270. On 14 November 2011 it was reported that
members of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee had been
put under surveillance commissioned by the News of the World
for a period of between three and ten days in 2009.
At that time the Committee was conducting its inquiry into Press
standards, privacy and libel. Surveillance is not by itself
illegal but, particularly if its intention was to source information
that could be used to publicly discredit members of the Committee
or to put pressure on them, there are circumstances where it could
be construed as an attempt to interfere with the Committee's work.
It was, we note, not the only time the Committee had been targeted.
As the civil claims have demonstrated, former Committee members
Claire Ward and Chris Bryant had their phones hacked as long ago
as 2001 and 2003.
271. We asked witnesses from News International
for evidence on the issue of the potential surveillance of Committee
members. Tom Crone provided an account of the surveillance carried
out on Mark Lewis and his family but stated that, in relation
to surveillance of Committee members, "I have no knowledge
of that apart from what I have seen in media reportswhich
is very little".
In oral evidence he was asked whether he had ever ordered surveillance
or commissioned private investigators to do any surveillance at
all. He answered "no, I don't think I did actually".
The Management and Standards Committee (MSC) of News Corporation
told us that it had not yet completed its inquiries into the matter,
but had not found any information to suggest that all members
of the Committee had been put under surveillance. It did, however,
confirm that "there is information that Mr Watson was under
surveillance by Mr Derek Webb between 28/9/09 and 2/10/09. The
MSC's present understanding is that three employees were involved
in commissioning the surveillance".
In the context of ongoing police investigations, the MSC declined
to name the individuals involved.
272. In oral evidence on 10 November 2011, James
Murdoch stated that:
I am aware of the case of the surveillance of Mr
Watson; again, under the circumstances, I apologise unreservedly
for that. It is not something that I would condone, it is not
something that I had knowledge of and it is not something that
has a place in the way we operate.
273. We are disturbed by information that
we have received that, at the time of the Committee's 2009 inquiry,
a member of the Committee was put under surveillance by a private
investigator commissioned by individuals at News International.
We have not received sufficient evidence either to corroborate
or disprove the claim that further members of the Committee were
also put under surveillance at that time. We note that surveillance
is in itself not a criminal offence. We also note that, as Committee
members were unaware of the surveillance at the time that it allegedly
took place, it cannot be said to have interfered in their work.
However, surveillance could be construed as an attempt to interfere
with the work of the Committee. Members may well feel inhibited
in the discharge of their functions if they are concerned that
their private lives will be intruded upon as a result.
357 www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-15724243 Back
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