Rupert Murdoch should be questioned by the public inquiry into the phone hacking scandal, David Cameron said yesterday.
The 80-year-old media mogul could be asked to give evidence under oath by Lord Justice Leveson, a senior judge, who will investigate the behaviour of newspapers and the police in the hacking affair and future Press regulation.
Government lawyers believe Mr Murdoch would have to attend the inquiry if he were in the UK, which he normally visits a few times a year. However, he could not be stopped from leaving the country as soon as such a request were made - or, as an American citizen, be forced to return to this country from abroad. Ministers hope he will feel "moral pressure" to turn up.
More immediately, the chairman of News Corp must decide by 10am this morning whether to attend a hearing of the Commons Culture Media and Sport Committee next Tuesday, which believes it was misled over the scale of hacking by News International (NI) during its previous investigation.
The committee has also invited his son James, News Corp's chief executive in Europe, and Rebekah Brooks, chief executive of NI.
Only Mrs Brooks, as a UK citizen, could be forced to attend. She may be summoned to the Bar of the Commons chamber if she refuses. The deadline for a response from all three was extended last night after signals from NI that it would respond positively.
Announcing the judicial inquiry, Mr Cameron said anyone guilty of wrongdoing - or sanctioning illegal practices - should be banned from running media organisations. The Prime Minister said the inquiry would "have the power to summon witnesses including newspaper reporters, management, proprietors, policemen and politicians of all parties to give evidence under oath and in public".
Mr Cameron, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are expected to be called to give evidence.
The first part of two-pronged investigation will include the culture, practices and ethics of the Press; the failure of the current system of newspaper regulation; the relationship between Press and politicians, and cross-media ownership.