News International and Phone-hacking - Culture, Media and Sport Committee Contents

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 140).
  • 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' directors—including Rupert Murdoch and James Murdoch—should 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 difference—in terms of misleading this Committee—that 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.

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Prepared 1 May 2012