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UK lawmakers to question Murdochs, grills key figures

Last updated on: July 19, 2011 18:03 IST

British lawmakers on Tuesday quizzed key figures in the country's phone-hacking scandal, seeking to uncover the extent of criminality at media tycoon Rupert Murdoch's now-defunct News of the World tabloid.

Paul Stephenson, the outgoing chief of the Metropolitan Police who was grilled by a House of Commons panel, defended himself and denied taking a swipe at UK Prime Minister David Cameron in his resignation speech.

He was quizzed a number of times on the hiring of the News of the World (NOTW) journalist Neil Wallis -- who has since been arrested over phone-hacking scandal -- as an adviser in the Metropolitan Police.

"No reason to suspect that Wallis was involved in the phone hacking when he was hired. There was no conflict of interest," he told the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee.

Replying to a question on the press-police relationship, 57-year-old police officer, who resigned as London's top cop on Sunday amid questions about his links to Wallis, also said it is quite clear "we need to change the way we do it."

Stephenson explained that "distracting" stories about his links to the affair left him with no choice but to resign, adding: "It was my decision and my decision only."

He said he was saddened to have to leave but he took the decision to go because of "extraordinary times".

Referring to the original hacking investigation in 2006, the outgoing Commissioner said he had "no reason to expect that it was unsuccessful". He said it had not been a "priority" for him at the time.

Murdoch, his son James and former aide Rebekah Brooks are also set to face British lawmakers today about the phone-hacking scandal which has engulfed their media empire and rocked police and politicians to the core.

Murdoch, News Corporation CEO, 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 it issued summons for them.

Brooks, former chief executive of News International -- News Corp's UK newspaper publishing arm, will appear separately before the committee. On Sunday, she was arrested, interrogated and granted bail in connection with the phone hacking and bribery scandal.

Murdoch's embattled group has publicly apologised twice during the weekend, promising to make amends in the aftermath of the phone-hacking scandal.

The company printed apologies in national newspapers on Saturday and Sunday for the wrongdoings and unethical practices adopted by journalists of the News of the World.

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

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