Shipley MP Philip Davies has called for media mogul Rupert Murdoch and his top executives to give a complete and honest account of what went on in the phone hacking scandal.
Mr Davies sits on the influential parliamentary committee which will tomorrow grill Mr Murdoch, his son James Murdoch, and former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks over allegations reporters for the now defunct News of the World listened in to voice messages of murdered teenager Milly Dowler, among others.
He said the Commons Culture Committee was expecting to re-visit evidence gathered in an inquiry held two years ago into press standards, libel and privacy, when the News International bosses come before the committee.
The majority of what the committee discovered about phone tapping during a succession of hearings had “turned out to be true”, said Mr Davies.
That hearing looked at allegations others knew about phone tapping and was held after the jailing of former News of the World royal editor, Clive Goodman.
He was imprisoned along with private investigator Glenn Mulcaire after both admitted intercepting phone messages.
Mr Davies said: “We put in our report then that it was ‘inconceivable’ that Clive Goodman was the only one involved but what we didn’t appreciate was the severity of what was allegedly going on. Nobody thought it could have been quite as catastrophic as it has been.”
He said that, at the time, the executives seemed to suffer from “collective amnesia” and that they, as well as the Metropolitan Police – accused of not investigating phone tapping allegations – should co-operate fully with the latest inquiry.
He said: “The former News of the World executives, including Rebekah Brooks, have nothing to lose now and they have not got much to salvage. I hope that we can re-visit some of the issues of the previous inquiry we had and get them to give us a complete and honest account of what has happened.”
Mrs Brooks, 43, a former Sun and News of the World editor, announced her resignation in an internal e-mail to staff at the company, which also publishes The Times and Sunday Times.
Mr Davies said: “I think it was inevitable that Rebekah Brooks stood down. I don’t think there was any situation where she could have survived. From her perspective and from News International, it is probably better that it happened sooner rather than later.”
Meanwhile, there have been more calls for Press Complaints Commission (PCC) chairman Baroness Buscombe to resign as head of the industry’s self-regulator after the body failed to fully investigate phone hacking allegations. There have been calls for the PCC to be scrapped altogether and replaced by a tougher regulatory body.
However, Mr Davies said: “It is absolutely essential that we don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. A free press is the cornerstone of our democracy and, despite all that has happened, newspapers are a force for good. Whatever wrong-doing goes on, we expect the press to uncover it and greater regulation of the press means less regulation of people in authority.”
- Read the full story Monday’s T&A