News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch is “not fit” to run a major company, according to an MPs’ report – as the firm claimed some parts of the report were “unjustified and highly partisan”.
The report by the Culture, Media and Sport select committee saw its members split along party lines – which News Corp highlighted in a statement.
The committee said Mr Murdoch, along with his son James, should “ultimately be prepared to take responsibility” for the “wilful blindness” of News International and News Corporation over the phone-hacking scandal.
But the pair were both cleared of misleading Parliament.
The behaviour of News International and certain witnesses in this affair demonstrated contempt for that system in the most blatant fashion.
Culture, Media and Sport select committee report
The committee agreed that former News Of The World editor Colin Myler, ex-legal manager Tom Crone and Les Hinton, who worked for Rupert Murdoch for more than 50 years, had misled it.
The trio could be referred to the House of Commons to decide whether there has been a contempt of Parliament.
Conservative MPs on the committee were keen to point out that they had not backed the statement about Mr Murdoch’s suitability to run a major corporation.
It was included in the committee’s report after the five Labour members and one Liberal Democrat backed it in opposition to the four Tories.
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Conservative committee member Philip Davies accused the Labour members of “getting carried away” over Rupert Murdoch.
But Labour MP Tom Watson, who tabled the amendment branding the News Corp boss unfit to run a major corporation, said he was disappointed that the Conservatives had been unwilling to support him.
“These people corrupted our country. They brought shame on our police force and our Parliament. They lied, they cheated, blackmailed and bullied and we should all be ashamed when we think how we cowered before them for too long,” he said.
Louise Mensch, another Conservative, said Mr Watson’s amendment had undermined the credibility of the report.
Colin Myler and Tom Crone giving their evidence last year
“We all thought that was wildly outside the scope of a select committee, was an improper attempt to influence Ofcom and to tread on areas that are not the province of a select committee,” she said.
Ofcom is currently investigating whether News Corporation is a fit and proper controlling investor in satellite broadcaster BSkyB, which owns Sky News.
News Corporation boss Rupert Murdoch said in an email to staff: “The report affords us a unique opportunity to reflect upon the mistakes we have made and further the course we have already completed to correct them.
“I recognise that for all of us – myself in particular – it is difficult to read many of the report’s findings. But we have done the most difficult part, which has been to take a long, hard and honest look at our past mistakes.
“There is no easy way around this, but I am proud to say that we have been working hard to put things right.”
News Corporation, which has a 39% stake in BSkyB, said: “Hard truths have emerged from the Select Committee Report: that there was serious wrongdoing at the News of the World; that our response to the wrongdoing was too slow and too defensive; and that some of our employees misled the Select Committee in 2009.
“News Corporation regrets, however, that the Select Committee’s analysis of the factual record was followed by some commentary that we, and indeed several members of the committee, consider unjustified and highly partisan. These remarks divided the members along party lines.
“We have already confronted and have acted on the failings documented in the Report: we have conducted internal reviews of operations at newspapers in the United Kingdom and indeed around the world, far beyond anything asked of us by the Metropolitan Police.
“We have volunteered any evidence of apparent wrongdoing to the authorities; and, we have instituted sweeping changes in our internal controls and our compliance programs on a world-wide basis, to help ensure that nothing like this ever happens again anywhere at News Corporation.”
It added: “As we move forward, our goal is to make certain that in every corner of the globe, our company acts in a manner of which our 50,000 employees and hundreds of thousands of shareholders can be justly proud.”
Former News International chairman Mr Hinton was found to have misled the committee when he gave evidence in 2009 about payments made to former royal correspondent Clive Goodman, who was jailed in 2007 for phone hacking.
Mr Hinton said the allegations by the committee were “unfounded, unfair and erroneous”.
Mr Myler and Mr Crone misled it over their knowledge that other staff were involved in phone hacking, according to the report.
“The behaviour of News International and certain witnesses in this affair demonstrated contempt for that system in the most blatant fashion,” the report said.
“Their instinct throughout, until it was too late, was to cover up rather than seek out wrongdoing and discipline the perpetrators.”
James Murdoch says he did not learn the extent of the hacking until late 2010
Mr Myler, who is now editor of the New York Daily News, said in a statement that he stood by his evidence to the committee.
“I have always sought to be accurate and consistent in what I have said to the committee,” he said.
Mr Crone said he does “not accept” allegations he misled Parliament, adding that “for the second time in a week, I seem to be the subject of serious allegations which lack foundation”.
Mr Myler and Mr Crone told the committee they informed James Murdoch at a June 2008 meeting of the significance of the “For Neville” email, which apparently revealed that phone-hacking was widespread.
But Mr Murdoch said he only learned in late 2010 of “critical new facts” proving that the practice of illegally eavesdropping on private voicemail messages went beyond a single “rogue reporter”.
Despite clearing him of misleading the committee, MPs did however call James Murdoch’s claims that he only new in 2010 that hacking was widespread “simply astonishing”.
Another former former NOTW editor, Rebekah Brooks, was censured for presiding over a culture that led to journalists of the newspaper impersonating members of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler’s family and hacking the teenager’s phone.
The Culture, Media and Sport select committee first investigated hacking claims in 2009.
It reopened its inquiry last July after it emerged that Milly Dowler’s phone had been hacked.
The MPs’ report came a day after David Cameron was summoned to the Commons to account for the lack of an investigation into the row over the Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s involvement in the bid for BSkyB.