Rupert Murdoch and his son James have been quizzed by MPs at a hearing about the phone hacking crisis, in an appearance that the News Corporation chairman described as the "most humble day" of his life.
The dramatic session, where an intruder attempted to attack Murdoch with a plate of foam, began with an apology.
Taking questions about the News of the World phone hacking scandal, James Murdoch was accused by the chair of the culture media and sport select committee, John Whittingdale, of misleading parliament.
“It’s a matter of great regret … these actions do not live up to the standards that our company aspires to around the round”, the deputy chief operating officer and chairman and chief executive of News Corp’s international operations told MPs.
The younger Murdoch said they'd relied on reports from the Press Complaints Commission, independent lawyers and others, saying when the scandal broke it was unclear how widespread phone hacking he was. He said it was a matter of “deep regret” that “the facts could not emerge".
“We have established a group in the company cooperating very closely with the police on their investigation”, James Murdoch said. He highlighted the fact that News International had provided new information to the police.
He defended Rebekah Brooks and Les Hinton, saying there was no evidence that either had been aware of the practice.
"Nonetheless, those resignations have been accepted."
Rupert Murdoch added that both top executives had asked to resign. He said Brooks had "insisted" on going as was "at a point of extreme anguish", and said he did not initially accept her resignation because he trusted her.
The chairman said he was "clearly" misled about phone hacking but did not know by whom. Pressed on Brooks' previous admission that she had paid police officers, Murdoch said he had not investigated the claims.
In a dramatic admission, Rupert Murdoch said he may have "lost sight " of the News of the World. He said he would only speak to the News of the World editor once a month or so, but would speak to the Sunday Times editor every Saturday.
Tom Watson, the Labour MP who pursued claims about phone hacking at the paper, asked Rupert Murdoch a series of questions about events at the company.
The News Corp CEO replied that:
- He was unaware of News of the World reporter Neville Thurlbeck being found guilty of blackmail.
- He was shocked and appalled when he heard about the Milly Dowler case
- He was unaware of payments made to Gordon Taylor for privacy claims
James Murdoch also defended the £700,000 payout to Taylor, who is chief executive of the Professional Footballers Association, saying there was no new information about how widespread phone hacking was when he signed off the payment.
"It was quite clear and quite likely that if litigated the company would lose that case."
He told MPs that if he had known then what he now knew he still would have made the payment, but would have contacted police and put a process in place for admitting liability and apologising to the victims for phone hacking which was "absolutely inexcusable".
"We would have taken more action around that and moved faster to get to the bottom of these allegations."
James Murdoch said he was "surprised" that News International had contributed to the legal fees of Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire, who were jailed in 2007 for tapping the phones of royals.
He said he was "as surpised as you are" that payments had been made to help Glenn Mulcaire's legal fees. He said he knew certain legal fees had been paid but did not know if they were ongoing, and had asked them to be ceased.
Rupert Murdoch said the payments "could have been" authorised by the then chief legal officer, Tom Crone, or Les Hinton.
He also replied to questions about the closure of News of the World. He said his company was making every effort to give jobs to former journalists at the paper who were not guilty of wrongdoing
He also said he felt "ashamed" of what had happened at the News of the World.
"We had broken our trust with our readers," he told the committee.
Murdoch senior also told the ministers that he had no recollection of meeting former News of the World executive Alex Marunchak, who worked for the Metropolitan Police for 20 years as a translator.
Questioned over his relationship with Prime Minister David Cameron, Rupert Murdoch said he was "told" to enter Number 10 from the back door after the 2010 election.
"I was asked, would I please come in through the back door".
He added that he would "absolutely" co-operate with further investigations, including any examining claims that the paper attempted to hack the phones of 9/11 victims.
Murdoch said he was not ultimately responsible for the scandal and blamed it on the people he "trusted", and the people they in turn trusted. But he stood by Les Hinton, the recently resigned Dow Jones chief and former News International chief executive, saying that he would trust him with his life.
|@ LouiseMensch : I can say that very many people wanted to end the session right there, and Mr. Murdoch personally insisted on answering my questions.|
Check out our bloggers' reactions to the hearings.
|@ SkyNewsBreak : Protester has been suspended from the Labour Party following attack on Rupert Murdoch|
"For those people who watched the broadcast they would have seen me ask about the culture in the newsroom with some incredulity that it was all the news desk apparently, it was boys behaving badly without editors knowing because I know that on difficult stories, editors always ask you where did the story come from? They might not ask you the source but they always ask you to stand it up, particularly if it’s got legal ramifications and the news desk is part and parcel of the operations, the heartbeat of a newspaper and for an editor simply not to know what was going on I still find very difficult to believe."
