Rupert Murdoch is “not a fit person” to exercise stewardship of a major international company, a committee of MPs has concluded, in a report highly critical of the mogul and his son James’s role in the News of the World phone-hacking affair.
The Commons culture, media and sport select committee also concluded that James Murdoch showed “wilful ignorance” of the extent of phone hacking during 2009 and 2010 – in a highly charged document that saw MPs split on party lines as regards the two Murdochs.
Labour MPs and the sole Liberal Democrat on the committee, Adrian Sanders, voted together in a bloc of six against the five Conservatives to insert the criticisms of Rupert Murdoch and toughen up the remarks about his son James. But the MPs were united in their criticism of other former News International employees.
The cross-party group of MPs said that Les Hinton, the former executive chairman of News International, was “complicit” in a cover-up at the newspaper group, and that Colin Myler, former editor of the News of the World, and the paper’s ex-head of legal, Tom Crone, deliberately withheld crucial information and answered questions falsely. All three were accused of misleading parliament by the culture select committee.
Rupert Murdoch, the document said, “did not take steps to become fully informed about phone hacking” and “turned a blind eye and exhibited wilful blindness to what was going on in his companies and publications”.
The committee concluded that the culture of the company’s newspapers“permeated from the top” and “speaks volumes about the lack of effective corporate governance at News Corporation and News International”.
That prompted the MPs’ report to say: “We conclude, therefore, that Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of major international company.”
James Murdoch is described as exhibiting a “lack of curiosity … wilful ignorance even” at the time of the negotiations surrounding the 2008 Gordon Taylor phone-hacking settlement and into 2009 and 2010. The younger son of Rupert Murdoch is criticised for failing to appreciate the significance of the News of the World hacking when the “for Neville” email first became public in 2009 and during subsequent investigations by parliament in February 2010 and a New York Times report in September 2010.
“We would add to these admissions that as the head of a journalistic enterprise, we are astonished that James Murdoch did not seek more information or ask to see the evidence and counsel’s opinion when he was briefed by Tom Crone and Colin Myler on the Gordon Taylor case,” the select committee said.
Even if James Murdoch did not appreciate the significance of the £700,000 Taylor payout, the committee concluded it was “simply astonishing” that he did not realise that the “one ‘rogue reporter’ line was untrue” until late 2010, after a previous inquiry by the culture select committee which ran during 2009 and reported in February 2010.
According to minutes published by the committee, the MPs were almost unanimous in their criticism of Hinton, Myler and Crone.
Rebekah Brooks, the former News of the World editor and News International boss, was largely spared from the MPs’ criticism. The report said that it would not draw conclusions on evidence to the committee about Milly Dowler, the murdered schoolgirl whose voicemail messages were hacked by the News of the World in 2002, because of an ongoing police investigation into Brooks.