Murdochs vs MPs as-it-happened

Rupert Murdoch faces one of the toughest tests of his career
Rupert Murdoch faces one of the toughest tests of his career

Review our live coverage of a historic day in parliament, as leading figures in the phone-hacking scandal faced questions from MPs.

By Alex Stevenson

19:32 - OK, that's it. Join us tomorrow for another unexpected day of - let's face it -turmoil!

19:27 - Well, it's been a pretty hectic, and lengthy, afternoon and evening. To sum up:

  • Sir Paul Stephenson and John Yates did their best to shift the police story back to No 10, forcing Downing Street to release an exchange of emails.
  • Rupert Murdoch and James Murdoch's evidence starkly resembled that of Manuel from Fawlty Towers, the 'I know nothing' approach being delivered to perfection.
  • Little did we realise that farce of a physical kind was much closer than we'd thought, as a comedian who managed to get in the room attempted to custard-pie Murdoch in the face. Cue what is colloquially known as a kerfuffle.
  • Rebekah Brooks was thoroughly defensive, but her lawyer only intervened once. Her claim that she only discovered about the Milly Dowler phone-hacking case when everybody else did was tough for MPs to argue with, as it was so uncompromising.


19:23 - That comment at the end about Osborne is attracting some attention: she prefaced it, I recall, by saying that it was out in the open now that Osborne was behind the Coulson hire. Very useful help for her "neighbour", the prime minister.

19:20 - Closing comments from Brooks, now. She reiterates her own apology. "The most important thing I feel... is to discover the truth behind the allegations." She requests to the committee that when she's "free of legal constraints" she wants to be invited back. And that's that: the end of what has been a monstrously lengthy day of evidence.

19:18 - Paul Farrelly gets in a question at the end about what Brooks - who has spent much of her life trying to reflect public opinion, after all - thinks has been most damaged. "It is wholly unfair in discussing the closeness of police and politicians with the media to single out the News of the World," she says. But Farrelly says Brooks has landed a "triple whammy" by employing the director of public prosecutions, Ken Macdonald.

19:15 - Brooks confirms that it was George Osborne who suggested Andy Coulson should be recruited to help Cameron out. "The idea came from George Osborne," she insists, thus landing the chancellor well and truly in the soup. It's Adrian Sanders, the only Lib Dem on the culture, media and sport committee, who is asking questions about Brooks' relationship with the PM. She looks a little bored, glancing away, before repeating the "wholly appropriate" line. She then denies that Andy Coulson's salary was subsidised after he left the News of the World.

19:12 - "My extensive horse-riding with him [David Cameron] every weekend up in Oxfordshire", and other such allegations, are "ridiculous", Brooks says. "Many of the allegations which are putting forward I'm trying to answer honestly, but there is a lot out there that just isn't true." She says Cameron is a "neighbour" and a "friend" but she deems the relationship to be "wholly appropriate".

19:09 - Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the Speaker has been making clear John Bercow's views about Johnnie Marbeles. “The Speaker is very concerned at what has occurred and has asked for the incident to be thoroughly investigated," she says. "It is wholly unacceptable that a member of the public should treat a witness in this way.”

19:06 - Ok. I am still concentrating, honestly. But Brooks is being a little tedious. She praises Rupert and James Murdoch and says the police investigation wouldn't have reopened if News International hadn't handed over evidence. "I think that everyone involved in 2007 would say now that mistakes were made but I hope you feel we responded appropriately and responsibly." Philip Davies, one of Cameron's more right-wing MPs, says "there's something that's clearly not quite right here". Brooks says they've come before the committee to try and explain what has happened - conveniently omitting the fact that a parliamentary summons was needed to get all three in the room.

18:58 - And, I think for the first time, Brooks' lawyer intervenes to stop her answering a question.

18:57 - Now we're enjoying some philosophical musings about the basic requirement for trust which newspapers are based on. "The newsroom at any newspaper is based on trust," she explains. In short, there are so many people who work on a story that all of them have to be trusted.

18:53 - Therese Coffey is the next MP up to question Brooks. She's pressing the Milly Dowler case a little more closely. Brooks responds with a quite revealing little passage.

"Just accept that perhaps nine years ago when the story was run I'm told now the story you ran was a single column on page nine of that edition. I am sure questions are asked about where that story came from... I can tell you now it would not have been the case that someone said 'oh yes, that came from an illegal voicemail interception'. At the time, it wasn't a practise that was condoned or sanctioned at the News of the World under my editorship. And that's all I can tell you."

18:49 - Meanwhile, Brooks is becoming a bit more combative. News International lawyer John Chapman is the "fall guy", Paul Farrelly says. He adds that the "silence across Fleet Street" was very notable. Brooks isn't saying much in reply, by the way.

18:46 - We've had confirmation from the Conservative party that Coulson did, indeed, take on Neil Wallis before the 2010 general election. Big trouble for Cameron - the News of the World links with the Tory leader just got a little more complicated.

18:40 - Paul Farrelly, now pressing ahead with questioning, refers to the Harbottle and Lewis papers again. There were a number of 'gatekeepers on newsdesks', he says the Sunday Times has reported. He suggests it's impossible to believe that she didn't know what the newsdesk were up to. "As chief executive I can account for my actions in trying to get to the bottom of this story." She says she was "ringfenced" from subsequent investigations. She was "just the editor of the Sun". Farrelly says he'll "suspend his incredulity" for now, and moves on.

18:35 - Now then, now then: we've had a line through from shadow culture secretary Ivan Lewis, getting Labour's point across about the reports that Wallis worked for the Tories before the general election.

"This revelation raises further serious concerns about David Cameron’s judgement in appointing Andy Coulson," he says.

"He must now come clean about Neil Wallis’ role and activities in supporting Andy Coulson, both in his capacity as director of communications for the Tory party, and then the prime minister.”

18:27 - Brooks says she first heard of Milly Dowler's phone being hacked when everyone else did. It doesn't come clearer than that. Utter denial of any kind of knowledge before then. She still finds it "staggering to believe", she says.

18:24 - Meanwhile, it appears that Cameron is being summoned to a meeting of the 1922 committee tomorrow. He'll face questions about how he's handling the Coulson issue. It's likely to be a huge test for the prime minister, certainly the biggest test of his leadership. Who would have thought that just a year into power, he's facing the same sort of test from his parliamentary party that Gordon Brown endured in 2009?

