UK lawmakers seek James Murdoch hacking "clarification"

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 29, 2011 7:59 AM

LONDON (Reuters) - British lawmakers said on Friday they would write to News Corp's James Murdoch asking him to give more details about evidence on phone hacking he gave to a parliamentary committee, following claims his testimony was "mistaken."

But the Culture, Media and Sport Committee voted against recalling Murdoch, News Corp's deputy chief operating officer, as some of its members had demanded.

The committee wants Murdoch, chairman of News Corp's British newspaper arm News International, to clarify details he provided earlier this month about phone-hacking allegations at the News of the World tabloid.

"We are going to write to ask for further details on areas where evidence is disputed," said the committee's chairman John Whittingdale.

The decision comes after Tom Crone, News International's former top legal officer, and Colin Myler, editor of the News of the World until it was shut down earlier this month, issued a statement saying some of Murdoch's evidence was wrong.

Myler and Crone said they had told him of an email from a News of the World reporter to "Neville" containing transcripts of hacked voicemails.

Neville Thurlbeck was chief reporter on the weekly when it published a story about English soccer executive Gordon Taylor. Murdoch later approved a large payout to Taylor, but told the committee he had not been in possession of all the facts when he approved it.

Whittingdale said the committee would also write to Crone and Myler and News International's then lawyers Harbottle and Lewis to provide further information.

"Once we have received those replies ... we expect to receive them very shortly, the committee will meet again, probably in about two weeks' time to determine what further actions to make," he added.

Allegations of hacking at News Corp's British newspapers, in particular reports that journalists accessed the voicemails of murder victims, have triggered a judicial inquiry and calls from some politicians to cap News Corp's media ownership.

It has already led to Rupert Murdoch's global media empire dropping its $12 billion bid for the 61 percent of pay-TV broadcaster BSkyB it does not own.

"It's my view that Murdoch, Crone and Myler should have been invited today," said committee member, Tom Watson.

"We did take a vote and it was not successful. But I understand from the decision we took that when we receive the evidence no later than August 11, we are meeting the week after that to decide whether to invite them at that point."

(Reporting by Tim Castle; Editing by Steve Addison)