Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Murdoch flies in over hack scandal

The front cover of the final edition of the News of the World newspaper (News International/PA)
News of the World staff in the newsroom in Wapping, east London, as they work on the title's final edition
Rupert Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks appear outside Mr Murdoch's London flat

Rupert Murdoch has flown into the UK to take personal charge of the phone hacking scandal as pressure mounted on the Government to freeze News Corporation's proposed takeover of BSkyB.

The 80-year-old clutched a copy of the final edition of the axed News of the World as he was whisked into News International's headquarters in Wapping, east London by chauffeur driven car.

It came hours after staff gathered outside the building in an emotional scene to send off the newspaper - which ended its 168-year history with a "Thank You & Goodbye" headline and an apology for having "lost our way".

Mr Murdoch, the News Corp chairman, said that it had been a "collective" decision to close the tabloid - taken amid public revulsion over revelations that the mobile phones of murdered teenager Milly Dowler and the families of 7/7 terror victims were targeted.

He also renewed his backing for NI chief executive Rebekah Brooks - who edited the NotW at the time of Milly Dowler's disappearance - despite widespread calls for her to go.

As the political storm continued, Labour leader Ed Miliband threatened to force a Commons vote on suspending consideration of the proposed News Corp takeover of BSkyB until the completion of criminal investigations into the hacking allegations.

And he appeared to be gaining significant support from senior Liberal Democrats - with deputy leader Simon Hughes indicating that he backed a pause and Energy Secretary Chris Huhne not ruling out support for a Labour motion to be tabled on Wednesday.

While a vote on Labour's motion on Wednesday would not be binding, it would be hard for ministers not to act if MPs backed a pause.

But Tory Transport Secretary Philip Hammond insisted that the Government was constrained by its legal duties and accused the Opposition leader of "playing politics" with the hacking issue.

In a warning to Prime Minister David Cameron, Mr Miliband told BBC1's Andrew Marr Show: "He has got to understand that when the public have seen the disgusting revelations that we have seen this week, the idea that this organisation, which engaged in these terrible practices, should be allowed to take over BSkyB, to get that 100% stake, without the criminal investigation having been completed and on the basis of assurances from that self-same organisation - frankly that just won't wash with the public."

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