18:23 - Brooks is asked how closely she was involved with the Dowler story. "I would have been involved in the story over many years," she replies. Collins wants to know whether the Dowler case was a story that she was more heavily involved with than others, "simply because of the magnitude of the events"? "Not particularly," she says thoughtfully.

18:20 - Next to question Brooks is Damian Collins. Perhaps it's the shaving foam incident, or the fact that this session is taking place in a deserted room as a result, or just that revelations about Andy Coulson are weakening the prime minister's position with every moment that passes. Or maybe it's just the fact that I've been going for eight hours now... but somehow this seems like it is slightly less gripping than we might have thought.

18:16 - Rebekah Brooks insists the Sun is a very "clean ship" and has a "great newsroom". She complains again about the "lack of visibility" when it comes to the documentation seized from Mulcaire's house in 2006. "I think we will in a year's time be able to get to the final position on what exactly happened."

18:09 - And now Brooks is confronted with her past committee evidence from 2003, when she admitted payments had been made to police officers - illegally. She explains that her comment was "clarified" quickly afterwards. "I can say that I have never paid a policeman myself, I have never knowingly sanctioned a payment to a police officer," she insists. "In my experience of dealing with the police the information they give to newspapers comes free of charge." Um... let's certainly hope so.

18:05 - Louise Mensch is next to question Brooks. She cites Piers Morgan's bragging about blagging and asks Brooks: was this a part of the NOTW internal culture because everybody was doing it? Brooks refers to  "the failings of all newspapers in not understand the use of private investigators across Fleet Street".

18:04 - Did the paper use other private detectives other than Jonathan Rees, Stephen Whittamore or Mulcaire? "You have the same information as I have," Brooks says, simply. One last question: "Do you have any regrets?" Brooks takes this as an opportunity to express her "abhorrent" feelings about the Dowlers. "The speed at which we have tried to find out the bottom of this investigations has been too slow," she says.

18:02 - Ok, back to Brooks for a brief moment. Watson is continuing to grill her, now concentrating on the role of private detectives. "In the main, my use of private investigators while I was editor of News of the World was purely legitimate and pursuit in the main for the names and addresses of paedophiles for Sarah's Law." But she accepts they were used for other stories, too.

17:58 - If confirmed this is going to be huge. Wallis' links with the News of the World was the reason why Sir Paul Stephenson AND John Yates resigned from the Metropolitan police. If it turns out that Coulson had taken him on during his employment with Cameron, the pressure on the prime minister is only likely to intensify still further.

17:56 - Away from Brooks for a moment. For the Conservatives are about to admit that Neil Wallis, the former News of the World former deputy editor, was hired by David Cameron's communications chief Andy Coulson in the run-up to the general election on a consultancy basis, the BBC are reporting.

17:53 - Watson wants to know whether she worked with private detectives. She says questions had been answered back then about the use of private detectives "across Fleet Street". She points out, in short, that everyone was doing it. But Brooks is then pulled up by Paul Farrelly, who says she's wrong to say the Observer was in the top five list of newspapers employing private detectives. Brooks says she was aware that they were being paid. "The editor's job is to acquire the overall budget for the paper to the senior management." It's wheels within wheels, in short. It's the managing editor who usually authorises the final payment.

17:50 - Tom Watson begins. "There are many questions I would like to ask you but I won't do it today because you are facing legal proceedings." He starts, instead, by questioning Brooks narrowly with the question: "Why did you sack Tom Crone?" He was the chief legal eagle for the News of the World. Brooks says he wasn't sacked. She sounds very quiet, a shadow of her former self.

17:47 - Oddly, it looks rather as if they are letting journalists into the committee room. I've spotted a couple of lobby journalists sitting in the otherwise deserted room. Brooks is offering a very lengthy opening answer. "Of course there were mistakes made in the past but I think and I hope that since we saw the evidence at the end of December we've acted... quickly." Brooks is asked whether, until the Sienna Miller civil case arose, she thought phone-hacking was confined to just Mulcaire and Goodman, the two who were convicted in 2007. She doesn't immediately say 'yes'.

17:43 - Meanwhile, the home affairs committee is back, questioning Ken MacDonald, the former director of public prosecutions. But we're going to focus on Rebekah Brooks, who is now facing questions in a deserted committee room. Whittingdale raises a past denial about phone-hacking. Brooks, wearing a purple cardigan and looking rather washed-out, she offers her own "personal apologies". "What happened at the NOTW... is pretty horrific and abhorrent." She has legal representation in the room, she says - there's someone sitting next to her. 

17:37 - As the entire world goes nuts, here's some instant reaction from the twittocracy:

"It takes a special kind of moron to make Rupert Murdoch look like a victim." - Labour MP Tom Harris

"Murdoch is now going to get a series of 'courageous' write ups. What a distraction, what a fool." NUS president Aaron Porter

"if this committee session was a film...Piehard. No?" Labour MP Jonathan Reed

Meanwhile, the hyperbole continues about the "bravery" of Wendi Deng...

17:33 - We're now taking a five-minute break before Rebekah Brooks - remember her - gives evidence. Meanwhile, editor Ian Dunt has declared his undying admiration for Mrs Murdoch, Wendi Deng...

17:31 - "Things must be put right, no excuses," he continues. "This country has given me, my company and our employees many opportunities. I am grateful for that. I hope my contribution to Britain will also be recognised." Perhaps - but certainly not today. Rupert Murdoch wraps up. Whittingdale apologises again for the interruption. "Not a problem," Murdoch says. He stands up, looking rather lost in shirt-sleeves, standing up and moving off rather slowly. Three hours have passed since we started what was supposed to have been a one-hour session.

17:27 - A final statement from Rupert Murdoch now. "James and I would like to say how sorry we are for what has happened, especially with regard to listening to the voicemail of victims of crime. He says he's "made my share of mistakes". he adds: "At no time do I remember being as sickened as what I heard what the Dowler family had to endure." Another apology as he outlines "the depth of my regret".

