Rupert Murdoch is "not fit to run a major international company" a group of influential MPs have concluded, saying the media mogul "turned a blind eye" to the phone hacking scandal that brought down News of the World.
The report by the Commons Culture Media and Sport Committee on the misleading of parliament by members of Murdoch's staff concludes both they and News International as a whole demonstrated "contempt" towards MPs in the most "blatant fashion".
This contempt was displayed during evidence given to them on several occasions, and they strongly hint that Parliament could consider bringing formal proceedings against several key players in the phone hacking saga.
While neither Rupert or James Murdoch come out of the report bathed in glory by any means, both they, along with former News International executive Rebekah Brooks, escape formal censure for misleading Parliament.
But MPs are clear that evidence to the committee from all three, along with their management style as a whole, left a lot to be desired.
James Murdoch is accused of, at best, "wilful ignorance" of several key documents relating to phone hacking, which he has repeatedly claimed not to have seen at the time.
MPs conclude that it would be "simply astonishing" if Rupert and James Murdoch genuinely believed only one rogue reporter was involved in phone hacking at News International before 2010.
News Corporation said in a statement it was “carefully reviewing” the report and would “respond shortly”, adding: “The company fully acknowledges significant wrongdoing at News of the World and apologises to everyone whose privacy was invaded.”
Read the report below.
Phone Hacking Report
This pithy and sometimes scathing report - in which the MPs' anger at being misled is barely concealed - concludes that the former editor of the News of the World, Colin Myler, along with senior News International figures Les Hinton and Tom Crone, all misled the DCMS committee in their evidence, some of which was misleading enough to prevent MPs from learning in 2009 the true extent of phone hacking at the Murdoch empire.
Their report, entitled News International and Phone Hacking, concludes that Les Hinton, formerly one of Rupert Murdoch's most senior executives in Britain, misled the committee on two occasions in 2007 and 2009 over the arrest of the News of the World's former royal editor, Clive Goodman.
Hinton failed to remember the size and nature of payments made to Goodman by News International - payments MPs are clear were used to "buy Goodman's silence".
Hinton "inexcusably" suggested to MPs that he only made the payout to Goodman having taken legal advice.
But MPs have subsequently learned that Hinton was the orchestrator of the payments - totalling nearly a quarter of a million pounds - and showed "selective amnesia' about them during evidence before Parliament.
When MPs reported in 2010 on the prevalence of phone hacking in the British press, they had no idea that Goodman had been paid such an "extraordinary" sum.
Both Colin Myler and Tom Crone, News International's former legal adviser, deliberately gave false evidence to MPs about the scale of phone hacking at the News of the World.
They gave the committee "repeated assurances" that they had no evidence to suggest anyone else on the paper had hacked people's phones. MPs conclude both men must have known this wasn't true at the time.
Tom Crone also gave MPs confusing and contradictory evidence throughout his appearances before the committee, particularly over an internal News International email - now known as the "for Neville" email - which catalogued a series of phone hacks by private investigator Glenn Mulcaire.
Both Crone and Myler were aware of independent legal advice which suggested a widespread "culture of illegal information access" was taking place at News International, but MPs report that the approach of the company was to cover up wrong doing, rather than to take action to prevent it happening.
Crone has dismissed the claims as "unfounded" and insisted he did not accept its findings that his evidence was "misleading".
However, he admitted there were "valid criticisms" of his conduct over phone-hacking, and praised the "good work" of the Commons Culture Committee, which has published its long-awaited report into the controversy.
"For the avoidance of doubt, I entirely accept the News of the World phone-hacking scandal is a matter of enormous public importance which needed a full and proper investigation and I in no way wish to diminish the good work undertaken by the Committee," Crone said in a statement.
"I accept that there are valid criticisms of my conduct in this matter but for the second time in a week, I seem to be the subject of serious allegations which lack foundation."
MPs cannot say definitively whether James Murdoch had advance sight of the "for Neville" email - something he claims not to have seen before it was put into the public domain in 2010.
However they censure Murdoch for presiding over a journalistic enterprise yet appearing to take no interest in the integrity or conduct of his journalists.
And they spare the best for last when they turn to James Murdoch's father, Rupert. They write:
On the basis of all the facts and evidence before the committee, we conclude that, if at all relevant times Rupert Murdoch did not take steps to become fully informed about phone hacking, he turned a blind eye and exhibited wilful blindess to what was going on in his companies and publications. This culture, we consider, permeated from the top throughout the organisation, and speaks volumes about the lack of effective corporate governance at News Corporation and News International. We conclude, therefor, that Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company.
While MPs can't do anything about whether Murdoch runs News Corporation, they do have the option of bringing contempt of Parliament proceedings against Crone, Hinton and Myler. The Culture Committee is tabling a motion to the whole of the House of Commons, asking them to endorse their findings. This potentially paves the way for the three men to be hauled back to Parliament, this time to face criminal charges.
But MPs will be conscious that two separate inquires by Lord Leveson and the Metropolitan Police in London are still underway - at some point a decision is going to have to be made on who gets charged, by whom, and when.
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