Former News International executives claim Murdoch’s evidence was “mistaken”

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by a Newsnet reporter

James Murdoch is to be asked to clarify certain remarks he made during Tuesday’s proceedings of the House of Commons select committee on Culture, Media and Sport according to a statement by John Whittingdale MP, chairman of the committee.  Mr Whittingdale made his comments after two senior former News Interational executives apparently contradicted Mr Murdoch’s statement to the committee that he was “not aware” of an email circulating within the company which suggested that phone hacking went much further than the actions of a single rogue reporter.

In a statement made on Thursday night, Tom Crone, former News International legal manager, and Colin Myler, a former News of the World editor, both claimed that they had told James Murdoch about the contents of the email and said that James Murdoch’s evidence to the committee had been “mistaken”.  The statement directly contradicts the evidence given by Mr Murdoch to the committee.

Known within the company as the ‘for Neville email’, the email was thought to be crucial to the company’s decision to pay Gordon Taylor, former chief executive of the FA, some £700,000 in an out of court settlement over phone hacking allegations.  The email apparently contained the transcripts of some thirty hacked voicemail messages and was in the possession of Mr Taylor’s lawyers.  Had Mr Taylor’s case gone to court the company would have been unable to sustain its public line that only one reporter was involved in illegal activities.

In their joint statement, addressed to the committee, the former executives said:  “Just by way of clarification relating to Tuesday’s CMS Select Committee hearing, we would like to point out that James Murdoch’s recollection of what he was told when agreeing to settle the Gordon Taylor litigation was mistaken.  

“In fact, we did inform him of the ‘for Neville’ email which had been produced to us by Gordon Taylor’s lawyers.”

Tom Watson MP, who questioned Mr Murdoch and his father Rupert on Tuesday, said: “Either Mr Myler and Mr Crone are lying, or Mr Murdoch has misled Parliament.  If so, his position is untenable.”

During questioning on Tuesday, Mr Watson asked James Murdoch: “Did you see or were you made aware of the full Neville email, the transcript of the hacked voicemail messages?”

In his reply Mr Murdoch said: “No, I was not aware of that at the time,” and added he was only made aware of “key facts and evidence” that came to light at the end of 2010 when detectives re-launched their investigation into the phone-hacking and corruption allegation.

In a statement released on Thursday in response to the claim from Myler and Crone, Mr Murdoch said: “I stand behind my testimony to the Select Committee.”

John Whittingdale said the committee would contact James Murdoch for clarification of the apparent contradiction.

Mr Whittingdale told Reuters news agency: “I haven’t seen the statement but if it is the case that Colin Myler and Tom Crone are in conflict on a serious issue then that is a matter we would want to obtain a response from James Murdoch on.”