17:25 - And now, the final question - she suggests that Rupert Murdoch resigns. He says he hasn't considered it. He says others let him down, "betrayed disgracefully and the company... it's for them to go. Frankly, I'm the best person to run this company." And that's the end of that. No, not quite: Tom Watson is going to come back with a final question first of all, about whether or not Taylor or Clifford will release the confidentiality clause. "If he removes himself from an obligation, allows his papers to be released..." James Murdoch says it's a "hypothetical scenario". Whittingdale interrupts Watson and wraps it up. But Watson gets in with one final jibe: "Mr Murdoch - your wife has a very good left hook." "Thank you," she replies politely.

17:20 - Finally a question from Mensch cuts through - that the Murdochs were surely aware of blagging and other practises, because of the newspaper culture. "It's not for me today to impugn other journalists," James Murdoch says. Rupert Murdoch is then asked whether he's considered sueing Harbottle and Lewis, the legal and firm. "In any future legal interactions... is really a matter for the future," James Murdoch says. "This really is about making sure these things don't happen again."

17:18 - Footage on Sky shows the custard-pie man being frogmarched across to the Palace of Westminster. Murdoch isn't wearing a jacket any more, by the way.

17:16 - Difficult to concentrate on the Murdoch questions at the moment. It may have been shaving foam, rather than the classic custard pie, which was deployed by our troublemaking comedian. Wendi Deng, who transformed herself from serene and silent wife to Kung Fu fiend bent on instant vengeance, has recovered her composure. The evidence session is continuing, but without members of the public.

17:11 - Daniel Hamilton, the director of Big Brother Watch, tweeted: "F**king hell! I was at university with the guy who attacked #Murdoch. It's Jonathan May-Bowles. (@JonnieMarbles)"

17:09 - And we're back - in classic British fashion, we're carrying on as if nothing happened. A new shirt for Murdoch, and so we continue.

17:06 - Initial reports suggest the identity of the assailant is someone called Jonnie Marbles, who describes himself as an "activist, comedian, father figure and all-round nonsense. Tweeting in an impersonal capacity". He tweeted at 16:51 - "It is a far better thing that I do now than I have ever done before #splat"

17:04 - It's a man in a check shirt, with a rather greasy-looking 70s haircut, who has some sort of white stuff all over his face, and the top of his shirt. He looks like he's in his mid 20s, perhaps? At first glance it appears he has a penchant for Duke of Edinburgh-style hands-behind-his-back mode. But no. It's because he's handcuffed, of course.

17:01 - Sensational developments! A number of police officers are now questioning the protester, who has been photographed. Strenuous efforts are taking place to work out what happened. It looks as if it was some sort of custard pie attempt, on the top of Rupert Murdoch's head.

16:57 - We're hearing that someone has been led away from the room in handcuffs. Initial analysis of the footage suggests it was Rupert Murdoch's wife, Wendi Deng, who hit the assailant. It looks like it was a male, who tried to throw some sort of white paint at Murdoch. 

16:55 - There's just been a dramatic development, as Louise Mensch starts asking questions. It's hard to tell what happens - but someone appears to have attempted to attack one of the Murdochs. Just before the camera cut away we could see a woman, dressed in a suit, attempt to hit someone else. But I believe that was one of Murdochs' staff, perhaps? The sitting has been suspended for ten minutes.

16:52 - The Murdochs are, once again, having a go at wrapping this up. Another lengthy apology from James Murdoch. "We don't know what's going to happen," he says. too right. In other developments, not yet covered, James Murdoch has told Rupert Murdoch to stop "gesticulating"; and Rupert Murdoch has suggested that MPs deserve a pay rise, perhaps to Singapore levels where the salaries run into the hundreds of thsouands."

16:51 - "Were mistakes made within the organisation? Absolutely. Were people I trusted, or they trusted, betrayed? Yes." He's definitely warmed up and burbling well now. This, we imagine, is what it must have been like in the meeting with the Dowler family.

16:49 - And then, having obviously brooded on it for a few minutes, Rupert Murdoch comes up with this fantastic biographical gem: "I just wanted to say, I was brought up by a father who was not rich but was a great journalist and he, just before he died, brought a small paper specifically... to do good. I remember what he was most proud of... which was expose the scandal of Gallipoli, which I remain very, very proud of. It just addresses the question of a family business. I would love to see my sons and daughters follow... if they're interested." No doubt he'll have been imagining violins playing in the background. But it's not over: he now appears to be getting quite emotional, as he said: "I hope it's all come apart and I hope we'll be able to put it together again."

16:46 - Collins, addressing any potential culture problems, is making real progress. He gets this from Rupert Murdoch: "I'm sure there may be people who try to please me. That would be human nature. And it would be up to me to try to see that." Collins asks whether there was a culture of pressure. "There was no excuse for breaking the law at any time," Murdoch barks, hitting the table for the 1,275th time. 

16:45 - Damian Collins is the next MP up to question this pair. He refers to the Telegraph's expenses data purchase. That "brought a huge outcry" and "one which has not been properly addressed". Just a trace of fighting talk from RM, there... Yet again, James Murdoch comes in to balance out his father's comments. "I think in the light of the successful prosecutions and convictions involved in 2007, [allegations of phone-hacking] could not be taken more seriously."

16:41 - Keen asks whether Rupert Murdoch regrets that News Corporation has become a family organisation. "The press all had a field day," Murdoch remembers, as he points out the furore over it. He points out that he wasn't the only person who thought James Murdoch was extremely capable. Rupert Murdoch says that Hinton would not have misled the committee - but that "other people who gave the same evidence may well have been misleading you."

16:38 - And now, only after two hours, we're just starting to get the first hint of a bit of repetition. James Murdoch is retreating back to the line that they only found out about it last year. "You can imagine my own frustration about this in 2010 when the civil litigation got to a point where things came out and we suddeny realised that the denial of the veracuty of allegations which had been made particularly in 2009 had been too strong. That's a matter of real regret, deep regret."

16:36 - Rupert Murdoch gets his first laugh, defending his son's business dealing with Sky Italia. "We had a particularly difficult competitor," he says wryly, referring - of course - to Silvio Berlusconi. Then comes something of a concession, in relation to News of the World: "I may have been lax in asking more but it was such a tiny part of our business..."

16:34 - Ok, that's the end of the Farrelly evidence. Watson gets up and leaves the room, as Labour MP Alan Keen takes over the questioning. He wants the Murdochs to "paint a picture" of an average week at the News of the World. I think there's a bit of a gap between MPs' perceptions of what a newspaper proprietor does and the reality. "I can't say I was intimately involved in the everday workings of the News of the World," JM says. Having said that, of course, it's precisely that message which it is in the Murdochs' interests to get across.

