Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers
21 JULY 2009
Chairman: Good morning. This is the second
session as part of the Committee's further inquiry into press
standards, privacy and libel, concentrating particularly on the
stories that appeared in the Guardian nearly two weeks
ago. I would like to welcome as our first witnesses this morning
Tom Crone the Legal Manager of News Group, and Colin Myler the
Editor of the News of the World. Before we start, I would
like to make a declaration that I am an elected member of the
Board of the Conservative Party which is currently the formal
employer of Mr Andy Coulson. I have stood aside from my membership
of the Board whilst this inquiry is taking place. I believe Tom
Watson would also like to make a statement.
Q1329 Mr Watson: Thank you, Chairman.
I am a member of the Unite Union and, having had time to review
the evidence of this case which I had not had last Tuesday, I
would also like to add that in my dispute with the Sun
I am represented by Carter-Ruck on a CFA agreement, which Committee
members will know is relevant to the inquiry, but not the evidence-taking
Mr Crone: Yesterday evening we
delivered a letter from our outside solicitors to you, and I think
to be copied to the rest of the Committee, pointing out that Mr
Watson is in litigation with us at the moment; and pointing out
that under parliamentary rules and also the principles I think
of natural justice and Article 6 of the Human Rights Act it seems
to us quite improper that Mr Watson is sitting on this panel dealing
with News Group Newspapers Ltd with whom he is in litigation.
If he remains we will be making a complaint to the Parliamentary
Chairman: I am aware of the letter, as
indeed is Mr Watson and the Committee. The advice from Speaker's
Counsel is that it does not interfere with his ability to take
part in this inquiry; and Mr Watson has made a formal declaration.
Obviously you are able to make any complaint you wish. Do you
wish to add anything?
Mr Watson: Only to say, when the allegation
was made late last night, Chairman, I took advice from the Clerks
who took advice from Speaker's Counsel. I happen to think that
this is News International trying to interfere with the work of
this Committee; and I think it is improper.
Q1330 Chairman: Both of those statements
are now on the record. Perhaps we should proceed. The major story
that appeared in the Guardian some ten days ago was that
News International had made a payment to three individuals, principally
Gordon Taylor, in settlement of a court action. Is that correct?
Mr Myler: Before we start, Chairman,
may I make an opening statement?
Q1331 Chairman: Yes, you may.
Mr Myler: I am glad of the opportunity
to appear before you to put our case today. I hope I can help
the Committee reach conclusions that will enable us as an industry
to put this episode behind us. It seems that there are three issues
which need to be addressed by us arising from the allegations
made by the Guardian and the evidence given by its representatives
to this Committee last week. The first is the Information Commissioner's
report arising from Operation Motorman. His reports are three
years old, and the activities they refer to are seven years old.
This Committee fully investigated these matters in early 2007
and recorded its findings over five pages of its report entitled
Self-Regulation of the Press, which was published on July
11 of that year. Nothing new has emerged since then and there
is no connection, and never has been a connection, between those
matters and the allegation of accessing telephone voicemails.
The second issue is whether we knew of others in the News of
the World newsroom to have been involved with Goodman, or
separately from him, in accessing confidential information illegally
via Mulcaire. This relates to the evidence given to this Committee
by Les Hinton, then Executive Chairman of News International on
March 6, 2007. By then the nine month long police investigation
into the illegal activities of Glenn Mulcaire and Clive Goodman
had concluded with their convictions. No evidence or information
had emerged to suggest to senior executives at News International
that others at the News of the World knew of these activities
or were complicit in them. Both the prosecution and the judge
at the Goodman/Mulcaire trial accepted that the annual retainer
agreement between the News of the World and Glenn Mulcaire,
and the work he did under it, did not involve criminality.
At no stage did the police arrest or question any member of the
News of the World staff besides Mr Goodman. Mr Hinton's
evidence was based upon what was known at the time, and was entirely
truthful. The third issue is the evidence that came to light in
April 2008, and the reasons for settling our litigation with Gordon
Taylor. The Committee may disagree but we consider this issue
and the facts surrounding it to be the only new matters in this
affair. We are here to answer whatever questions you have on this
subject today. Finally, I would like to take this opportunity
to set out the rigorous new safeguards I did put in place with
my staff when I became Editor in January 2007. The first of these
was to send an email on February 2007 to every member of staff
and all casual or contract workers at the News of the World
setting out the PCC Code and data protection compliance requirements.
