Wednesday News Review

Police pile pressure on News International

Senior executives at News International could be investigated by police after the company was accused by detectives of deliberately attempting to thwart the first phone hacking investigation. Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers, the officer leading Scotland Yard’s new inquiry, yesterday suggested to MPs that the scope of the investigation could be widened beyond journalists at the News of the World to include the “criminal liability of directors”. Broadening the inquiry could implicate more senior managers at the defunct tabloid’s owners, including James Murdoch, the chairman of News International, and Rebekah Brooks, its chief executive. The Metropolitan Police yesterday accused News International of “lying” during the original investigation into phone hacking at the News of the World. Senior officers told MPs that Mr Murdoch’s company had deliberately undermined a criminal inquiry, a move that could leave senior executives facing prosecution. Peter Clarke, the former deputy assistant commissioner of the Met, said: “If at any time News International had offered some meaningful co-operation instead of lies, we would not be here today.” – the Telegraph

PM attempts to regain control

David Cameron will announce on Wednesday that a judge will oversee a full-blown inquiry into the background to phone hacking and a panel that will examine media regulation, as Downing Street scrambles to regain the initiative after a series of decisive interventions by Ed Miliband. In a statement to MPs, shortly before all parties unite behind a Labourmotion calling on Rupert Murdoch to abandon his bid to take full control of BSkyB, the prime minister will announce that he reached broad agreement on Tuesdaynight with Miliband and Nick Clegg over the scope of the judge’s work. The judge, who will be named on Wednesday, will lead the main inquiry into the background to phone hacking, which is expected to be modelled on the Hutton inquiry into the death of Dr David Kelly in 2003. It will be established under the 2005 Inquiries Act, which means that witnesses may be compelled to appear and will give evidence under oath. – the Guardian

The Prime Minister will make a Commons statement ahead of a debate in which all three parties are backing calls for Rupert Murdoch to withdraw the News Corp bid for BSkyB. According to Sky sources, he will broaden the scope of the inquiry beyond just hacking by the NOTW and the bungled police investigation. The inquiry is also expected to include the relationship between police and the Press – which came under attack from MPs on the Home Affairs Select Committee on Tuesday as they quizzed present and past police chiefs – and between politicians and the media. It is understood that the inquiry will have the power to compel witnesses, including past and present senior politicians, to give evidence under oath. – Sky

In other news… Libya

Efforts to find a political solution to the Libyan crisis are intensifying as France, Britain and the US acknowledge that Nato military action alone is unlikely to force Muammar Gaddafi to step down. The UN and western countries are urging formal talks between the Benghazi-based rebels and the Gaddafi regime amid new signs that Tripoli might agree to discuss a transition of power. Alain Juppé, France’s foreign minister, provided the strongest indication yet of optimism about the outcome. “Emissaries are telling us Gaddafi is ready to go, let’s talk about it,” he said on Tuesday. “The question is no longer about whether Gaddafi goes but when and how.” François Fillon, the French prime minister, told the national assembly that a “political solution is taking shape”. Al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi, Libya‘s prime minister, told the French daily Le Figaro that the regime was ready to negotiate “unconditionally” as long as Nato action ended. Gaddafi would not be involved in talks, he said, and would “respect the will of the people”. – the Guardian

Ireland’s credit rating cut

Europe’s debt woes escalated yesterday as Ireland’s credit rating was cut to junk status, and the crisis threatened to engulf its biggest victim yet in Italy. Moody’s Investors Service cut Ireland’s ratings by one notch to Ba1 from Baa3 and kept a negative outlook. It added that there was a danger that the country will need more bailout aid in late 2013 when the current European Union-International Monetary Fund support program ends. Italy and Spain both insisted last night that their economies, and with them the future of the euro, were secure from the debt crisis that has already floored Greece. Speculators have stepped up attacks on the two southern European economies – the third and fourth largest in the eurozone. In both countries borrowing costs soared, while stock markets and the euro fell back – despite pledges from finance ministers that Italy and Spain were committed to slashing their debt levels. – the Independent

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