RUPERT Murdoch ‘is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company’, the Parliamentary Culture Committee reported yesterday.
The committee was split six to four, with four of the five Tory members refusing to endorse the inclusion of the clause describing Murdoch as ‘not a fit person’.
However, in its report Murdoch was accused of exhibiting ‘wilful blindness’ to what was going on at News Corporation.
The committee of MPs began its inquiry in July 2011 in the wake of fresh revelations about the extent of hacking at the News of the World, with victims including murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.
Having heard evidence from Rupert Murdoch and James Murdoch it concluded the notion that a ‘hands-on’ proprietor like Rupert Murdoch had ‘no inkling’ that wrongdoing was widespread at the News of the World was ‘simply not credible’.
It noted: ‘On the basis of 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 blindness to what was going on in his companies and publications.’
The committee also criticised three former News International executives – one-time executive chairman Les Hinton, former News of the World editor Colin Myler and former legal manager Tom Crone.
Myler and Crone misled the committee over their knowledge that other staff were involved in phone hacking, the committee said.
The House of Commons is to be invited to support the conclusions of the Committee and find that the three are in contempt of parliament.
News Corp as a whole was guilty of ‘huge failings of corporate governance’ and, throughout, its instinct had been ‘to cover up rather than seek out wrongdoing and discipline the perpetrators’, the committee said
And it concluded: ‘Corporately, the News of the World and News International misled the committee about the true nature and extent of the internal investigations they professed to have carried out in relation to phone hacking; by making statements they would have known were not fully truthful; and by failing to disclose documents which would have helped expose the truth.’
James Murdoch told the committee last summer that he did not see an email which suggested that hacking was more widespread at the paper than previously acknowledged – a claim disputed by Myler and Crone.
On that matter, the report concluded that James Murdoch had demonstrated ‘wilful ignorance’ about what had been going on.
It said News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks must ‘accept responsibility’ for presiding over a culture at the News of the World that led to journalists impersonating members of Milly Dowler’s family and hacking the teenager’s phone.
It also criticised Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer and former Acting Deputy Commissioner at the Metropolitan Police John Yates for failing to ensure hacking claims were properly investigated.
After the report was delivered, committee member and Labour MP, Tom Watson, declared: ‘Five days ago Rupert Murdoch admitted there was a cover-up at News Corporation. We found News Corporation carried out an extensive cover-up of its rampant law-breaking.
‘Its most senior executives repeatedly misled parliament and the two men at the top, Rupert and James Murdoch, who were in charge of the company must now answer for that.’
He continued: ‘We asked the Murdochs about computer hacking, but we didn’t get very far.
‘I am not certain, but I have reason to believe that the Serious Organised Crime Agency is in possession of seized hard-drives that may show a list of victims who were targets of computer hackers.
‘There may well be a “Mulcare two” out there, where the authorities think it is right not to inform people who have had their privacy invaded by private investigators who have links with national newspapers.’
He went on: ‘We were not able to establish the extent to which committee members were the targets of private investigators or journalists trying to collect information in order to either smear or influence.
‘Last week former chief reporter at News of the World, Neville Thelbeck, said “it was News International, not News of the World, which ordered us to dig into the private lives of the MPs on the committee which was investigating us”.
‘He went on to say that “many News International executives were in the loop”. The committee did not have the time to act on these new allegations, but I think they are so serious, they warrant an inquiry by the committee of standards and privileges for potential contempt of parliament.’
He added: ‘It is my personal view that we should embark on an investigation into the relationship of ministers, special advisers and lobbyists working for News International and BSkyB.
‘I repeat my call that the prime minister should allow the Leveson Inquiry to view the private emails and texts of Treasury advisers and Mr Frederick Michelle of News International and Mr Graham McWilliam of BSkyB.
‘The truth is that, whatever we have said in our report, and however you choose to report it tomorrow, the public have made up their minds.
‘Powerful people were involved in a cover-up and they still haven’t accepted responsibility.
‘And after all of this, the story is not yet over. It was reported at the weekend that Rebekah Brooks was prepared to release her personal texts and emails to David Cameron to the Leveson Inquiry. I think she should. But as the prime minister said yesterday, the contacts between Rupert Murdoch and senior ministers crossed both sides of the House.
‘If we really want to see how News Corp in the UK operates, then the current PM and chancellor, all former prime ministers, including Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, and former chancellors, might want to consider revealing their texts and emails to company executives.’
He said of News Corp: ‘These people corrupted our country. They brought shame on our police force and our parliament. They lied and cheated, blackmailed and bullied. And we should all be ashamed when we think how we cowered before them for so long.’
He concluded: ‘Everybody in the world knows who is responsible for the wrongdoing of News Corp, Rupert Murdoch.
‘More than any individual alive, he is to blame. Morally, the deeds are his. He paid the piper and he called the tune.
‘It is his company, his culture, his people, his business, his failures, his lies, his crimes, the price of profits and his power.’