Tom Watson, the Labour MP who has led the fight against phone hacking for the last five years, has asked the police to investigate claims by two former News of the World executives that James Murdoch misled parliament.
Watson told the BBC that their claim — that Murdoch knew about an email which showed that phone-hacking was not down to one rogue reporter — was “the most significant moment of two years of investigation.” He added:
If their statement is accurate it shows James Murdoch had knowledge that others were involved in hacking as early as 2008, it shows he failed to act to discipline staff or initiate an internal investigation, which undermines Rupert Murdoch’s evidence to our committee that the company had a zero tolerance to wrongdoing.
More importantly it shows he not only failed to report a crime to the police but because there was a confidentiality clause involved in the settlement it means that he bought the silence of (chief executive of the Professional Footballers Association) Gordon Taylor and that could mean he is facing investigation for perverting the course of justice.
There is only going to be one person who is accurate. Either James Murdoch, who to be fair to him is standing by his version of events, or Colin Myler and Tom Crone.
Myler and Crone will have to answer for themselves. They are clearly concerned that they have effectively been hung out to dry by James Murdoch in the evidence session earlier in the week.
Meanwhile, Sky News reports that another MP, Chris Bryant, who has also been at the forefront of calls for an investigation, has written to News Corp’s non-executive directors to request that Rupert and James Murdoch are suspended. In an email, he said:
Rupert Murdoch refused to accept any responsibility for what went on at the News of the World and relied in his defence on the fact that the paper represented just one per cent of the company’s business.
However, this in no way excuses the complete failure to tackle the original criminality at the company and the lackadaisical approach to such matters would suggest that there is no proper corporate governance within the company.
If Myler and Crone’s claimes are found to be true, there could be serious consequences for James Murdoch. Over at Left Foot Forward, Shamik Das quotes the guide for witnesses to select committees:
Deliberately attempting to mislead a committee is a contempt of the House, which the House has the power to punish.
It will be interesting to see how Scotland Yard — whose own competence and impartiality has been called into question over this case — takes up Watson’s challenge to investigate this claim.