She says she believes the committee covered a lot of group. "It was a good day for parliament."
He says: "We don't want a press where dubious and illegal things go on with the complicity of the police."
"The thing which immediately was clear was that predictions in both the cases of Rupert and James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks that somehow they would be restrained from answering and might sort of try and plead the fifth that did not take place. Obviously there are ongoing police investigations and potential criminal proceedings but none the less they did appear to want to try to be as helpful as they could...
"I mean Rupert Murdoch perhaps understandably said the News of the World was only a very small part of the global enterprise he runs, but none the less I think some members found it very difficult to believe that he was completely unaware of some of the activities which were being exposed and indeed the illegal activities and subsequent convictions."
The news that Neil Wallis was informally advising Andy Coulson without the knowledge of any of the other senior figures in the Tory party is a reminder of just how dysfunctional the Tory party machine was pre-election. It is also an indication of the license that Coulson was afforded. The Tories cannot say if anyone else offered Coulson this kind of ‘informal advice’.
The culture committee chair tells the BBC: "I think there will need to be a full investigation as to how this happened."
Brooks finishes her evidence session, asks to come back when she is free from "legal constraints".
"I have never been horse-riding with the prime minister", she adds: "The truth is that he is a neighbour and a friend but I deem the relationship to be wholly appropriate and at no time have I ever had any conversation with the prime minister that you in the room would disapprove of."
She adds that Andy Coulson's appointment was George Osborne's idea, not hers, and she did not discuss Coulson's suitability with David Cameron. "The idea came from George Osborne."
Brooks says she hasn't been to Number 10 whilst David Cameron was PM. But she's seen Cam numerous times.
"I was not aware Neville Thurlbeck [lead reporter] was a police informant."
"Who do I trust? The whole newsroom and the whole basis of the newsroom is based on trust."
"It would not have been the case that someone said 'oh yes, that came from an illegal voicemail interception',... at the time it wasn't a practice that was condoned or sanctioned at the news of the world under my editorship."
She says there would have been questions asked about every article in the paper: "There would have been a process around every story"
Now Therese Coffey is asking questions.
|@ EMMAGKELLER : Ladbrokes now 2/1 that Cameron will be replaced as Tory leader before next general election.|
|@ Ed_Miliband : Dramatic Day.Now David Cameron has a duty to uphold dignity of the PMs Office by answering fully the Qs he faces about this scandal #hacking|
More on Milly Dowler: "I don't know anyone who would think it was a right or honourable thing to do, now or at any time."
Brooks said she first heard that Milly Dowler's phone had been hacked when the story broke in the media. "My instant reaction was one of shock and disgust that a family that had suffered so much already, that these allegations had added to their suffering."
From Number 10:
There have been some questions about whether the Conservative Party employed Neil Wallis. We have double checked our records and are able to confirm that neither Neil Wallis nor his company has ever been contracted by the Conservative Party, nor has the Conservative Party made payments to either of them.
It has been drawn to our attention that he may have provided Andy Coulson with some informal advice on a voluntary basis before the election. We are currently finding out the exact nature of any advice.
We can confirm that apart from Andy Coulson, neither David Cameron nor any senior member of the campaign team were aware of this until this week.
Brooks asked why News International was paying Glenn Mulcaire's legal fees and Andrew Sheridan's legal fees.
Brooks says Mulcaire's legal fees were paid because he was a co-defendant in a civil case.
On Coulson she says: "When (he) left the NOTW he had an agreement that all matters relating to this his legal fees would be paid."
|@ annajleach : there it is RT @kevinmarks: here's the voicemail quote from p279 of @piersmorgan's book that @LouiseMensch mentioned: http://bit.ly/nuyJPO|
|@ KateEMcCann : "every single one of them will be offered a job" < Brooks about former #NOTW staff, good news @dpcoverdale|
Brooks deals with the phrase "more to come" which she used when breaking the news of the closure of the NOTW to explain the decision.
The journalists were "very sad and baffled" by the decision, she said. "Once you have broken the trust with the readers there's not much going back."
Brooks: "I've never paid a policeman myself... I've never knowingly sanctioned the payment of a policeman myself."
In my experience the evidence police give to newspapers is free of charge.
Brooks asked whether it's credible that, as Paul Dacre said, the Daily Mail has never run a story based on phone hacking or blagging.
She said she didn't see the evidence but News International one of the only companies to openly welcome the PM's inquiry.
|@ paulwaugh : Brooks says NoTW managing editor Kuttner "may hv discussed payments to me..I can't remember"|
|@ arusbridger : Here's the list on page 10. NotW 5th on the list. Guardian not there. http://t.co/FWRGGQJ|
|@ Herring1967 : I think most political stories would get more coverage and attention if there were pies in them|