‘CHILLING AND UNBELIEVABLE’– News International tailed entire Culture Committee – allegation

Protesters outside the Culture Committee in July as Rupert Murdoch appeared
Protesters outside the Culture Committee in July as Rupert Murdoch appeared

all members of the House of Commons Culture Committee were tailed by journalists or private investigators employed by the News of the World, it was alleged yesterday.

On the opening day of the Leveson Inquiry into the ‘culture, practices and ethics of the press’ it emerged that all members of the committee investigating the Murdoch hacking scandal were actually tailed by employees of those they were investigating.

Guardian journalist Roy Greenslade said a News of the World source told him the surveillance was authorised by a ‘senior executive’ and he believed knowledge of it went higher still.

Greenslade stated: ‘It does seem inconceivable that a whole staff virtually can be involved in an enterprise like this without at least someone very senior indeed knowing. Imagine the resources involved in terms of money, time and being taken off other work to do it.

‘So if the source is correct and by the way this source correlates other sources and Tom Watson MP appears to have another source, then it does seem to be an extraordinary enterprise.’

Culture Committee member Louise Mensch MP described the revelation as ‘terrifying’.

She said: ‘I put this question to Mr James Murdoch when I questioned him at our most recent hearing.

‘I asked him if he was aware that Tom Watson had been put under surveillance and he apologised to Mr Watson, he did say that the only case that he knew of was Tom Watson being put under surveillance.’

She went on: ‘My understanding was that the previous committee – we’re after all investigating whether the previous committee was lied to – the committee investigating News International in 2009 was put under surveillance.

‘I had no idea that this present committee was put under surveillance.

‘And the difference now of course is that News International is very well aware of everything it did wrong and how far the culture of hacking and blagging extended in their newsroom.

‘All these things had gone on, it seems almost literally incredible, almost literally unbelievable that members of the present select committee could have been tailed by private investigators and journalists.’

She went on: ‘It is chilling, it’s terrifying, it sort of says, “don’t mess with us because we’ll come to get you”.’