Saturday News Review

News International admits liability over phone hacking

Rupert Murdoch’s News International has issued a public apology to eight victims of phone hacking, including the actor Sienna Miller and former culture secretary Tessa Jowell, and admitted for the first time that the practice was rife at the News of the World. In a move likely to cost the company many millions of pounds, it said it would offer compensation to some of the 24 high-profile figures who have started legal proceedings against the paper in the high court for breach of privacy. It also admitted its previous investigations into hacking had not been “sufficiently robust”. The unprecedented statement of contrition is a remarkable volte face for the country’s most powerful news organisation that was claiming until the start of this year, in the face of growing evidence to the contrary, that hacking was the work of a single reporter. – the Guardian

News International’s admission that it was responsible for the hacking of the phones of public figures ranging from a former member of the Cabinet to a Hollywood actress represents a seismic moment for the management of Britain’s biggest newspaper publisher, reverberating all the way back to Rupert Murdoch. The acceptance of liability on a grand scale has implications which stretch across the Atlantic to the heart of News Corporation. Why, Mr Murdoch will surely ask himself, didn’t he take a personal grip of this situation before it reached such a pass? At Dow Jones & Co, the publishers of Mr Murdoch’s prized Wall Street Journal, the chief executive Les Hinton might ask himself why, as executive chairman of News International (NI) throughout the period in question, he presided over an organisation responsible for such behaviour, but told MPs that “there was never any evidence delivered to me” suggesting that phone hacking went beyond Clive Goodman, the royal editor of the News of the World jailed in January 2007. – the Independent

The biggest question is for the culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, who was poised to wave through News Corporation’s bid for full ownership and control of BSkyB, thereby creating the largest and most powerful media company Britain has ever seen. It is now apparent his predecessor as culture secretary, Tessa Jowell, had her phone hacked. Imagine if a bank had hired investigators to hack the chancellor of the exchequer’s phone. It is difficult to imagine that Mr Hunt could possibly allow the bid to go through in the circumstances when so many unanswered questions hang over the company and where so many documents have yet to be revealed. Only a full judicial inquiry can now answer the many unresolved issues. – the Guardian

Now George’s business buddies make U-turn on growth

Some of the UK’s most prominent business leaders, including individuals who gave their personal stamp of approval to the chancellor’s aggressive spending cuts, have said they have growing concerns about the state of the economy, warning of weak growth and rising inflation ahead. Archie Norman, the former Tory MP who now chairs ITV, said the government’s growth targets were too optimistic. The former Asda boss Andy Bond, Carphone Warehouse founder Charles Dunstone, Tory peer Lord Wolfson, who runs Next, and Yell chairman Bob Wigley predicted tough times ahead as soaring inflation dents consumer spending power, although they continue to support George Osborne‘s austerity strategy. Bond expressed doubt about the ability of the private sector to create as many jobs as hoped. “I don’t think the private sector is going to be able to pick up the slack in this climate,” he said. Bond, who ran the UK’s second largest supermarket chain for five years, forecast a two-year “retail recession” earlier this week. He was one of 35 bosses who signed a letter to the Daily Telegraph six months ago supporting George Osborne’s plan to slash the deficit and arguing that businesses “should be more than capable of generating additional jobs to replace those lost in the public sector”.- the Guardian

Clegg to make AV plea

Nick Clegg is to compare proposed changes to the system for electing MPs to giving women the vote and lowering the voting age to 18. The Lib Dem leader will say arguments against the alternative vote (AV) will look as “nonsensical” in the future as those against female suffrage now do. But one senior Labour politician said his reading of history was “dodgy” and the current first-past-the-post system had “stood the test of time”. Voters will be asked whether to retain first-past-the-post or switch to the alternative vote – where voters can rank candidates in order of preference – in the UK-wide poll. Putting the case for AV in a speech in London, Mr Clegg will say it is a “very British reform” and represents an “evolution” of the existing system. Referring to the series of legislative steps which extended the voting franchise in the 19th and early 20th Centuries, he will say a switch to AV would fit into a pattern of constitutional change “by instalments”. – the BBC

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