Parliament May Be Asked to Force Rupert and James Murdoch, Rebekah Brooks to Give Evidence

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Rupert Murdoch

In an impassioned House of Commons debate, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown denounces News Corp.'s News International unit as “an intolerable abuser of power.”

LONDON - Parliament may be asked to use its legal powers to force News International CEO Rebekah Brooks, James Murdoch and Rupert Murdoch to appear before the House of Commons Culture Media and Sport select committee, its chairman said Wednesday.

The committee has asked the three News Corp. executives to present themselves for questioning on July 17, and has given them until Thursday July 14th to respond.

“We have not yet received a response [to our invitation]," John Whittingdale told an impassioned House of Commons debating the role of News International in British media.

“The committee will meet tomorrow morning and we have said we [expect to] receive a reply before then, but if do not receive a reply by then, the select committee may well return to this House to ask it to use the powers available to ensure that witnesses attend.”

Although it is not clear what powers Parliament has to compel Rupert Murdoch, a U.S. citizen, to attend, or his son James, who has both U.S. and Australian citizenship, to give evidence, UK born resident Brooks will likely come under powers requiring her to answer questions.

Earlier in the debate former prime minister Gordon Brown used Parliamentary privilege to launch a devastating attack on Rupert Murdoch and his entire cohort of executives at his conglomerate's News International unit, accusing the newspaper publisher of using “systematic criminality” and “letting the rats out of the sewers” by its links with criminals.

Brown, who has emerged as a sympathetic figure after details of his infant son’s cystic fibrosis were published by

The Sun, said that News International had emerged as “an intolerable abuser of power,” exploiting the tragedies of ordinary people for blatant commercial profit.

“Many, many wholly innocent men, women and children, who at their darkest hour and the most vulnerable moments of their life, with no-one and nowhere to turn, found their properly private lives and sorrows, were treated like the public property of News International,” a clearly impassioned Brown told the House of Commons.

“[These people] had their private, innermost feelings and their private tears bought and sold by News International for commercial gain.”

Brown went on to tell the House of Commons that the exploitation was systematic and unlawful.

“This was not the misconduct of a few rogues or freelances but I have to say, it was lawbreaking often on an industrial scale, and at its worst dependent on links with the British criminal underworld.“