, saying that he believed their advice on the Taylor case because he had "no reason at the time to believe they had anything other than the newspaper's best interests at heart". Collins is pushing the point though: why didn't Murdoch ask more questions when he was signing away half a million pounds? This is important: the real reason they settled is that going to court would have revealed evidence of wide-spread phone-hacking.

11.55: The Conservative MP Damian Collins has taken over, and there are none of Watson's theatrics. He is returning to the issue of exactly how much Murdoch knew when he agreed to the £425,000 out of court settlement for Gordon Taylor.

Murdoch reiterates his case: he was told it was "open and shut" that News International will lose the case. He saw evidence that Taylor's phone had been hacked, but not that anyone else's was.

11.50: Watson is enjoying this. "Are you familiar with the word mafia, Mr Murdoch?" He follows up: "Are you familiar with the word 'omerta', the culture of silence around the mafia? Do you accept that applies to the Murdoch empire?" Murdoch says he does not, and that this is an offensive statement.

Watson has his moment: "You must be the first mafia boss in history not to know he was running a criminal enterprise." Murdoch: "Mr Watson, please. That's inappropriate."

11.43: Watson says that since Murdoch will not answer his questions, he says that he will reveal that he met with Neville Thurlbeck. The meeting was supposed to be in confidence but he feels there is a public interest in sharing it. Thurlbeck recounts a conversation with Tom Crone where Crone said he was going to show the "for Neville" email to Murdoch.

Watson reads out a transcript of a conversation between Thurlbeck and Crone. Thurlbeck: "'Is there any way we can get round this?" Crone: "Nev, I'm sorry, I'm going to have to show him this, because it's the only reason we have to settle."

Murdoch is clearly rattled, but responds as calmly as he can to this attack, saying that he would like to see the transcript and couldn't comment on whether Thurlbeck's recollection is accurate.

According to Watson, Thurlbeck said: "This is not some vague memory. He was going to show this to James Murdoch."

11.39: Watson is incredulous at Murdoch's continued denial that he knew anything about the evidence of wide-spread phone-hacking.

Are you seriously asking me to believe that there was no mention of the 'for Neville' email, despite this being central to your discussions with Myler and Crone and in Crone's opinion, fatal to your case?

11.36: He is not wavering from his story: he did not see, and was not shown, any evidence that wide-spread phone-hacking existed. "Certain individuals" were aware of what was going on back in 2008, but "none of those things" were relayed to him. Murdoch suggests he was given a "narrower set of facts than I might have liked" because he would have said to "cut out the cancer" and get rid of anyone suspected of wrong-doing.

11.29: Watson: "Did you mislead this committee?" Murdoch: "No, I didn't". Watson: "If you didn't, then who did?"

Murdoch says that Myler (the News of the World's former editor) and Crone's (the paper's lawyer) testimony was "misleading, and I dispute it". Watson asks whether the Farrer's lawyer misled them. Murdoch stumbles, and says that he doesn't have reason to believe that.

11.26: Murdoch remains in control and calm -- he hasn't referred to his notes. He is riled though: "No, I don't accept that, Mr Watson". Watson continues to focus on how much Murdoch knew about the Taylor case, and alleges that Murdoch made an "unprecented payment to Taylor to buy his silence".

11.22: Labour MP and star of this inquiry, Tom Watson, is now questioning Murdoch. He is asking about the legal advice given by law firm Farrers, and an internal memo which said that the evidence unearthed in the Gordon Taylor settlement could be "fatal to our case". Murdoch continues to claim ignorance, saying that he knew this legal advice existed but not what it said.

He's sticking to his story that he was new to the News of the World, thought that phone-hacking was in the past, and paid Taylor without asking any questions.

11.21: Echoing his last appearance, Murdoch says that the News of the World was one small part of a global company, and that is why he did not know all the details.

11.18: Murdoch says "If I'd known then what I know today, the company would have acted differently." He's referring -- again -- to the "for Neville" email, which indicated that phone-hacking went beyond one rogue reporter (Goodman), as the newspaper had claimed.

11.16: Murdoch says that the company "pushed back too hard" on the Guardian's initial reports. Earlier, he said that their mistake was assuming attacks were politically or commercially motivated.

11.13: Adrian Sanders asks whether Murdoch has had time to consider the meaning of "wilful blindness" since his last appearance. "At no point so I think the company suffered from wilful blindness," says Murdoch. Since he has consistently been unaware of details, says Sanders, does this mean information was kept from him? He says the information held by the Metropolitan police "was not made clear to me". He essentially blames Colin Myler for not making the full story clear to him:

Senior management rely on executives to behave in a certain way. We have to rely on those executives, otherwise it's impossible to manage every single detail in a company of this scale.

11.10: Sheridan asks whether he is "humbled" by the affair, as Rupert Murdoch said he was. "I think the whole company is humbled," says Murdoch.

11.08: Jim Sheridan is asking him about the aftermath of the Clive Goodman case and what he was told. Murdoch said he did not see counsel opinion that phone-hacking was more widespread. He says that Les Hinton did not discuss the Goodman settlement with him when Murdoch became chairman: "It was some time before I had joined...the arrests were well over a year, a year and a half before."

11.04: As predicted, the questions have kicked off with how much Murdoch knew about the "for Neville" email. After his last appearance, Tom Crone and Colin Myler disputed his claim that he had no knowledge of this email (Sky News has a good summary of the claims that have been made so far).

