Murdoch called to appear before MPs as Westminster votes on BSkyB deal

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by a Newsnet Reporter

The three most senior figures in News International have been called to appear before MPs investigating the phone hacking scandal.  Rupert Murdoch, his son James, and Rebekah Wade will be called before Westminster’s Culture, Media and Sport select committee.  The committee has submitted a “polite request” to News International asking the executives to appear before MPs on Tuesday of next week.

MPs have some difficult questions for all three.  MPs intend to press Rupert Murdoch for an apology to the families of innocent victims of the scandal.  James Murdoch is to be questioned over his role in authorising a payment to “silence” Gordon Taylor, former head of the English Football Association, after Mr Taylor’s phone was hacked.  MPs wish to question Rebekah Wade about her knowledge of payments made by the News of the World to police officers.

So far Ms Wade has refused to resign from her position as head of News International’s UK operations, and retains the full confidence of the Murdoch family.

Labour MP Tom Watson, who has campaigned to bring the scandal to light and who is a member of the committee, said: “These people are hiding behind PR people, they are sitting in Wapping Towers, they should come to Parliament and explain themselves.  We suspect that some of them might be too cowardly to turn up but that’s up to them to decide.”

A News International spokesperson said: “We have been made aware of the request from the CMS Committee to interview senior executives and will cooperate.  We await the formal invitation.”

Meanwhile MPs will today vote on a move to block News International’s bid to take over 100% of the shares in the satellite broadcaster BSkyB.  The motion, put forward by the Labour party states: “This House believes that it is in the public interest for Rupert Murdoch and News Corporation to withdraw its bid for BSkyB.”

Speaking about the proposal, Labour leader Ed Miliband said: Mr Miliband said: “There are times when the House of Commons has got to rise to the occasion and speak for the public.

“We have said that the purchase of BSkyB should not proceed until after criminal inquiries are complete.  The simplest way to achieve this is for Rupert Murdoch to recognise the feelings of the public and the will of the House of Commons and withdraw this bid.  I am calling on Parliament to show its will tomorrow.”

Deputy PM Nick Clegg had already proposed a similar move, and on Tuesday Downing Street announced that the government will back the motion.  Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Minister, will abstain from the vote as he has a quasi-judicial role in the decision.  

It is highly unlikely that the vote will not pass, effectively killing Murdoch’s ambition to contol a large swathe of the media in the UK.