James Murdoch is facing the Commons Culture Committee for a second time, as MPs investigate whether the News International chief misled parliament in evidence he gave to them in July in the wake of the phone hacking scandal.
The 38-year-old insisted again that he was never shown a transcript of the so-called “for Neville” email which suggested that phone hacking at the News of the World went beyond a single rogue reporter.
Both James Murdoch and his father, Rupert, appeared before MPs four months ago shortly after the revelation that murdered teenager Milly Dowler had her voicemails intercepted by investigators on behalf of the News of the World.
At the time the paper had just been closed, and James Murdoch told MPs that he'd known nothing about phone hacking by the people working for him. Since then MPs have heard and seen a variety of evidence suggesting otherwise.
Police believe more than 5,700 people may have had their phones hacked over several years. The hacking normally involved using a default PIN code supplied by mobile phone networks to access voicemails. In the case of Milly Dowler, it's alleged that someone working for the News of the World deleted messages from her voicemail in the period between her disappearing and her body being found. The activity on her voicemail gave police and relatives false hope that the teenager was still alive.
Since the scandal broke several inquiries have been launched. The public inquiry, led by Lord Justice Leveson, will look at all aspects of the phone hacking saga, plus the wider context of the conduct of the media. Police in London also have their own investigation into phone hacking, plus another inquiry into alleged payments to police officers from journalists in exchange for information.
That's in addition to the Commons Culture Committee's own investigations.
Security at Westminster on Thursday morning was tight, in the wake of the embarrassing episode in July when Rupert Murdoch was attacked by a protester with a shaving foam pie.
Other than that, not a word from him.
And it's not clear whether we are any nearer the truth. Quite simply it's James Murdoch's word against those of former NOTW editor Colin Myler and News International legal counsel, Tom Crone. James Murdoch has repeatedly stuck to his line, that he didn't know hacking was widespread.
The key points :
- Murdoch says when executives told him that staff involved with phone hacking would probably win unfair dismissal cases, Murdoch was only told to settle and how much it would cost. He was never told why they had a case - because they had provided stories based on hacked phones - and Murdoch didn't ask
- He claims running a massive company like News Corp means it is impossible for someone in his position to know all the details.
- He tells MPs that Myler and Crone have been "economical" in their evidence.
- He also tries to shift the blame to the police , saying they had possession of crucial evidence and did nothing.
- He says he regrets News International being so robust in earlier defences against hacking allegations
- He refuses to rule out closing The Sun if it turns out hacking has taken place at the newspaper.
Murdoch handled the session calmly, only becoming irritable when called a "Mafia Boss" by Tom Watson. In general MPs have listened with a high level of scepticism to the evidence, but there was no knockout blow.
Murdoch once again won't be drawn on the recent arrest of a Sun journalist.
He also won't say if he will close The Sun if it turns out hacking happened there. But he won't rule it out.
Arguing that because the Sun got away with wrong accusations about Liverpool fans in 1989 a culture of invulnerability had developed.
Murdoch says the Sun had apologised, and apologises again.
He also says it's not in the public interest to tell lies.
...he also asks Murdoch if he knew that Watson had been told about a potential email hacking involving the MP.
Murdoch has just been read a list of four names by Tom Watson, who the MP says are private investigators.
Murdoch says he has never heard of them.
This following on from some prior comments made by Tom Crone at September's session.
Louise Mensch is asking whether News International will ever come completely clean about envy thing that went on.
Murdocch says he wants to be "as transparent as possible."
Labour MP Chris Bryant, who is not on the committee but is in the room, seems to have given up hope of this session finding anything meaningful out. His tweets suggest as much, as does his body language.
He says the recent arrest of a journalist at The Sun was "of great concern", but says he has no knowledge of any other papers doing phone hacking, although an investigation is underway.
Murdoch responds to this point from Paul Farrelly by saying that Tom Crone and Colin Myler's evidence hpto the committee in September had been incoherent:
"They never clearly told you hat they shows me those emails... It was a very confusing and muddled, that session."
Paul Farrelly MP is now asking about the editorial in the last ever News of the World. It, says Farrelly, repeated the News Internatnal line that nobody had known.
From later evidence from former NOTW staff, we now know that's not true.
JM: That's for them to say.
"it was specifically said to me he was doing this on behalf of News of the World, with respect to that."
Murdoch is basically answering every incredulous question with the same answer. It was a settled matter, I had all the relevant information, I had no reason to believe there was widespread hacking.
He cannot recall whether in 2009 he was the chairman or executive chairman of news international
"I might have been named executive chairman" he says later. Quite extraordinary.
This is during the period between Les Hinton left News Intenational to go to Dow Jones and Rebekah Brooks being promoted.
Feet crossed over each other, he sometimes likes to push the two water cups in front of him a few centimetres away from himself. Throughout the hearing he's tended to keep his hands together whe he's listening. When he starts to speak, he tends to shuffle the buff folder in front of him a little bit when he opens his mouth.
In general he looks pretty relaxed, now. He wasn't earlier.
Tory Mp Philip Davies says he can't understand why a senior executive at the top of a company the size of News Corp would not want oversight of such large payouts.
"Any chief operating officer.... would say, "My God, I need to have a look at that."
JM (quite irritably) says he relies on executives directly responsible "to do the things they needed to do."
Not for phone hacking. Different type of dark magic.
Murdoch insists that the "relevant information" about the settlement for Taylor had been given to them. This, we are to believe, is quite limited. Murdoch says the only relevant information was that News International would lose, and how much by.
accuses Murdoch of beijing the first mafia boss not to be aware they were running a criminal enterprise.
Some murmurs of surprise in the committee room.
JM says the accusation is "inappropriate". A short time earlier he described Watson's accusation that News International had been run in a Mafioso style as "offensive".
Several smirks of disbelief among the public as Murdoch stands by his story.
Tom Watson MP reads out a transcription of a conversation, related to him from Neville Thurlbeck. It suggests that Thurlbeck had told Tom Crone he would have to go to Murdoch with widespread.
After a short pause, Murdoch reiterates his line. I had no discussions about widespread hacking. Committee is chuckling.
The first big revelation of the session...
|@ paulwaugh : Gotta say Murdoch account sounds plausible, given way newspaper execs protect proprietors from nasty smells.|
|@ KeirSimmonsITV : Charlotte Harris 'James Murdoch is using careful language - 'incomplete, economical' - to say that he thinks he was misled'.|
|@ gabrielsherman : James now saying Myler and Crone misled the committee. The story is now definitively Murdoch's word vs. Myler and Crone. Who's right?|
Certain individuals were aware. I was not aware. Even in 2009 the company relied for too long on repeated assertions as to the quality and rigour of internal investigations, and also relied on the assertions made by the police, who had all the evidence.
Murdoch: I believe some individuals gave evidence to Parliament without full possession of the facts, or they have been "economical".
Murdoch says his evidence has been consistent. He maintains that Tom Crone and Colin Myler's testimony was misleading.
Watson - You expect us to believe that you authorised a substantial payout without seeing three documents which were key to the settlements given to staff?
JM - that's what happened.
Murdoch is sticking to his story. "the only substantive meeting I recall happened on the 10th of June 2008."
JM also rejects claims by Tom Crone that Murdoch knew about widespread hacking. "No, I don't accept that at all, Mr Watson."
Murdoch is getting slightly irritated.
Tom Watson is asking about Tom Crone's "fatal to our case" memorandum. The Labour MPis taking JM's long answers and paraphrasing them for him.
JM is not happy about this.
Tom Watson was just checking.