8 Conclusions and next steps |
274. This report concentrates on the issue of
whether witnesses have previously misled a select committee of
the House of Commons. We have deliberately refrained from drawing
conclusions about the evidence of any individual who has been
arrested as we do not wish to risk prejudicing any future criminal
trial. The Committee intend to produce a supplementary report
when all criminal proceedings are finished.
275. As to the veracity of the evidence the Committee
has received, we are able to draw the following conclusions about
certain of the witnesses, and about News International corporately:
- Les Hinton misled the Committee
in 2009 in not telling the truth about payments to Clive Goodman
and his role in authorising them, including the payment of his
legal fee. He also misled the Committee about the extent of his
knowledge of allegations that phone-hacking extended beyond Clive
Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire to others at the News of the World
(see paragraphs 84, 85 and 91).
- Tom Crone misled the Committee in 2009 by giving
a counter-impression of the significance of confidentiality in
the Gordon Taylor settlement (see paragraph 118) and sought to
mislead the Committee about the commissioning of surveillance.
- Tom Crone and Colin Myler misled the Committee
by answering questions falsely about their knowledge of evidence
that other News of the World employees had been involved
in phone-hacking and other wrongdoing (see paragraphs 130 and
- Corporately, the News of the World and
News International misled the Committee about the true nature
and extent of the internal investigations they professed to have
carried out in relation to phone hacking; by making statements
they would have known were not fully truthful; and by failing
to disclose documents which would have helped expose the truth.
Their instinct throughout, until it was too late, was to cover
up rather than seek out wrongdoing and discipline the perpetrators,
as they also professed they would do after the criminal convictions.
In failing to investigate properly, and by ignoring evidence of
widespread wrongdoing, News International and its parent News
Corporation exhibited wilful blindness, for which the companies'
directorsincluding Rupert Murdoch and James Murdochshould
ultimately be prepared to take responsibility (see paragraphs
32, 33, 60, 62, 132 and 141).
276. The effect of these actions and omissions
is that the Committee's Report to the House in February 2010 on
Press standards, privacy and libel was not based on fully
accurate evidence. False evidence, indeed, prevented the Committee
from exposing the true extent of phone-hacking.
277. Rupert Murdoch's final admission at the
Leveson inquiry that a cover up has taken place at the company
may mean that the investigations conducted by Burton Copeland
have been used by people at News International to perpetrate a
falsehood. As such we believe there is a strong argument that
the company has no right to restrain disclosure of the file. We
call on the company to waive legal privilege, so that the Burton
Copeland advice and investigations can be published and submitted
to the Leveson inquiry.
278. While our select committee may have been
constrained in some of its lines of inquiry or in the witnesses
we chose to summon, nevertheless our committee has been able to
uncover key information thanks to parliamentary privilege. It
should be acknowledged that some vital information has only been
revealed due to the powers of Parliament, that would not have
been able to be produced for the Leveson inquiry or other ongoing
civil litigation. Indeed, as a result of our questioning, important
changes to financial governance at News International have been
made. Hindsight is a wonderful tutor, though News International
will regret that they did not use our predecessor committee's
2010 report to undertake a thorough investigation of the wrongdoings
within their business.
279. The integrity and effectiveness of the
Select Committee system relies on the truthfulness and completeness
of the oral and written evidence submitted. The behaviour of News
International and certain witnesses in this affair demonstrated
contempt for that system in the most blatant fashion. Important
lessons need to be learned accordingly and we draw our Report
to the attention of the Liaison Committee which is considering
possible reforms to Select Committees.
280. We note that it is for the House to
decide whether a contempt has been committed and, if so, what
punishment should be imposed. We note that it makes no differencein
terms of misleading this Committeethat evidence was not
taken on oath. Witnesses are required to tell the truth to committees
whether on oath or not. We will table a motion inviting the House
to endorse our conclusions about misleading evidence.