16:30 - "We're nowhere nearing who knew what or when about that file," Farrelly says to Rupert Murdoch. Is this satisfactory? "No, I do not," Murdoch says quietly. "Mr Chapman who was in charge of this has left us. He had that report for a number of years." It's extraordinary, really, that it's taken two years for the Murdochs to single out a senior figure beneath them for criticism. Very impressive, really.

16:28 - Farrelly, wrapping up as we approach the two-hour mark, says we still don't know who was aware of the contents of the file - and who kept the Murdochs "in full possession of the facts". This contradicts "all the assurances that have been given", he says. James Murdoch says the company engaged an outside law firm to review the emails - presumably Harbottle and Lewis. "The opinion was clear," he says, "and the company rested on that... and on the fact the police told us, and on the opinion of the PCC that there was no reason to carry it further... the company has done the right thing."

16:25 - Right, I'm back after a brief break - slight technical problems, perhaps. The questioning is now focusing on legal manager John Chapman - with James Murdoch insisting there was no cover-up on his part. Regarding Les Hinton, Farrelly asks - when did he first become aware of the files which showed that past evidence given to the committee had been misleading? James M is confused. "I can't speak to his knowledge," he shrugs. Farrelly then ambushes Rupert Murdoch if he had asked Hinton about this document, or files, discovered in the Harbottle and Lewis answer. "No," Murdoch says decisively. "Why not?" Farrelly counters. Another awkward silence ensues, before - once again - James Murdoch jumps to the rescue.

16:15: "I try not to emit expletives," James Murdoch says. Another ridiculous quote. It's followed by a tough question from Farrelly - the kind of "detailed question" which it's difficult, James Murdoch says, to answer. That's only the second time I think he's played the 'police investigation' blocking card. "We have to allow the police to conduct their investigation and hold the people to account who did wrong in this area." Farrelly accepts this and moves on.

16:12 - James Murdoch is continuing to talk about these internal files - even more forensic than ever, now. What was scheduled to be a one-hour session is now 100 minutes old - and three MPs on the committee are yet to conduct their questioning. Rebekah Brooks, who is up next, must be enduring an especially long wait.

16:09 - Next, Farrelly asks Rupert Murdoch to say "enough is enough" and cease paying any more legal fees. "I would like to do that, I don't know the status of what we're doing or what his contract was, if it still has any force." Next, Farrelly goes on the offensive by explaining the consequences of giving evidence to parliament without being in full possession of the facts. James Murdoch is asked about the 'file of internal reports' found in the offices of media lawyers Harbottle and Lewis. JM says he first heard about it in the "springtime" of this year. 

16:06 - Paul Farrelly demands a 'yes' or 'no' answer to whether he had been paying Mulcaire legal fees. The answer sounds like it's a 'yes'. James Murdoch is on the ropes here.

16:03 - Does Murdoch regret savings the News of the World to save Brooks? A leading question, if ever there was one. "The two decisions were absolutely and totally unrelated," Rupert M insists. James M, jumping in, says the closure of a newspaper is a "serious thing", but "much more serious than that" are the phone-hacking allegations. "I advocated at the time this was a step we should take. This was a paper and a title that had fundamentally violated the trust of its readers. Under the circumstances... it was really the right choice."

16:01 - Back in the committee room, Rupert Murdoch says he eventually let Rebekha Brooks resign because she insisted on it. "She was at a point of extreme anguish," he says. Davies, who has been questioning for ages now, wants to know if there was any gagging clause. James Murdoch butts in again, and explains that "commercial confidentiality agreements" do exist - "but nothing that would prohibit the executive from being... transparent about any wrongdoing".

15:59 - We've got some more news now - Downing Street has released the brief email exchange between the Met's assistant commissioner John Yates and David Cameron's chief of staff Ed Llewellyn about the proposed meeting. In short, they show that Llewellyn was desperate to avoid any kind of meeting between the Met and No 10.

The email exchange took place on September 10th last year. Yates wrote to Llewellyn: 

Hope all well.
I am coming over to see the PM at 12.30 today regarding [redacted: national security] matters. I am very happy to have a conversation in the margins around the other matters that have caught my attention this week if you thought it would be useful.

Best wishes,

Llewellyn replied, on the same day:

"John -
Thanks - all well.
On the other matters that have caught your attention this week, assuming we are thinking of the same thing, I am sure you will understand that we will want to be able to be entirely clear, for your sake and ours, that we have not been in contact with you about this subject.

So I don't think it would really be appropriate for the PM, or anyone else at No 10, to discuss this issue with you, and would be grateful if it were not raised please.

But the PM looks forward to seeing you, with Peter Ricketts and Jonathan Evans, purely on [redacted: national security] matters at 1230.

With best wishes,

15:56 - "These are issues that go back some time. I'm surprised you haven't followed up on them already," Davies says. 

15:54 - Scrutiny over the legal settlements continues - this is the 'forensic' bit we were promised, that's for sure. Davies is now looking at the Glenn Mulcaire-Clive Goodman case, and says it's odd that he uses one of the most expensive lawyers in the country even though he's pleading guilty. "Why on earth would News International even dream about paying the legal fees of someone who is engaged in criminal activity?" James Murdoch says he has no "direct knowledge".

15:52 - James Murdoch, continuing, says the £600,000 wasn't just damages - it was "damages plus costs". "I agree," he adds. "They are big numbers." And therefore, we conclude, extremely tough to understand.

15:50 - Davies is doing his best to play the 'I'm just an ordinary bloke' role. He says it's bizarre that some phone-hacking victims get £20,000 in compensation - Andy Gray - and the other is paid when it's all being kept quiet - namly £600,000. Davies suggests it "smells a bit". James Murdoch's reply is painfully patronising. "That's a lot of money," he says, his voice just a bit too high-pitched.

15:47 - Davies says he's "intrigued" by how these Saturday night conversations go. "A pretty standard week; we paid Gordon Taylor £600,000." Bit of laughter - quite decent sarcasm there. "Paying somebody that much - surely you'd expect the editor of the News of the World to drop it in at some time in his weekly chat?" Rupert Murdoch shakes his head, saying maybe the phone call was more like "once a month... I'd say 'what's doing'?"

