Phone-hacking: Rebekah Brooks resigns from News International

By Alex Stevenson

News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks has stepped down, finally bowing to intense pressure after another dramatic week in the phone-hacking scandal.

It comes just days after Rupert Murdoch said Ms Brooks was his number one priority. But his media empire is now in disarray, facing an FBI investigation and preparing to apologise this weekend for phone-hacking in all UK national newspapers.

Ms Brooks, who faces questions from the Commons' culture, media and sport committee next week over what she knew about wrongdoing, said she felt a "deep sense of responsibility for the people we have hurt".

"My desire to remain on the bridge has made me a focal point of debate," she said in a statement.

"This is now detracting our attention from all our honest endeavours to fix the problems of the past… this time my resignation has been accepted."

The news will be greeted with glee by opposition political figures, including Labour leader Ed Miliband – who called for Ms Brooks' resignation shortly after the phone-hacking scandal broke.

No 10 said David Cameron thought she had made "right decision".

James Murdoch announced that Tom Mockridge, who had led the Murdochs' European television business as chief executive of Sky Italia, will take over as News International's chief executive with immediate effect.

"I understand her decision and I want to thank her for her 22 years of service," he said.

"She's been one of the outstanding editors of her generation and she can be proud of many accomplishments as her executive. We support her as she takes this step to clear her name."

Ms Brooks worked for News International for 22 years. She called it "part of the finest media company in the world" and said News International was "full of talented, professional and honourable people".

"I now need to concentrate on correcting the distortions and rebutting the allegations about my record as a journalist, an editor and executive," she wrote.

"My resignation makes it possible for me to have the freedom and the time to give my full cooperation to all the current and future inquiries, the police investigations and the culture, media and sport [select committee] appearance."

Ms Brooks appears to have offered to resign previously. She faced intense pressure to resign last week but said she believed "the right and responsible action" was "to lead us through the heat of the crisis".

Mr Murdoch made clear he supported her at the weekend, but in her statement today she acknowledged that "my desire to remain on the bridge has made me a focal point of the debate".

"Rupert's wisdom, kindness and incisive advice has guided me throughout my career and James is an inspirational leader who has shown me great loyalty and friendship," she added.

"I would like to thank them both for their support."

Speculation has already begun as to how Ms Brooks' resignation will affect her evidence before MPs next week.

John Whittingdale, the committee's chair who will lead questioning of Ms Brooks and the Murdochs next Tuesday, said: "Most people will feel this is the right decision but perhaps this is one which should have come rather earlier."

Campaigning MP Tom Watson said: "She should have gone on day one. It is quite remarkable that for the most powerful media organisation on the planet their PR has been utterly appalling."

Mr Miliband welcomed the news that Ms Brooks had "finally taken responsibility for the terrible events that happened on her watch".

"No one in this country should exercise power without responsibility," he said.

"But as I said when I called for her resignation ten days ago, this is not just about one individual but about the culture of an organisation.

"Rupert Murdoch says that News Corp has handled these allegations 'extremely well'. He still hasn't apologised to the innocent victims of hacking. He clearly still doesn't get it."