LONDON — British lawmakers on Tuesday referred three former executives of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. to their standards committee over claims they misled parliament over the phone-hacking scandal.
A damning report by parliament’s influential culture committee had accused the three former aides this month of deliberately misleading its members during their investigation of the scandal at Murdoch’s News of the World tabloid.
The now-closed tabloid’s former editor Colin Myler, its legal manager Tom Crone and Les Hinton, former executive chairman of Murdoch’s British newspaper wing News International, deny misleading the lawmakers.
But lawmakers agreed on Tuesday to refer the claims to parliament’s Standards and Privileges Committee (SPC), which has the power to recommend sanctions against the trio and News International.
Culture committee chairman John Whittingdale said it would be up to the SPC to decide what punishment the trio should face, but said misleading parliament should “bear profound consequences”.
“I’m not entirely sure what the consequences are, but there is no question that these are very serious matters,” Whittingdale said.
The three men could be summoned to parliament for public censure, although Labour lawmaker Chris Bryant, a prominent campaigner on phone hacking, has urged the committee to consider fining or imprisoning them.
Murdoch, 81, was forced to shut down the News of the World in July after a storm of revelations that it illegally accessed the voicemail messages of a murdered teenage girl as well as dozens of public figures.
In its scathing report published on May 1, parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport Committee said the Australian-born tycoon was not fit to lead a major global company and was guilty of “wilful blindness” over the hacking scandal.
But the committee was split on the remarks on Murdoch, and only included them after six members forced them through against the wishes of four members from Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative party.