15:45 - Right-wing Tory MP Philip Davies asks what advice the Murdochs took ahead of this meeting. "We were advised fundamentally to tell the truth, and to come and be as open and transparent as possible," James Murdoch says. Predictably. Davies says Rupert Murdoch seems to have had a "hands-off approach". So how regularly would he speak to the editor of the Sun, or the News of the World? "Very seldom," he says. But the editor of the Sunday Times is rung "nearly every Saturday". "I'm not really in touch. If there's an editor I spend most time with, it's with the editor of the Wall Street Journal." He continues: "To say we're hands-off is wrong. I work a ten or 12-hour day. I cannot tell you the multitidue of issues I have to deal with."

15:42 - It's been about ten minutes since Rupert Murdoch last opened his mouth. James Murdoch is doing a fine job of banging home the point that the News Corp board only really discovered what was going on as a result of that civil action last year. Did News International subsidise Andy Coulson's wages? "I have no knowledge," James Murdoch says. Sanders then asks: "Are you familiar with the term 'wilful blindness'?" Sanders says it's a legal term which came up in the Enron scandal. "I'm not aware of that particular phrase. "I've heard the phrase before," Rupert Murdoch interjects - "and we were NEVER guilty of that."

15:28 - James Murdoch is being questioned more closely on the legal advice on how to deal with the Taylor case. In the absence of any new evidence, he explains, "this was simply a matter that was to do with events that came to light in 2007, a matter in the past". The police as well had closed their case, he points out. It's this reciprocal finger-pointing - 'we thought it was over' - which just goes to show how far-reaching this scandal really is.

15:35 - Not sure if a list of all the things the Murdochs would have done is going to cut the mustard. "If we knew then what we know now..." that's becoming a very familiar refrain.

15:34 - The Murdochs confirm they don't have any plans to replace the News of the World with another Sunday tabloid. After a brief interlude, it's time for Lib Dem Adrian Sanders to take over the questioning. Again, James Murdoch emphasises the presentation of evidence stemming from civil litigation in 2010. "It was that information which was really critical," he explains. Referring to the settlement with ex-football chief Gordon Taylor, he says the "commercial and legal rationale" was that "there was no reason to believe it was anything other than in the past". He would have tried to settle the case, knowing what he knows now, but would have coupled it with other investigatory steps.

15:31 - Rupert Murdoch interjects: "This country does greatly benefit from having a competitive press and therefore having a very transparent society," he says. "That is sometimes very inconvenient to people but I think we're better and stronger for it." I sense they were expecting to be finishing - they've been going for an hour, after all - but these select committee sessions don't usually stick to time.

15:29 - Now James Murdoch is in 'learning the lessons' mode, exactly where he wants to be. He thinks the whole of journalism needs to think "more forcefully... about our ethics" and "what sort of governance should be around this whole area". This is press release bumpf, right now - but it seems this broadbrush, sweeping level is exactly that which the Murdochs operate that. They've given the impression of being far, far above the grubby day-to-day work.

15:27 - An individual reporter, Rupert Murdoch says, has "no authority" to pay out expenses which aren't approved by the editorial manager. 

15:24 - Back inside the Murdoch grilling, Coffey wants to know what level of financial payout would be required for the full News Corp board to get involved. Some "millions", James Murdoch says. Out-of-court settlements are perfectly normal, he explains. Rupert Murdoch says "outside directors... review all these things". Now James Murdoch finds himself struggling to answer questions. He can't say how much his company has paid out in out-of-court settlements. They're giving an impression that they don't have a clue about any of the nitty-gritty - even the stuff most of us would assume wasn't nitty-gritty, at all.

15:21 - Outside the committee room, the Met have just put out a clarifying statement about what Sir Paul Stephenson had suggested was a meeting with a senior No 10 official.

"There was never any discussion with No 10 about Neil Wallis," it states.

"What the Commissioner said is that he would never wish to inadvertently place the Prime Minister in a position where anyone could accuse him of being compromised by providing operational information about anyone in the investigation. This was an entirely sensible approach and was in accord with advice previously received from a Number 10 official, as John Yates has subsequently confirmed."

But that doesn't rebut Yates' claim that Cameron's chief of staff, Ed Llewellyn, turned down an offer to be briefed on the progress of the phone-hacking investigation.

15:18 - Therese Coffey, a Conservative MP, asks who made the decision to shut the News of the World. He says it was the News Corp board who made the decision based on a suggestion from the Murdochs and Rebekah Brooks - and denies doing so was a commercial decision.

15:16 - And now Jim Sheridan asks about Tommy Sheridan's perjury trial, and the News of the World journalist who is alleged to have misled the trial. "I don't have direct knowledge," James Murdoch replies.

15:13 - "What happened at the News of the World was wrong," James Murdoch says, getting into his stride. (I've just spotted Chris Bryant, Watson's biggest ally in campaigning against Murdoch, sitting in the second row behind.) Rupert Murdoch refuses to accept he's responsible "for this whole fiasco", as Sheridan puts it.

15:11 - Sheridan says RM must be "horrified" by the scandal. Who does he blame for the collapse of the BSkyB bid? "A lot of people had different agendas in trying to build this hysteria. All our competitors in this country formally announced a consortium to try to stop us. They built this story around that." James Murdoch comes in racing to the PR rescue, focusing on the "huge and sincere regret" of the company.

15:09 - There's now a rather awkward, weird exchange between Murdoch and Jim Sheridan over Murdoch's meeting "through the back door" with David Cameron just after the 2010 general election. "I've never guaranteed anyone the support of my newspapers," he says - the most substantial, defiant thing he's said so far. "We felt it had got tired, and we got changed and supported the Labour party," he says, talking about the Tories in 1997, "with the direct loss of 200,000 in circulation". Sheridan points out that Blair travelled halfway across the world to see Murdoch. Murdoch is dismissive. Oh dear. He's confusing David Cameron with Alastair Campbell. This is all rather embarrassing.

15:07 - Watson finishes his first round of questioning. I think the score there was something like Watson 15, Murdochs 0. Meanwhile, No 10 have just told lobby journalists that this afternoon's lobby has been cancelled. No explanation given. Awkward questions about that 'senior official', perhaps?

