COMMONS

Privileges report on conduct of witnesses

14 September 2016

The Committee of Privileges releases its report on 'Conduct of witnesses before a select committee: Mr Colin Myler, Mr Tom Crone, Mr Les Hinton, and News International'. 

Associated correspondence and evidence has also been published.

The report

The report follows the referral to the Committee by the House of the Eleventh Report of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee (Session 2010-12) which concluded that it has been misled by witnesses during its inquiries into phone-hacking. Based on the evidence and applying the standard of proof that the allegations must be significantly more likely than not to be true, the Committee of Privileges has found that:

  1. Mr Colin Myler misled the CMS Committee by "answering questions falsely about [his] knowledge of evidence that other News of the World employees had been involved in phone‐hacking and other wrongdoing".
  2. Mr Tom Crone misled the CMS Committee in 2009 by giving a counter impression of the significance of confidentiality in the Gordon Taylor settlement.
  3. Tom Crone misled the CMS Committee by "answering questions falsely about [his] knowledge of evidence that other News of the World employees had been involved in phone‐hacking and other wrongdoing".

The Committee therefore finds Mr Myler (former editor of the News of the World) and Mr Crone (former legal manager at News International) to have been in contempt of the House.

The Committee also found that:

  • There is insufficient evidence to find that Tom Crone sought to mislead the CMS Committee about the commissioning of surveillance.
  • The allegation that Les Hinton sought to mislead the CMS Committee as to the extent of the pay‐off to Clive Goodman and his own role in authorising the payments is not significantly more likely than not to be true.
  • The evidence that Les Hinton misled the CMS Committee about the extent of his knowledge of allegations that phone‐hacking extended beyond Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire to others at the News of the World does not meet the standard of proof set for a finding of contempt.
  • While the Culture, Media and Sport Committee was sceptical about Mr Hinton's memory, there is no evidence that he misled the Committee in relation to his role in the payment of legal fees or the fact that he authorised the payments to Mr Goodman to settle his Employment Tribunal claim.
  • There is insufficient evidence of a breach of Parliamentary privilege on the part of NI (now News UK). NOTW was not a corporate body. As such, the Committee does not consider NI to have committed a contempt.

Recommendations

The Committee recommends that the House be invited to agree a motion in the following terms:

That this House—

  • i) approves the First Report from the Committee of Privileges;
  • ii) having regard to the conclusions of the Committee in respect of Mr Colin Myler, considers that Mr Myler misled the Culture, Media and Sport Committee by answering questions falsely about his knowledge of evidence that other News of the World employees had been involved in
    phone‐hacking and other wrongdoing, and therefore formally admonishes him for his conduct; and
  • iii) having regard to the conclusions of the Committee in respect of Mr Tom Crone, considers that Mr Crone misled the Culture, Media and Sport Committee by giving a counter‐impression of the significance of confidentiality in the Gordon Taylor settlement and by answering questions falsely about his knowledge of evidence that other News of the World employees had been involved in phone‐hacking and other wrongdoing, and therefore formally admonishes him for his conduct.

The Committee also recommends that the Leader of the House take steps as soon as possible to address the issues identified by the Joint Committee on Parliamentary Privilege in 2013, particularly in respect of the penal powers of the House and select committees and contempt.

The Government is expected to find an early date for debate on the Committee's report.

Further information

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