Murdochs are summoned to attend hacking inquiry

NEWS International Chief Executive Rebekah Brooks has agreed to give evidence to MPs over the phone hacking scandal next week, it was announced today.

But the Commons Culture Select Committee has issued a summons to media mogul Rupert Murdoch and his son James after they said they were not available to attend the session.

The younger Murdoch had offered to appear on August 10 instead.

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It is not clear whether the committee will be able to compel the men to face questioning as they are US citizens.

In his letter to committee chairman John Whittingdale, Mr Murdoch senior said that although he was not available on Tuesday, he was “fully prepared” to give evidence to the judge-led inquiry announced by David Cameron yesterday.

“I will be taking steps to notify those conducting the inquiry of my willingness to do so,” the letter said.

“Having done this, I would be happy to discuss with you how best to give evidence to your committee.”

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The development came after Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg insisted Mr Murdoch should submit to a grilling by the committee if he has a “shred of responsibility”.

James Murdoch wrote that he could attend on August 10 or 11, adding: “Naturally if neither of these proves suitable, I would be willing to consider any alternative dates you suggest.”

But, in a statement, the MPs said: “The committee has made clear its view that all three should appear to account for the behaviour of News International and for previous statements made to the committee in Parliament, now acknowledged to be false.

“Accordingly, the committee has this morning decided to summon Rupert Murdoch and James Murdoch to appear before the Select Committee in Parliament at 2.30pm on Tuesday July 19 2011.”

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Ms Brooks’s response to the committee said she “welcomed the opportunity” to give evidence. But the former News of the World and Sun editor warned that she may refuse to answer detailed questions about allegations of phone hacking by the newspapers.

“Given that we are in the midst of an investigation, and we do not want to prejudice it, I hope you will understand why we feel it would not be appropriate to respond to such questions at present in order to be consistent with the police’s approach, and that as a result this may prevent me from discussing these matters in detail,” she wrote.

Mr Whittingdale said the Deputy Serjeant at Arms of the House of Commons would now deliver the summons to the Murdochs in person.

He insisted select committees had taken such steps against individuals in the past, and they had complied.

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“I hope very much that the Murdochs will respond similarly,” Mr Whittingdale said.

The Tory MP said he was particularly “anxious” that James Murdoch answer questions.

“He has stated that Parliament has been misled by people in his employment,” he said.

“We felt that to wait until August was unjustifiable.”