A parliamentary panel investigating Britain's spreading phone hacking scandal accused the Murdoch empire on Wednesday of “deliberate attempts” to thwart its investigations.
The House of Commons home affairs select committee was one of two panels that questioned some of the main players in the scandal on Tuesday, interviewing senior police officers and releasing a scathing report on Wednesday that pointed to “a catalog of failures” in handling the hacking investigations.
The report was issued on Wednesday just hours before Prime Minister David Cameron went before a rowdy session of Parliament to defend his relationships with former senior figures at News International, the British subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch's global News Corporation.
A second panel, the select committee on culture, media and sport, on Tuesday questioned Mr. Murdoch, his son James and Rebekah Brooks, the former chief of News International. Ms. Brooks resigned from the company last week and was arrested on Sunday on suspicion of illegally intercepting phone calls and bribing the police — charges she again denied on Tuesday.
The separate home affairs select committee interviewed senior officers including Sir Paul Stephenson, the outgoing commissioner of London's Metropolitan Police Service, and John Yates, the assistant commissioner who also is leaving.
Both men resigned this week amid questions about their ties to Neil Wallis, a former deputy editor of The News of the World — the now defunct Sunday tabloid at the core of the scandal — and the failure to reopen an earlier inquiry into phone hacking after a brief review in 2009.
The report said there had been “deliberate attempts by News International to thwart the various investigations” into the illicit hacking of voice mail. At the hearings on Tuesday, both Rupert and James Murdoch denied that they knew of the hacking at the time it happened, as did Ms. Brooks.
But, the panel said, Scotland Yard had shown no “real will” to penetrate those attempts. It said Mr. Yates's review of evidence in 2009 had been “very poor” and he had shown a “serious misjudgment” in failing to order the hacking inquiry reopened.
“There has been a catalog of failures by the Metropolitan Police, and deliberate attempts by News International to thwart the various investigations,” the home affairs committee chairman, Keith Vaz, said.
He was referring to new attempts by both the police and a separate inquiry, set up by Mr. Cameron, to be led by a judge investigating what happened.
“The new inquiry requires additional resources and if these are not forthcoming, it will take years to inform all the potential victims,” he said.
The questioning of the Murdochs was suspended briefly on Tuesday after a man attacked Rupert Murdoch with a foil plate of shaving cream. The police said the man, identified as Jonathan May-Bowles, 26, from Windsor, west of London, was charged on Wednesday with “causing harassment, alarm or distress in a public place” under the Public Order Act.
He was released on bail and ordered to appear in court again on July 29.
While the hacking scandal has been simmering for years, it exploded into a full-blown scandal earlier this month with reports that the voice mail of 13-year-old abducted girl, Milly Dowler, had been hacked on the orders of The News of the World in 2002 when Ms. Brooks was its editor.
The News Corporation on Wednesday said that it had stopped paying legal fees for Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator for The News of the World who pleaded guilty to phone hacking charges and went to jail in January 2007, news agencies reported. Both Mr. Murdoch and his son James told members of Parliament on Tuesday that they were surprised to learn that the company had been paying his legal fees, as well as those of Clive Goodman, the tabloid’s royal reporter, who has also pleaded guilty to phone hacking. Wednesday's announcement did not mention Mr. Goodman.
The scandal has spread to encompass Mr. Cameron's decision to hire another former editor of The News of the World, Andy Coulson, as his media director both before and after the elections that brought him to power at the head of a coalition government in May 2010.
Mr. Coulson, who resigned from the prime minister's office in January, and Ms. Brooks are among 10 people arrested since January in connection with police investigations of phone hacking.
But, as the report on Wednesday by the home affairs committee showed, lawmakers sense they have an initiative to pursue the issue much further. Additionally, the Labour opposition seems to sense a new vulnerability after disclosures that Mr. Coulson consulted with Mr. Wallis while Mr. Coulson worked for the prime minister.
Mr. Wallis is also among those arrested in recent days.