A day of classic political theatre is promised at Westminster on Tuesday as key protagonists in the phone-hacking scandal are set to appear before MPs at two parliamentary committees.
James Murdoch, flanked by his father Rupert, will face intense questioning from the media select committee after the chairman of News International admitted last week that parliament had been “misled” over phone hacking at the News of the World.
Referring to comments made by James Murdoch as he announced the closure of the News of the World, committee chairman John Whittingdale said: “The reason we have asked James Murdoch in particular is that he has publicly stated that we have been misled. We want to know who misled us.”
The committee will also ask Mr Murdoch why he did not question more closely the reason for settlements, including one of £700,000 to a hacking victim, which he authorised in 2007.
Geoffrey Robertson QC described as “bear baiting’’ the appearance of “the Wapping three” before Tuesday’s select committee of MPs. The barrister told the BBC “none of the committee members are good examiners’’ but the interesting question would be who was approving payments to Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator at the centre of the scandal.
Rebekah Brooks, who was arrested on Sunday in connection to the phone-hacking investigation, will also be present to answer questions, although the former News International chief executive will be limited in what she can say following hours of questioning by police.
While the culture committee is expected to quiz News International executives from 2.30pm, the home affairs select committee at noon began questioning the two senior Metropolitan Police officers who have both quit within the past 36 hours as the scandal deepens.
Sir Paul Stephenson, the Metropolitan Police commissioner who resigned on Sunday night after it emerged that the Met had hired as a consultant Neil Wallis, an executive from the News of the World, appeared before the committee to answer questions on the force’s links with News International. He was to be joined by John Yates, the assistant commissioner who resigned last night over his failure to call for a further investigation into phone hacking in 2009.
Sir Paul was probed more deeply on the circumstances surrounding his resignation, as well as what was said between him and Mr Yates in 2009 when his subordinate decided not to reopen an investigation into phone hacking, said one MP on the committee.
“Sir Paul Stephenson has always been extremely helpful in giving evidence to the select committee. His evidence tomorrow will enable us to complete inquiries. This was agreed before he announced his decision to resign and we will be exploring some of these issues with him,” said Keith Vaz, head of the home affairs select committee.
John Whittingdale, chair of the media select committee, has said he would hold the Murdochs and Ms Brooks to account after the last investigation carried out by the committee in 2009-2010 was frustrated by “deliberate obfuscation” on the part of News International executives.
The committee will also be quizzing the trio on what payments were made to police, who signed off those payments and the flaws of the internal investigation into phone-hacking carried out by News International in 2007.
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