Murdoch says that the suspicion of wider evidence of hacking was not discussed in May 2008 meetings with Crone and Myler, despite the settlement to Gordon Taylor. He concedes that he was told about the "for Neville" email but sticks to his line: he wasn't told that it showed wider evidence of hacking.

10.59: Here's the full list of the 10 members of the cross-party culture, media and sport select committee that will question Murdoch:

Thérèse Coffey (Conservative)
Damian Collins (Conservative)
Philip Davies (Conservative)
Paul Farrelly (Labour)
Alan Keen (Labour Co-operative)
Louise Mensch (Conservative)
Adrian Sanders (Liberal Democrat)
Jim Sheridan (Labour)
Tom Watson (Labour)
Steve Rotheram (Labour)

10.52am: Welcome to the live-blog. Stay with this page for up-to-the-minute coverage of James Murdoch's appearance in front of the culture select committee.

Since Murdoch was last questioned by MPs, back in July, a string of further allegations have surfaced. The number of potential phone-hacking victims has more than doubled from 2,000 to 5,800, and it has emerged that in addition to phone-hacking, the News of the World ordered covert surveillance of Prince William and more than 100 others.

The testimony he gave in July has been questioned by others at the News of the World -- in particular expect MPs to ask about the so-called "for Neville email" which would prove how much he knew when he signed off a 2008 out-of-court payment to footballers' union leader Gordon Taylor.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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Air pollution: 5 steps to vanquishing an invisible killer

A new report looks at the economics of air pollution. 

110, 150, 520... These chilling statistics are the number of deaths attributable to particulate air pollution for the cities of Southampton, Nottingham and Birmingham in 2010 respectively. Or how about 40,000 - that is the total number of UK deaths per year that are attributable the combined effects of particulate matter (PM2.5) and Nitrogen Oxides (NOx).

This situation sucks, to say the very least. But while there are no dramatic images to stir up action, these deaths are preventable and we know their cause. Road traffic is the worst culprit. Traffic is responsible for 80 per cent of NOx on high pollution roads, with diesel engines contributing the bulk of the problem.

Now a new report by ResPublica has compiled a list of ways that city councils around the UK can help. The report argues that: “The onus is on cities to create plans that can meet the health and economic challenge within a short time-frame, and identify what they need from national government to do so.”

This is a diplomatic way of saying that current government action on the subject does not go far enough – and that cities must help prod them into gear. That includes poking holes in the government’s proposed plans for new “Clean Air Zones”.

Here are just five of the ways the report suggests letting the light in and the pollution out:

1. Clean up the draft Clean Air Zones framework

Last October, the government set out its draft plans for new Clean Air Zones in the UK’s five most polluted cities, Birmingham, Derby, Leeds, Nottingham and Southampton (excluding London - where other plans are afoot). These zones will charge “polluting” vehicles to enter and can be implemented with varying levels of intensity, with three options that include cars and one that does not.

But the report argues that there is still too much potential for polluters to play dirty with the rules. Car-charging zones must be mandatory for all cities that breach the current EU standards, the report argues (not just the suggested five). Otherwise national operators who own fleets of vehicles could simply relocate outdated buses or taxis to places where they don’t have to pay.  

Different vehicles should fall under the same rules, the report added. Otherwise, taking your car rather than the bus could suddenly seem like the cost-saving option.

2. Vouchers to vouch-safe the project’s success

The government is exploring a scrappage scheme for diesel cars, to help get the worst and oldest polluting vehicles off the road. But as the report points out, blanket scrappage could simply put a whole load of new fossil-fuel cars on the road.

Instead, ResPublica suggests using the revenue from the Clean Air Zone charges, plus hiked vehicle registration fees, to create “Pollution Reduction Vouchers”.

Low-income households with older cars, that would be liable to charging, could then use the vouchers to help secure alternative transport, buy a new and compliant car, or retrofit their existing vehicle with new technology.

3. Extend Vehicle Excise Duty

Vehicle Excise Duty is currently only tiered by how much CO2 pollution a car creates for the first year. After that it becomes a flat rate for all cars under £40,000. The report suggests changing this so that the most polluting vehicles for CO2, NOx and PM2.5 continue to pay higher rates throughout their life span.

For ClientEarth CEO James Thornton, changes to vehicle excise duty are key to moving people onto cleaner modes of transport: “We need a network of clean air zones to keep the most polluting diesel vehicles from the most polluted parts of our towns and cities and incentives such as a targeted scrappage scheme and changes to vehicle excise duty to move people onto cleaner modes of transport.”

4. Repurposed car parks

You would think city bosses would want less cars in the centre of town. But while less cars is good news for oxygen-breathers, it is bad news for city budgets reliant on parking charges. But using car parks to tap into new revenue from property development and joint ventures could help cities reverse this thinking.

5. Prioritise public awareness

Charge zones can be understandably unpopular. In 2008, a referendum in Manchester defeated the idea of congestion charging. So a big effort is needed to raise public awareness of the health crisis our roads have caused. Metro mayors should outline pollution plans in their manifestos, the report suggests. And cities can take advantage of their existing assets. For example in London there are plans to use electronics in the Underground to update travellers on the air pollution levels.

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Change is already in the air. Southampton has used money from the Local Sustainable Travel Fund to run a successful messaging campaign. And in 2011 Nottingham City Council became the first city to implement a Workplace Parking levy – a scheme which has raised £35.3m to help extend its tram system, upgrade the station and purchase electric buses.

But many more “air necessities” are needed before we can forget about pollution’s worry and its strife.  

 

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.