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Murdochs In The Commons: What Will MPs Ask?

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Murdochs In The Commons: What Will MPs Ask?

Post by Guest on 15.07.11 0:30

Murdochs In The Commons: What Will MPs Ask?

11:44pm UK, Thursday July 14, 2011

Jon Craig, chief political correspondent

Members of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee of MPs tell me they can't wait to get their teeth into Rupert and James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks next Tuesday.

The hearing - which beings at 2.30pm and will be live on Sky News - will concentrate on two big issues: the phone-hacking scandal and corrupt payments to police.

The committee is chaired by Tory grandee John Whittingdale, a right-winger who was Margaret Thatcher's political secretary in 10 Downing Street before becoming an MP.

Mr Whittingdale has had a good scandal. His speeches and interventions in the Commons have been measured and wise and he was one of the first Conservative MPs to acknowledge that the NewsCorp-BskyB bid was doomed.

The bloodhound of his committee, Mr Whittingdale will attempt to tease information out of the Murdochs about who knew what about hacking and when, who sanctioned the payments to private investigators and police and the culture of illegal payments in the News Of The World.

After issuing the summonses to Rupert and James Murdoch that prompted their dramatic U-turn, he said he wanted to ask James Murdoch about his admission in a TV interview on the day the News Of The World was shut down that Parliament had been lied to by News Of The World bosses in previous select committee hearings.

Before the hearing gets under way, a Liberal Democrat member of the committee, Adrian Sanders, will attempt to persuade Mr Whittingdale to insist the witnesses should be compelled to give their evidence under oath.

In the Commons earlier, after this was raised by labour MP Kevin Brennan, Deputy Speaker Lindsay Hoyle ruled that the committee had the power to do this and witnesses found to have lied could be prosecuted for perjury.

The committee's undisputed chief Rottweiler is the tenacious Tom Watson, the Gordon Brown loyalist who has pursued the hacking scandal relentlessly with a snarling intensity.

He has made a series of claims in the Commons in recent weeks and will pursue his allegations of a cover-up at the highest level. He has claimed that James Murdoch sanctioned payments to silence witnesses and complainants and that police investigating the phone hacking allegations told lies to Parliament.

The terrier of the committee is the right-wing Yorkshire MP Philip Davies, who is also a fearless interrogator.

He has no love for David Cameron and may well probe the Prime Minister's links with Rebekah Brooks and the 'Chipping Norton set', including cosy Christmas dinners and reports that the pair went horse riding.

Look out also for Tory MP Louise Mensch, formerly Bagshawe, the chick-lit novelist and former journalist, who in past hearings has been critical of police accepting payments and will want to know more about this.

Another ex-journalist, Paul Farrelly, last year admitted wrestling a man to the floor in self-defence in a House of Commons bar. He's a formidable interrogator too, though it's doubtful he will wrestle the witnesses to the floor this time!

And Jim Sheridan, the Scottish trade unionist who chairs the Unite group of Labour MPs, will quiz the Murdochs about the News Of The World's closure.

He has bitterly criticised the News International management in the Commons in recent days for sacking staff while bosses like Rebekah Brooks kept their jobs.

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