News Corporation chiefs Rupert and James Murdoch and former executive Rebekah Brooks will be quizzed by MPs later about the phone-hacking scandal.

The Murdochs agreed to appear before the Commons media committee after it issued a summons for them.

The MPs have said they have questions over evidence given by Mrs Brooks and Andy Coulson – both ex-News of the World editors – at a hearing in 2003.

Two senior police figures who quit over the scandal also face MPs’ questions.

The committee hearing is the latest in a series of dramatic developments in the phone-hacking saga.

Mrs Brooks quit as chief executive of News International – the UK arm of News Corporation – on Friday. On Sunday she was arrested on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications and corruption.

Unexplained death

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson resigned on Sunday and Assistant Commissioner John Yates quit on Monday over the hiring of former News of the World journalist Neil Wallis, now alleged to have been involved in phone-hacking as a PR consultant for the force.

Both former officers are due to give evidence to the Commons home affairs committee.

Meanwhile investigations continue into the death of former News of the World journalist Sean Hoare, who had made allegations of phone hacking. Mr Hoare’s body was found at his home on Monday. Police say his death is as yet unexplained but not thought to be suspicious.

In another development, readers of the Sun’s website were redirected to a hoax story which said Rupert Murdoch had been found dead in his garden, after the site was targeted by hackers.

Visitors to the site were redirected to the Twitter page of a group called Lulz Security, which has claimed responsibility, before News International took it down.

And Prime Minister David Cameron is cutting short his trip to Africa to make a statement in the Commons on Wednesday and answer questions “arising” from recent events.

Mr Cameron remains under intense pressure over his decision to hire Mr Coulson as his communications chief, BBC political correspondent Iain Watson said.

Mr Coulson resigned from the post over the phone-hacking scandal though he said he had not known about it during his time as NoW editor.

Mrs Brooks resigned as chief executive of News International last week amid huge pressure – she was editor of the News of the World in 2002 when murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler’s mobile phone was allegedly hacked into by a private investigator working for the News of the World but has denied knowing anything about it.

She had already agreed to appear before the Commons culture, media and sport committee for a special one-off evidence session on Tuesday.

But her arrest at the weekend may limit the questions she can be asked by the committee – for fear of jeopardising any police investigation. Her lawyer has said she is not guilty of any crime and said no allegations were put to her during nine hours of questioning on Sunday.

News Corporation CEO Rupert Murdoch and his son James – who is in charge of the company’s European operations – initially declined to appear before the committee but changed their minds after the committee issued a summons.

News Corporation has denied reports it was holding a meeting to discuss a replacement for Rupert Murdoch as CEO of the company. A spokesman told the BBC: “As you would expect, the board has had a plan in place for some time and it regularly re-evaluates those plans. Suggestions that a plan is being currently accelerated or implemented are inaccurate.”

‘Utmost care’

It is rare to see executives as senior as the Murdochs appear before a Parliamentary committee – although Rupert Murdoch did appear before a Lords committee, sitting in New York, in 2007.

In his response to the committee, James Murdoch said he was committed to ensuring that allegations about the News of the World – which has since been shut down – are “fully investigated and dealt with appropriately and robustly”.

He also said they had committed to full co-operation with the current police inquiry and the planned judge-led inquiry – and asked that the committee “take the utmost care in ensuring that the committee hearing does not run any risk of prejudicing that investigation and subsequent prosecutions”.

The committee is likely to ask James Murdoch about his statement two weeks ago that the News of the World had “made statements to Parliament without being in full possession of the facts” – and that he had approved out-of-court settlements when he did not have “a complete picture” of what had happened.

Among members is Labour MP Tom Watson, who has long campaigned on the issue of phone-hacking and on Monday urged the Serious Fraud Office to investigate out-of-court settlements made to hacking victims.

Committee chairman John Whittingdale says he hopes MPs will not act as a “lynch mob” but will not “let them off”.

Mr Whittingdale, a Conservative MP, has said his committee’s purpose will be “to try and get closer to what actually happened and to uncover the truth”.

Tuesday’s session is expected to generate a lot of interest – two “overspill” rooms have been arranged at Westminster for those not able to get a seat in the committee room.

Last week Mr Murdoch’s News Corporation dropped a bid to take complete control of satellite broadcaster BSkyB.

Source: BBC

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