15:04 - "It's revealing in itself what he doesn't know," Watson says to James Murdoch, after another attempt by the son to intervene and help his father out. "It was not our job to get into the course of justice. It was up to the police to bring their charges," Rupert Murdoch says. Watson wants to know why no one was fired. James Murdoch intervenes, pointing out that the key figures had long-since left. Watson continues with a question about shutting down News of the World, and the 200 people who lost their jobs. "Did you close it because of the criminality?" Watson asks. "We felt ashamed," Rupert Murdoch replies. "We had broken our trust with our readers."

15:00 - Finally, Watson lets James Murdoch take over. He comes up with another thoroughly authoritative answer. "At what point did you find out criminality was endemic at News of the World?" Watson asks Rupert Murdoch. "Endemic is a wide-ranging word," RM replies. He says he became aware "as it was disclosed". He says he was "shocked, appalled and ashamed" when he heard about the Milly Dowler case just two weeks ago. Watson cites the "collective amnesia" the Commons committee had concluded. "I don't see why you don't think that's not very serious," Watson says. "You're not saying amnesia, you're saying lying," Murdoch protests. "Did they forget?" Watson says. "No," Murdoch replies. "Ok," says Watson, taking a deep breath. This feels like a Wizard of Oz moment. The emperor really doesn't have any clothes.

14:57 - James Murdoch makes another attempt to answer the questions being asked to his father. But Watson wants to know what Rupert Murdoch, who is "responsible for corporate governance", knew. Very little, it seems. Desperately long silences. "I forget," Murdoch says at the end of one answer. "No," he says at the end of another, shaking his head.

14:55 - Murdoch is even struggling to understand the questions - he needs them to be repeated again and again. There are long pauses as he struggles to come up with an answer. Watson, as expected, is going for forensic, detailed questions. Murdoch's response is the same as Manuel's from Fawlty Towers: "I know nothing, I come from News Corporation!"

14:52 - The silence in the committee room is profound as Watson asks what News International did to get to the facts after Goodman and Mulcaire were convicted in 2006. Watson won't let James Murdoch help his father out. In 2008, he says none of his UK staff had told Murdoch about it. "Blackmail can result in a 14-year prison sentence, nobody in your UK company brought this fact to your attention?" Watson asks. "The blackmail charge, no," Rupert Murdoch says. "Do you think that's because your UK staff think you'd think nothing of it?" "I can't answer that," Murdoch replies. This is far worse for Murdoch, it feels, than we'd expect. His answers are simply preposterous.

14:49 - James Murdoch says there is "no evidence I'm aware of" that Rebekah Brooks or Les Hinton had any knowledge of phone-hacking. Tom Watson, campaigning champion, is next. He leads the questioning against Rupert Murdoch. He quotes him back in autumn 2010. In March 2003, Rebekah Brooks admitted paying police. Rupert Murdoch says he wasn't aware of it at the time. "She amended it seven or eight years afterwards," Watson says witheringly. 1-0. Rupert Murdoch says he didn't know of it at the time, which is why no-one investigated it then. "The News of the World is less than one per cent of my company. I employ 53,000 people around the world who are proud and great and ethical and distinguished." His hand is slapping down on the desk.

14:46 - Next question from Whittingdale - who was involved in phone-hacking at the News of the World? "There have been a number of arrests. These are matters for current criminal investigations. It's difficult for me to comment in particular." The first block of many, I fear. Whittingdale wants to know whether the Murdochs have worked out who did it, internally. The answer is far from clear. "The very fact that the provision of the new information to the police... I hope can be testament to some proactive action and transparency..." ugh. This is just corporate nonsense. There is a stronger word in my head, but...

14:44 - In the 2007 period, James Murdoch continues, there were successful prosecutions. "The company relied on the police, the Press Complaints Commission... and the legal opinion of outside counsel brought in..." He's saying that News International couldn't have known of "any additional illegality" because the police had told them that was the case. But the police, as numerous Met officers have said, were relying on News International to tell them it wasn't the case! Incredible stuff, really. The only appropriate response for Westminster to this mind-boggling evidence is to collectively explode.

14:42 - This is turning into an opening statement, anyway. James Murdoch, presenting a chronology of wrongdoing, occasionally retreats back to his notes. He has a rather annoying rising intonation. This could get tough. Rupert Murdoch looks very drawn, his features gaunt. He is 80 years old, after all. Meanwhile, James says the civil litigation process of the Sienna Miller case was what made them aware of how widespread the problem was.

14:39 - "We're more than prepared," Murdoch says defiantly. Whittingdale begins by asking James Murdoch to what extent parliament was misled. "First of all I'd like to say how sorry we are... it's a matter of great regret of mine, my father's and everyone at News Corporation. These actions do not live up to the standards our company aspires to. It is our determination to put things right, to make sure these things don't happen again and to be the company we have always aspired to be." Rupert Murdoch, interrupting grimly, adds: "This is the most humble day of my life." He then relapses into gloomy silence.

14:37 - And here's the Murdochs, who are asking for an opening statement. It's refused by committee chair John Whittingdale. There's a protest at the back of the room - "can we please remove the people holding up notices," Whittingdale says. He looks rather grumpy. "Has anybody else got a piece of paper?" someone who sounds like a police officer says, to laughter. And now Whittingdale begins. He says his committee's conclusion in a past report has been "vindicated" and says it's "very clear" that parliament has been misled. The two Murdochs look extremely... attentive.

14:35 - Meanwhile the general consensus is that Yates has done a pretty neat job, piling the pressure on No 10 still further. He named Ed Llewellyn, Cameron's chief of staff, as the "senior official" who had declined an offer to be briefed by Yates.

14:34 - A tweet from Telegraph journalist Christopher Hope: "Portcullis House is like a Justin Bieber stake-out. 200 staff and researchers wandering around trying to glimpse Rupert Murdoch." The journalists and members of the public are now in the room, waiting for Murdochs Rupert and James to turn up. Just about to get underway.

14:31 - Time to zip away now from the home affairs committee, for just around the corner we're gearing up for the Murdochs' appearance. This was the select committee appearance which the media mogul, the man ultimately in charge of nearly half of Britain's newspaper media, refused to attend until served a summons. The gut feeling is that he'll be obstructive; but that has to be balanced by trying to minimise the extent to which this is a PR disaster.

