It was only at the end of a marathon 3½-hour meeting of the culture, media and sport select committee that we got the most damning new revelation about News International’s behaviour over phone hacking.

Tom Crone, the company’s former legal manager, having already faced a barrage of accusatory questions from Tom Watson, finally answered one in the positive.

Yes, he had seen “one thing or two” about the private lives of lawyers acting for people claiming damages from NI after being hacked. And yes, that material had been collated by a freelance journalist being employed by NI itself.

Tomorrow’s headlines will be all about James Murdoch after Crone and Colin Myler, the former NotW editor, both insisted Murdoch Jr knew about the “For Neville” email which proved complicity in hacking went beyond Clive Goodman, despite Murdoch’s claims to the contrary. But we already knew they claimed to have told him about that email after they released a statement saying so immediately after Murdoch made that claim earlier this year.

But it was this new admission, that NI had been investigating the claimants’ lawyers themselves, that took those of us in the session most by surprise.

MPs managed to score one other direct hit, getting Crone to admit that confidentiality had been an important part of the pay-off to Gordon Taylor, whose voicemail was the one transcribed on the “for Neville” email.

Crone had previously said secrecy was not important to NI, but on Tuesday admitted that the company wanted to prevent publicity triggering four similar cases being brought.

He claimed however that there was no contradiction involved: “I think there is a difference between secrecy and confidentialty,” he said, to sceptical laughter.

Get alerts on UK politics & policy when a new story is published

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window)

Follow the topics in this article