The House of Commons Culture, Media, and Sport select committee today issued its report into phone hacking. In a hard hitting report, it adjudged that Rupert Murdoch is not a fit and proper person to run an international company. Only the Tories refused to endorse the report.
Tom Watson’s statement pulls no punches. Today comes as a personal and political victory for the Labour MP for West Bromwich East. His courage in standing up to Murdoch and News International despite being on the receiving end of a concerted campaign of intimidation and character assassination has rightly earned him plaudits from across the political spectrum, excepting of course the Conservatives.
‘It’s been 10 years, 1 month and nine days since the News of the World hacked Milly Dowler’s phone.
Five days ago Rupert Murdoch admitted there was a cover up at News Corporation.
We found that News Corporation carried out an extensive cover-up of its rampant lawbreaking. It’s most senior executives repeatedly misled Parliament and the two men at the top, Rupert and James Murdoch – who were in charge of the company – must now answer for that.
In the view of the majority of committee members Rupert Murdoch is not fit to run and international company like BSkyB.
I’m disappointed that some members didn’t feel sufficiently convinced or confident to hold the most powerful to account. (They felt they couldn’t support sections 216-229 of the report)
Many hacking victims have still not been informed of what was done to them. And Rupert Murdoch has not said his last apology to the families of murdered children.
Let us also remember that this scandal cost many hundreds of hard working, innocent journalists their jobs. They’ve found it hard to find work. I know this because I’ve provided references for a number of them.
Parliament was misled, that we now know.
But there were four issues we couldn’t get to the bottom of because of time constraints, decisions of the committee not to proceed or because they fall outside our remit.
Former member of the Scottish Parliament Tommy Sheridan lost his liberty on a majority verdict of a jury which was not in full possession of the facts. He received a three year prison sentence. I believe the judgement is unsound.
If Rupert Murdoch really is sorry, he will order an urgent review of the information his company provided to the jury in the Sheridan case.
Now that we know that the former first minister in Scotland was also a target of hacking, I’m writing to Alex Salmond to recommend he sets up an inquiry by the Scottish Parliament into how and why MSPs were targeted.
Secondly, we asked the Murdochs about computer hacking but we didn’t get very far. I’m not certain but I have reason to believe that the Serious Organsied Crime Agency is in possession of seized hard drives that may show a list of victims who were the targets of computer hackers.
There may well be a Mulcaire 2 out there – where the authorities think it is right not to inform people who have had their privacy invaded by private investigators who have links with national newspapers.
I’m writing to the Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee today, to raise my concerns and to ask that his committee do what it can to establish the facts.
Thirdly, we were not able to establish the extent to which committee members were the targets of private investigators or journalists trying to collect information in order to either smear or influence.
Last week former Chief Reporter of the News of the World, Neville Thurlbeck said “it was News International, not the News of the World, which ordered us to dig into the private lives of the MPs on the committee” which was investigating us.
He went on to say that “many News International executives were in the loop” The committee did not have the time to act on these new allegations but I think they are so serious they warrant an inquiry by the Committee of Standards and Privileges for a potential contempt of Parliament.
Fourthly, though we have not had time to discuss it in committee, it is my personal view that we should embark on an investigation into the relationship between ministers, special advisers and lobbyists working for News International and BSkyB.
I repeat my call that the PM should allow the Leveson inquiry to view the private emails and texts of Treasury advisers and Mr Fredric Michel of News International and Mr Graham McWilliam of BSkyB.
The truth is that, whatever we have said in our report, and however you choose to report it tomorrow, the public have made up their minds.
Powerful people were involved in a cover up and they still haven’t accepted responsibility.
And after all of this, the story is not yet over.
It was reported at the weekend that Rebekah Brooks was prepared to release her personal texts and emails to the Leveson inquiry. I think she should. But, as David Cameron said yesterday, the contacts between Rupert Murdoch and senior ministers crossed both sides of the House.
If we really want to see how News Corp in the UK operates, then the current PM and Chancellor, all former Prime Ministers – including Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, and former Chancellors might want to consider revealing their texts and emails to company executives.
These people corrupted our country. They brought shame on our police force and our Parliament. They lied and cheated, blackmailed and bullied. We should all be ashamed when we think how we cowered before them for so long.
But to really stop requires more than tokenistic retribution. It needs conclusive attribution. The very cornerstone of justice is that those really responsible are held to account – that the rich and the powerful are as low in the face of the law as the most humble and weak.
In the words of Bob Dylan, “that the ladder of law has no top and no bottom”.
And everybody in the world knows who is responsible for the wrongdoing of News Corp: Rupert Murdoch. More than any individual alive, he is to blame. Morally, the deeds are his. He paid the piper and he called the tune.
It is his company, his culture, his people, his business, his failures, his lies, his crimes. The price for his profits and his power.’