Conduct of witnesses before a select committee: Mr Colin Myler, Mr Tom Crone, Mr Les Hinton, and News International Contents

Summary

Following the referral of the House of 22 May 2012, our Committee has examined the conclusions set out in chapter eight of the Eleventh Report from the Culture, Media and Sport (CMS) Committee, Session 2010–12, on News International and Phone-Hacking. These conclusions alleged that Mr Colin Myler, Mr Tom Crone, Mr Les Hinton and News International misled the CMS Committee during successive inquiries into privacy and phone-hacking.

Our inquiry has sought to determine on the evidence whether those allegations are true. In doing so we adopted a procedure which met high standards of fairness while being proportionate and properly parliamentary. The standard of proof applied by us was whether the allegations were significantly more likely than not to be true—the standard applied under the House’s disciplinary proceedings to serious cases involving MPs.

We have found that:

a)Mr Colin Myler misled the CMS Committee by “answering questions falsely about [his] knowledge of evidence that other News of the World employees had been involved in phone-hacking and other wrongdoing”. We make a finding of contempt in relation to Colin Myler.

b)Mr Tom Crone misled the CMS Committee in 2009 by giving a counter-impression of the significance of confidentiality in the Gordon Taylor settlement. He was involved in the settlement negotiations and knew that NGN’s desire for confidentiality had increased the settlement amount. We make a finding of contempt in relation to this issue.

c)There is insufficient evidence to find that Tom Crone sought to mislead the CMS Committee about the commissioning of surveillance.

d)Tom Crone misled the CMS Committee by “answering questions falsely about [his] knowledge of evidence that other News of the World employees had been involved in phone-hacking and other wrongdoing”. We make a finding of contempt on this issue.

e)The allegation that Les Hinton sought to mislead the CMS Committee as to the extent of the pay-off to Clive Goodman and his own role in authorising the payments is not significantly more likely than not to be true.

f)The evidence that Les Hinton misled the CMS 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 does not meet the standard of proof we have set for a finding of contempt (that the allegations are significantly more likely than not to be true).

g)While the Culture, Media and Sport Committee was sceptical about Mr Hinton’s memory, there is no evidence that he misled the Committee in relation to his role in the payment of legal fees or the fact that he authorised the payments to Mr Goodman to settle his Employment Tribunal claim.

h)There is insufficient evidence of a breach of Parliamentary privilege on the part of NI (now News UK). NOTW was not a corporate body. As such, we do not consider NI to have committed a contempt.

We recommend that the House be invited to agree a motion in the following terms:

That this House—

i)approves the First Report from the Committee of Privileges;

ii)having regard to the conclusions of the Committee in respect of Mr Colin Myler, considers that Mr Myler misled the Culture, Media and Sport Committee by answering questions falsely about his knowledge of evidence that other News of the World employees had been involved in phone-hacking and other wrongdoing, and therefore formally admonishes him for his conduct; and

iii)having regard to the conclusions of the Committee in respect of Mr Tom Crone, considers that Mr Crone misled the Culture, Media and Sport Committee by giving a counter-impression of the significance of confidentiality in the Gordon Taylor settlement and by answering questions falsely about his knowledge of evidence that other News of the World employees had been involved in phone-hacking and other wrongdoing, and therefore formally admonishes him for his conduct.

We also recommend that the Leader of the House take steps as soon as possible to address the issues identified by the Joint Committee on Parliamentary Privilege in 2013, particularly in respect of the penal powers of the House and select committees and contempt.





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13 September 2016