MPs and Murdochs ready for phone-hacking duel

By Alex Stevenson

MPs are preparing to grill News Corporation chief Rupert Murdoch and two of his key allies, in one of the most hotly-anticipated parliamentary events in years.

The culture, media and sport committee will question Mr Murdoch and his son James Murdoch at 14:30 BST. News International's former chief executive Rebekah Brooks, who dramatically resigned last Friday, will appear at 15:30 BST.

They will answer questions covering what they knew about phone-hacking at News International's papers as the scandal, now in its third week, arrives at yet another key moment.

Eighty-year-old Mr Murdoch's future could depend on his performance as MPs seek to discover what he knew about phone-hacking at the now-closed News of the World tabloid.

He apologised "to the nation" in newspaper adverts this weekend and in person to the family of murdered teenager Milly Dowler on Friday. MPs will be expecting him to repeat the apology this afternoon.

Among those on chair John Whittingdale's committee is Tom Watson, the Labour backbencher and former minister whose uncompromising campaigning on phone-hacking has won plaudits in recent days.

"There is not going to be a killer blow on Tuesday," he told the Guardian newspaper.

"Expectations are way too high. We will get the symbolism of parliament holding these people to account for the first time. We will look for facts, and not just offer rhetoric."

Today's session is only taking place after parliament exerted its powers of compulsion against the Murdochs last Thursday.

They had initially defied the Commons and only bowed to pressure after receiving a formal summons from the deputy serjeant-at-arms.

A further obstacle arose on Sunday when Ms Brooks was arrested by the Metropolitan police.

She is now expected to face questions but may evade answering many of them for legal reasons. Yesterday she insisted she has not committed a criminal offence.

"This story has been like slicing a cucumber," Mr Watson added. "You just get a little bit closer to the truth each time."

The culture, media and sport committee is not the only select committee addressing the phone-hacking scandal tomorrow.

Former Met commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson and former assistant commissioner John Yates, who resigned from their posts on Sunday and Monday respectively, will give evidence to the home affairs committee at 12:00 BST and 13:15 BST.