Stop corruption: 'Pay MPs a million annually,' quips Murdoch

Chris Gaynor

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who was quizzed by MPs for the very first time on the the British media parliamentary committee on Tuesday joked that UK MPs should earn at least £1m pounds a year - like in Singapore where the conduct by politicians is "exemplary".

His jokey comment came as he was making his thoughts clear on the state of British journalism and politics and said that having a "competitive" free press in the UK was essential. 

He stated that the reason why MPs had been fiddling their expenses was because they were not paid enough. His thoughts were that MPs should be paid £1 Million a year like they are in Singapore because there, in the Far east,  none of the MPs try to get away with troughing because their salary reflected their position, and that UK MPs were only doing what they had been doing before they were outed by the Daily Telegraph a year or so ago, because of their low salary.

Murdoch went on to say that the Telegraph's celebrated scoop was obtained by the "theft" of information.

But he said phone hacking and paying police for information was wrong.

An MP on the committee joked back about Murdoch's view of increasing MPs' salaries to £1 Million a year by saying: "You'd have a hard time convincing the public of that Mr Murdoch."

The bilionaire global empire boss came to Westminster to answer questions regarding the hacking scandal - but refused to carry the can, and said that it had not been down to him, but to those he had trusted under him. Although he said of his right hand man Les Hinton, who resigned as a News Corp top executive," I trust him with "my life".

But, while the MPs were grinning about having their day in the Sun, so too were the Murdochs, whose brave appearance in front of a re-invigorated bunch of MPs, who are gloating that they have managed to get their House in order, led by the posh chair John Whittingdale, made a defiant battle of the marathon three-hour session, which ended in a pathetic comedian, Jonnie Marbles being led away by police - as he tried to tip a bowl of shaving foam over the frail media mogul.

Murdoch's plucky wife, Wendi came to the rescue by leaping from her chair landing a blow on the Committee intruder, who was handcuffed by police and led away. 

Labour MP Tom Watson, who hogged the limelight, and was loving it, jested of Murdoch's Chinese wife, "Mr Murdoch, your wife has one hell of a right hook."

Murdoch, who appeared doddery, and at times, didn't appear to know what time of day it was, gradually settled into the session and tried to convince MPs that he was "very sorry" for what had happened at the now closed News of the World. He also stated at the very beggining of the Committee that this was most "humble day of his life". Expensive PR people advising him had clearly said that he and his son should get the apologies in many and often.

James Murdoch, 38, manfully tried to be the sole speaker for the Murdoch empire in order to stave off a barrage of criticism from the MPs. Murdoch senior said that, in hindsight, perhaps "he had lost sight" of the News of the World, and what was going on at it but made the point that his global enterprise employs 53,000 staff, and the paper was one per cent of the business. But he was ashamed about the dirty journalistic tricks that had been going on at the paper.

James Murdoch also said that these were "serious matters" that were now being fully investigated by News International. When asked if they knew about any dirty practices going on across the pond in the US at News Corporation, the Murdochs gave an assurance that they did not believe any US hacks had been hacking as part of News Corp.

On the entertaining of top UK politicians, including rime ministers inviting Murdoch into Downing Street, Murdoch told the MPs that he was invited to go through the back door, to avoid paparazzi, and that this practice had happened under both Gordon Brown and David Cameron.

He also joked in the hearing about UK politicians trying to cosy up to him, adding, wittily: "I wish they would leave me alone."

Rupert Murdoch's real or merely convenient amnesia was most telling when he was asked why, when he first arrived in the UK from America to take personal charge of the phone hacking scandal that claimed the jobs of more than 200 of his News of the World staff, he'd said its discredited ex-editor Rebekah Brooks was his main priority. He told his MP questioner that, at the time, "eight camera lenses were being stuck in my mouth and I can't remember saying that".

After the Murdochs, the other red top, ex-Sun editor and ex-CEO News International star Rebekah Brooks faced a grilling from MPs, who quizzed her on her previous comments on the fact that in 2003 she had admitted to the same committee "we had paid police for information". At the time, disgraced former News of the World editor Coulson, who resigned as Conservative Party PR based with prime minister David Cameron at Downing Street, had intervened and said the paper had done it in the public interest and within the law.

Brooks today came and made a u-turn on that point, and said she had never santioned the payment of police officers under her watch. On phone hacking of murdered schoolgirl girl Milly Dowler's phone, Brooks said the first she had heard of this appalling breach of privacy was two weeks ago when, like everyone else, she had read about it in the Guardian newspaper.

Brooks, who was arrested last weekend, and let out on bail after nine hours of questioning, is now the subject of a police investigation. Brooks did also admit at the hearing, that the jailed private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, had allegedly hacked her phone.

She said that investigators like him were only used for her campaigns including the Sarah's Law campaign, designed to alert people to the fact that parents had a right to know whether a paedophile was living in their street or nearby.

Questions still remain however, about how much David Cameron knew or was told when he had decided to hire the ex-NOTW editor Andy Coulson into the Downing Street spin machine. And Brooks, in the hearing, vehemently claimed that the prime minister was just a "friend" and that they neither owned a race horse, went riding together or owned joint properties. She said all the press speculation about them was untrue. They were merely friendly neighbours in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire.

Brooks was least convincing when she claimed not to know about money - tens of thousands of pounds - paid by her paper, when she was in charge, to the likes of Mulcaire. She tried to dump responsibility for this on ex-News of the World managing editor, Stuart Kuttner.

The prime minister, back from a two-day trade trip with British businessmen to Africa, will face a grilling in the parliament which was supposed to break up for holiday. MPs, including his own annoyed Conservative backbenchers, will want to find out what exactly Cameron's role was in all of this. He has been criticised for going abroad at such a crucial time.

London police bosses were also given a grilling by the Home Affairs Select Committee, which took evidence from ex-Met chief Sir Paul Stephenson, and ithe ex-Assistant Commissioner John Yates. Sir Paul Stephenson denied he had took a pop at Cameron in his resignation speech over the Met's hiring of ex-deputy editor of the NOTW Neil Wallis.

Yates, Sir Paul Stephenson, Met PR chief Dick Fedorcio and two others have been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission for their conduct in the corruption allegations swirling around the Met.

Neil Wallis, it was told by the cops had been employed as a retainer - to advise on speeches and PR strategy for the Met. It was confirmed however, by robust questioning by MPs on the committee, that out of 45 Met press bureau employees, 10 were ex-News International employees. Keith Vaz, chair of the committee, said it had "almost become a fashion accesory" to move from News Int to the Met.

Now Murdoch Has His Place In The Sun

Assistant Commissioner John Yates, who resigned from his job as a result of the scandal, told MPs that he had not observed due diligence when Wallis was given a Fedorcio and that he had, like Cameron only sought "assurances" by Wallis, that he had no knowledge of what had been going on at NOTW.

Yates said that Wallis was a friend, but, they only saw each other maybe three times a year to go to events like football matches. They did not live in each others pockets.

Today the story will be all over the papers. It's not often Murdoch gets pride of place in his own Sun...Here's a video of the alleged shaving foam attacker:



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