This email included the PCC Code in full. The following week I
mirrored that email with a letter sent to all members of staff
at their home addresses, once again including the Code in printed
form, which was provided by the PCC. Included in these steps was
the rewriting of the relevant clause in staff contracts which
was replaced with an emphatically stronger and broader new clause.
This letter also stated that failure to comply with the PCC Code
would lead to disciplinary proceedings and may result in summary
dismissal. I have brought with me copies of the available documents
should the Committee wish to see them. We have also put in place
a series of measures to guard against the situation arising again
in the News of the World, and these include: the introduction
of strict protocols on cash payments; and on the level of justification,
authorisation and auditing of cash paymentssince I took
over as Editor cash payments for stories and tip-offs have been
reduced by between 82% and 89%; regular internal training on justification
for using subterfuge with the PCC and legal issues as its core;
attendance by all staff was mandatory. A series of seven two and
a half hour in-house PCC seminars was held for all News of
the World staff led by Tim Toulmin the Director of the PCC
and his team; and a rolling programme of further PCC seminars
is planned for 2009. The News of the World continues to
work with its journalists and its industry partners to ensure
that they fully comply with both the relevant legislation and
the rigorous requirements of the PCC Code of Practice. Thank you.
Q1332 Chairman: Thank you. I think
we will wish to take up a number of those points in due course.
Perhaps I could return to my first question. You confirmed I think
in your statement that a payment was made to settle the action
by Gordon Taylor and two others?
Mr Myler: Yes.
Q1333 Chairman: Was the size of that
payment greater in order that the proceedings should be kept secret?
Mr Myler: Absolutely not as far
as I am aware.
Mr Crone: No.
Q1334 Chairman: On what basis was
it decided to keep the proceedings secret?
Mr Crone: "Secret" is
not the word I would use. This was an action against us for breach
of confidence and privacy. We get quite a lot of those now since
the privacy law has expanded somewhat in the last five years.
Every single case against us for breach of privacyunless
the information is already out within the public domainresults
in a very strict term of confidentiality at the end of the case.
When you think about it, there would be absolutely no point in
anyone suing us to stop their privacy being revealed if they did
not at the end of the case tack on an absolutely strict and binding
confidentiality term, and that is what happened in this case.
Q1335 Chairman: Was it at Gordon
Mr Crone: Actually I think he
mentioned it first.
Q1336 Chairman: He mentioned
Mr Crone: It was raised by him
before it was raised by us, but we fell in with it. We always
fall in with it, being privacy, because if the litigant goes in
front of the judge the judge will order the injunction immediatelyso
certainly when we have accepted that there was a breach.
Q1337 Chairman: Have there been any
other cases relating to Clive Goodman and the telephone hacking?
Mr Crone: No, not so far.
Q1338 Chairman: You have not received
Mr Crone: We have had complaints
since this arose last week. Three effectively: two complaints
and one Information Act request.
Q1339 Chairman: If the position was
that, as you have previously said, Clive Goodman was acting entirely
alone and that nobody else had knowledge, why did News International
agree to settle with such a large sum?
Mr Crone: In the aftermath of
Clive Goodman and Mulcaire's arrest and subsequent conviction
various internal investigations were conducted by us. This was
against the background of a nine month massively intense police
investigation prior to arrest and then a continuing investigation
in the five months up until conviction. The police raided Mulcaire's
premises; they raided Goodman's premises; and they raided the
News of the World offices. They seized every available
document; they searched all the computers, the files, the emails
et cetera. Subsequent to the arrests they came to us, the News
Group Newspapers Ltd, and made various requests to us to produce
documents which they felt may be relevant. At no stage during
their investigation or our investigation did any evidence arise
that the problem of accessing by our reporters, or complicity
of accessing by our reporters, went beyond the Goodman/Mulcaire
situation. The first piece of evidence we saw of that, in terms
of the management investigating, was in April 2008 when Mr Taylor's
lawyers produced two documents: the first was a February 2005
holding contract and the second was the email that was discussed
here last week.