Commons will consider whether to proceed against News International executives for "contempt" - full motion published
MPs will tomorrow, Tuesday, decide whether to refer News International executives - possibly including Rupert and James Murdoch - to the Commons Committee on Standards and Privileges for "Contempt of Parliament".
The motion has been tabled by John Whittingdale MP, Chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, on behalf of the committee.
But Black Country MP Tom Watson, the Committee's most high profile member, may be absent - as he is due to give evidence to Lord Leveson's inquiry into the media tomorrow afternoon.
The motion will be debated tomorrow after 3.30pm (if there are any ministerial statements then they take place at 3.30 and the motion is debated afterwards).
"That this House notes the conclusions set out in chapter 8 of the Eleventh Report from the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Session 2010-12, on News International and Phone-hacking, HC 903-I, and orders That the matter be referred to the Committee on Standards and Privileges."
The motion can be debated, amended and can go to a division - a vote - to be agreed or not. If there's no division it will mean that it has been agreed by the House as a whole, ie with MPs shouting "aye" and nobody shouting "no".
Chapter 8 of the select committee report (PDF) accuses former News International chief executive Les Hinton, former Legal Manager of News Group Newspapers Tom Crone and former News of the World editor Colin Myler of misleading the committee.
It also states that the Committee believes Rupert Murdoch and James Murdoch should be held responsible for the News of the World and News International "corporately" misleading the committee.
The report says: "Corporately, the News of the World and News International misled the Committee about the true nature and extent of the internal investigations they professed to have carried out in relation to phone hacking; by making statements they would have known were not fully truthful; and by failing to disclose documents which would have helped expose the truth.
"Their instinct throughout, until it was too late, was to cover up rather than seek out wrongdoing and discipline the perpetrators, as they also professed they would do after the criminal convictions. In failing to investigate properly, and by ignoring evidence of widespread wrongdoing, News International and its parent News Corporation exhibited wilful blindness, for which the companies' directors--including Rupert Murdoch and James Murdoch--should ultimately be prepared to take responsibility."
In practice, it is very unclear what would actually happen if the Commons Committee on Standards and Privileges did find that a person was in contempt of Parliament.
In the past, the Commons had the power to order members of the public to come to the Commons and explain themselves, and even to jail them until the end of the Parliamentary session - until the next Queen's Speech in other words. But according to the Clerk of the Commons, "the House's power to punish non-Members for contempt is untested in recent times".