News Corp to be asked to withdraw BSkyB bid
THE HOUSE of Commons will today issue an extraordinary call on Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation to withdraw its bid to take full control of satellite broadcaster BSkyB following a pact last night between prime minister David Cameron and Labour leader Ed Miliband.
The agreement was reached during a meeting between the two and the Liberal Democrats’ deputy prime minister Nick Clegg. Mr Clegg made it clear his MPs would support the Labour motion.
The motion, which will now go through the near-unanimous agreement of the House, bar some Conservative MPs who may go absent, states: “This house believes that it is in the public interest for Rupert Murdoch and News Corporation to withdraw their bid for BSkyB.” The all-party deal marks the latest triumph for Mr Miliband, but a humiliation for Mr Cameron, who last week insisted he could not urge Mr Murdoch to scrap his takeover bid.
In the Commons, Mr Cameron had said: “If you do not follow the correct legal processes, you will be judicially reviewed, and all the decisions that you would like to make from a political point of view will be struck down in the courts.”
Mr Cameron is expected to announce the head of one of the inquiries into the scandal, though differences still exist between him and Mr Miliband. The judge-led inquiry will investigate the police’s relationship with the press in the UK. Past and present politicians, along with journalists and police, will be called to give evidence under oath – but the inquiry will not begin until the current investigation is completed, which may not be for 18 months or more.
Faced with shareholders’ jitters, News Corp in New York said it would spend $5 billion of its existing $13 billion cash pile to buy back shares, since the UK Competition Commission inquiry into BSkyB will delay it by at least six months.
The decision is also evidence that the crisis engulfing his UK operation means Mr Murdoch needs to buttress his position in the company he has controlled since its foundation – even though he and his family own just 30 per cent of the shares.
Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Police officer heading the investigation into the News of the World’s phone hacking scandal said just 170 of the suspected 3,700 victims of the newspaper’s conduct have been officially notified.
Deputy assistant commissioner Sue Akers said officers were talking to victims to get their help to identify some of the 5,000 landline numbers and 4,000 mobile numbers seized from private investigator Glenn Mulcaire.
Meanwhile, Metropolitan Police officers blamed the failure of the original investigation into the News of the World on a deliberate policy by News International to frustrate detectives’ inquiries.
“If at any time News International had offered some meaningful co-operation instead of lies, we would not be here today,” said former anti-terrorist chief Peter Clarke, who had direct charge of the first investigation that jailed Mr Mulcaire and News of the World reporter Clive Goodman.
“Would you expect criminals to co-operate with the police? Of course you don’t. But this is slightly different . . . from someone taking the lead off the church roof. This is a major global organisation with access to the best legal advice, in my view deliberately trying to thwart a police investigation,” he told the Commons home affairs committee.
Mr Murdoch, son James and News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks are not expected to accept an invitation to appear before the Commons culture, media and sport committee next Tuesday