Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch, Rebekah Brooks Summoned to Parliament to Answer Phone Hacking Allegations
LONDON - Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch and News International CEO Rebekah Brooks have been summoned before Parliament next Tuesday to explain their roles in the phone hacking scandal that shows no signs of abating.
The Culture Media and Sport committee has requested that all three present themselves to give evidence into an inquiry on the illegal phone hacking on July 19.
The committee has no legal powers to compel the News Corp. chairman and CEO or his son, who is deputy COO of News International or Brooks, who heads the newspaper division overseeing The Sun, The Times, The Sunday Times, and, until last week, The News of the World, to appear.
However, such is the climate of feeling in the U.K. about the extent of the scandal, that declining to appear could also be an embarrassment.
Tom Watson MP, who sits on the Culture Committee, said that to ignore the invitation would amount to running scared.
"I suspect some [witnesses] might be too cowardly to turn up," he told BBC News.
"They have egregiously mislead Parliament over a long period of time and they have mislead people and mislead their readers….these people are hiding behind PR people, they should come to Parliament and explain themselves."
Watson rejected the suggestion that the Murdochs could escape appearing because their actions were part of an ongoing criminal inquiry.
"As far as I know none of the three are under inquiry, none have been arrested. We have invited them, we have called them to attend next Tuesday and we will be there."
The news of the Parliamentary summons comes as ever more damaging revelations continue to engulf News International.
On Tuesday morning former Prime Minister Gordon Brown accused the company of using criminals to track down details of his tax and financial affairs, and said he and his wife had been "in tears" when details of his infant son's serious medical conditions were published by the newspaper after investigators for The Sun had accessed the child's medical records.
"I do know that in two instances there is absolute proof that News International hired known criminals in some case with records of violence and fraud," Brown said.
The accusations come as News International comes to terms with the fact it is now facing the revulsion of readers, the withdrawal of advertisers and the vilification of virtually the entire political establishment.
Even the newspapers that are owned fully outright by News International have condemned the handling and actions of their immediate bosses.
The leader column of The Times newspaper on Tuesday was scathing about the way the entire affair has been handled.
"At the very early stage of the hacking scandal, News International proved unable to establish, disclose and take responsibility for what has happened at the News of The World. As the story has got worse that same pattern of uncertainty, opacity and defensiveness has characterized the response."
The newspaper's editorial went on to say that the billions of dollars wiped off the price of shares in News Corporation and BSkyB were "the commercial cost of a loss in public confidence."