14:25 - Blackwood points out 12,000 victims have been identified now, compared to just 12 at the time. He says he sought reassurances at the time that all the material had been assessed. Continuing his defence, Yates adds: "This wasn't a body we'd found, it was an article in a newspaper". That was one of Yates' best passages. He came across as very fair and honest, not defensive. But it doesn't last, as he goes on the offensive about the division of blame between the Met and the Crown Prosecution Service. "I have been bashing my head against the proverbial brick wall trying to get the point across," he says. The investigation was framed by legal advice - the advice of the CPS.

14:21 - Nicola Blackwood, who has a nice line in withering disbelief, says there's a sense Yates was doing "the minimum to get it off your desk" in 2009. Was that fair? Yates reiterates the point he made last week that there was an "element" of that, but tries to downplay it by saying it's a very small part. "Doing the minimum has been taken out of context because you interrupted me - not in any discourteous way," he says. Blackwood wants to know what instructions Yates had received. He quotes a note he wrote on that day - not sure there was any such note referred to last week. This is all very detailed, very useful. Why on earth didn't he provide it last week?

14:18 - Back to Andy Coulson.Yates said he had met him, but the pair hadn't talked about phone-hacking. Unsurprisingly.

14:15 - And now we're getting a repeat of the Yates defence from last week - the hindsight argument, which didn't play well then and doesn't look as if it's playing well now. "I confidently predict a very small number of officers... will go to prison for corruption," he then says, apropos of nothing. Sounds pretty newsworthy to me. A weighty prediction of doom. Who does he think those will be, I wonder?

14:13 - What Vaz wants to know is why Yates didn't tell the mayor or the home secretary about Wallis. "It just wouldn't be my place to do it," Yates said. He was working for Dick Fedorcio, after all. Vaz accepts that. A brief respite, there.

14:11 - Next, we're trying to find out who that No 10 senior official is that Sir Paul referred to. Yates won't give the committee a name. "There was an offer in the early part of September 2010 for me to put into context some of the nuances around police language in terms of what scoping, assessment, launch of an investigation... an offer to a senior official in No 10. The official is the chief of staff." - Ed Llewellyn. These nuances relate to the New York Times allegations. The offer was "properly and understandably rejected".

14:09 - Meanwhile Julian Huppert is appalled by the suggestion that Yates didn' t think him sending the CV on wouldn't help the Wallis daughter. "It's quite a useful way of getting people into your employment on a short-term basis," he says. In short, he didn't think it was a problem. "Some have even become permanent employees in the future," he says cheerily. Utterly, utterly not getting it. As Huppert puts it: "What about those who don't know a commissioner?" Yates adds: "I'm sure it happens in the House of Commons."

14:08 - Wow. Yates reveals a little bit more about the cosy relationship between himself and his "friend" Wallis. "It's mostly sport-related, with other people." He'd only been round to his house first, picking him up for the football.

14:05 - Then there's Mr Wallis' daughter and her employment. "I've done nothing wrong," Yates says. "I was a postbox for a CV." Um. What does that mean? He just passed the CV on to the HR department. This was January 2009, when he wasn't in charge with specialist operations and "had nothing to do with phone-hacking". He "absolutely categorically denies" that he secured this job for the Wallis daughter.

14:03 - Vaz begins by leaping on the Fedorcio evidence, that he decided to employ Neil Wallis because of Yates' reference. "I think that's slightly over-egging the pudding, to put it mildly," Yates says, protesting. He says it wasn't due diligence, per se. "I sought assurances from Mr Wallis to the effect... is there anythign in the matters Nick Davies is still reporting on that could embarrass you, Mr Wallis, me or the Metropolitan police? That's not due diligence." Very much not, in fact. So he's blaming Fedorcio, whereas Fedorcio was blaming him. "I absolutely know the letting of contracts is an extremely sensitive issue and I wouldn't touch it or go anywhere near it in a million years."

14:01 - As the news channels show helicopter footage of a car which may contain one or two Murdochs - just half an hour to go there - we're sticking with the home affairs committee, which is now turning its attention - well behind schedule, it should be noted - to John Yates. Vaz asks the same question he did to Sir Paul Stephenson: why did you resign? Yates says all this had become a "huge distraction". It was only a week ago he was refusing steadfastly to quit. "I see no any indication at any time... in the foreseeable future" that this pressure will calm down. He's right, there.

13:57 - "Each news outlet have their own ways of meeting commissioners and senior police officers. Some prefer dinners, some prefer lunches, some prefer a meeting in an office, some prefer it with coffee, some with nothing." Interesting final insight there - but Vaz says "I'm not sure we're any clearer at the end of this session than we were at the start of it." Fedorcio leans back in his chair, looking thoroughly relieved. But by the soudn of it this is only just the beginning for him. Yates up in just a moment.

13:56 - Astonishing stuff. Fedorcio says the first time he became aware of phone-hacking was in 2006. But surely he said his lack of knowledge of phone-hacking was a key factor behind his letting Yates make the decision on hiring Wallis - because he didn't know anything about phone-hacking?

13:54 - They're now looking at the specifics of the end of the Wallis contract. It turns out that it was Wallis who terminated the contract, just a few hours before Fedorcio did so himself, in September 2010.

13:52 - This is actually turning into quite vicious questioning, far worse than anything which Sir Paul faced. Fedorcio says he is "dismayed" by stories appearing in the press at the moment. This is a public humiliation for him. Vaz is being cruelly, brutally insistent on drilling down into the details. Like a malevolent dentist.

13:50 - Nicola Blackwood, one of Vaz's best allies when it comes to the chastisement approach, puts Fedorcio on the spot over Wallis, Yates and the due diligence question. They're arguing over whose integrity is at stake. Vaz says it's Fedorcio's. "With hindsight... lots of things would have been done differently." Fedorcio says he would "certainly not" have appointed Wallis, knowing what he knows now. Duh.

13:46 - Oh dear - Fedorcio is saying one thing, and then another. Did he know about phone-hacking, or not? Vaz seems very unimpressed. "I accept the integrity of Mr Yates," he says. "What about your integrity as someone who needs to show due diligence?" Vaz asks. He's utterly unimpressed, and sounds a bit weary. "Take him away!" he barks. No, wait - I made that last bit up.

13:43 - It's becoming a bit more tricky to concentrate on what's going on in the committee room, given the huge buildup which is now being given to the Murdochs - even if Fedorcio has just admitted that a quarter of the Met's press officers had previously worked for News International...

13:40 - Mark Reckless, whose demeanour suggests his name is utterly misplaced, wants to know why the Met needs 50 people in PR. "Why not just concentrate on the basics?" he asks. Fedorcio says "if we weren't in place the police officers would be spending their time" dealing with journalists. "We are able to take the pressure off the investigating officers."

13:39 - Fedorcio says John Yates conducted a form of due diligence over Wallis. Sounds a little bit like he's passing the buck, there... David Winnick, Labour veteran, wants to know what Yates said to Fedorcio. "I can't remember the actual words," Fedorcio replies. "He said to me that as far as he was concerned, having spoken to Mr Wallis, there was nothing that could embarrass any of us by that appointment." Damning. Yates, who is up next, is going to face some pre-tty awkward questions.

13:36 - Let's set out the facts of the case, and where Fedorcio fits in. The questions about his conduct relate to ex-News of the World deputy editor Neil Wallis, whose Chamy Media company was taken on by the Met for a contract between September 2009 and September 2010. Fedorcio has been director of public affairs at the Met since 1997.

13:32 - Barely a pause before we're leaping straight into the next witness - figuratively, it should be noted. This is Dick Fedorcio, whose name I continue to struggle to spell. Only a couple of hours ago he was referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission for investigation. He gets off to a rather inauspicious start, pointing out he hasn't had time to take legal advice since then. "You can give us the facts," Vaz says kindly, like a rather avuncular executioner.

13:29 - Well - Vaz says it was the last question, but then he jumps in and adds another one himself.  Vaz wraps up: "Can I ask you where you think your resignation and the resignation of John Yates leaves the service you have been involved with for so many years?" Vaz says he's still "a little bit puzzled as to why you resigned". "Clearly these are huge events, regrettable events and I would say I sincerely regret that Mr Yates has done," Sir Paul says. "The Met will recover... the interim arrangements put in place will work very well. I'm confident the Met will maintain and grow." He admits that the phone-hacking scandal "certainly isn't helpful" but says he believes trust can be restored. "I think we need to make changes in the way we handle the media... much more transparently.

"This is almost certainly my final professional engagement. I'm not going to add to my resignation speech - I think it was rather lengthy. But contrary to ill-informed media speculation, I'm not leaving because I was pushed... I'm going because I'm a leader. Leadership is not about popularity, the press or spinning. It's about making decisions that put your organisation and the people you lead first. It's about making decisions that may be personally painful, but that's leadership. That's why I'm going."

13:24 - And now the final question from Alun Michael, who has a rather odd question about the phrasing Sir Paul uses - "chief officers of police". So we go out with a bit of a whimper, not with a bang. Now here's the point: "we're expressing some surprise that with you as the chief officer responsible... some of these matters were not escalated for consideration". That's a good point. "I've given as fulsome answer as I possibly can," Sir Paul says. Not budging to the last.

13:20 - Sir Paul refused to name the senior official.

13:19 - Back to Bridget Phillipson, who returns to the question of not wanting to compromise the prime minister - and the fact that he spoke to a No 10 official. "I did not say that a senior official told me. I said that was consistent with the understanding of an advice from a senior official." Not sure I got that quote down right, but the gist is there. As Adel Darwish lobby journalist has tweeted to us, it's going to be an interesting lobby briefing with the prime minister's spokesman this afternoon.

13:16 - After a pretty solid start, the believability of Sir Paul's statements is fracturing. Those pesky bin bags, full of evidence, are raised. Sir Paul says he didn't know about them - and doesn't know how long the Met keeps evidence before throwing them away.

13:13 - No one knew that there was a problem, Sir Paul says. The doggedness with which the Met are sticking to their story is staggering. It almost reminds me of News International's approach - both sticking to their line, despite the clear disbelief on display from the vast majority of ordinary people.

13:11 - Ok, my attention is now fully restored. Seems as if Alun Michael - the very first first minister of Wales, as it happens - isn't letting go of the fact that there was a "mass of material" that was not reviewed in 2009. "Does that surprise you in retrospect?" he asks. No, Sir Paul says. "He had no reason to suspect the original investigation wasn't successful." The problem, Michael explains, is that the original material was only really looked at with relation to the two specific prosecutions, against Glenn Mulcaire and Clive Goodman. "Unless what we're saying is dishonest, and that is we had no reason to doubt the success of the original investigation..." Sir Paul begins. Michael interrupts, in his very dry manner...

13:07 - I've just drifted away from the committee, given that we're now less than an hour-and-a-half away from the main event. The Twittersphere is getting extremely excited as the Murdochs prepare for their grilling. Here's a few choice tweets:

"My fear is ctee's never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity and today's Murdoch hearings will be anti-climax." - James Macintyre, Prospect

"Dark clouds gathering ominously over Westminster. Not metaphorically, there really are." Nigel Fletcher, Centre for Opposition Studies

"The socialist workers have arrived. "Rupert - out out out!" they cry. They have a red plastic collection tin" Ann Treneman, Times

Fletcher is right about the dark clouds. It was quite sunny earlier, but it looks as if it's about to pour down now.

13:02 - Sir Paul is now defending John Yates, who quit yesterday, about that 2009 decision not to reopen the phone-hacking file. "I have no reason to believe that his judgement was impaired," Sir Paul says firmly. This isn't impressing Nicola Blackwood, who wonders whether Yates' relationship with a NOTW journalist might have "coloured his judgement". "I have a huge amount of faith in Mr Yates," Sir Paul adds.

13:01 - They're actually having a bit of a spat about the fundamentals, here. "We accept maybe there's no evidence, but you are a police officer with years of experience!" Vaz protests. Surely it was odd that all these ex-NOTW employees were working for the police or politicians? "It's almost like a fashion accessory," he says, improbably. Maybe all those ex-NOTW hacks should head down to Accessorize and start selling their journalistic services there?

12:59 - Winnick is back, but I've been distracted by a tweet from @peparkin praising this coverage. Never missing an opportunity for self-congratulation, I'm delighted. @peparkin may be interested to learn that I am keeping a banana in reserve, just in case I start to flag a little later on.

12:54 - Wallis


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