News of the World owner Rupert Murdoch has joined the chorus of condemnation for the phone hacking practices that went on at the Sunday paper.
Murdoch said allegations that the paper’s journalists paid police for information and hacked into phones such as murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler’s, were “deplorable and unacceptable”.
But shares in News of the World owner, US-listed News Corp, have fallen 4.2 per cent in trading today while UK-listed BSkyB, which Murdoch is in the process of taking control of, closed down 2.1 per cent as investors bet the scandal had damaged the companies’ reputation and could scupper the deal.
Murdoch defended the continued role of Rebekah Brooks, now chief executive of News International, the News of the World’s UK parent company and owner of its stablemates the Sun, Times and Sunday Times.
“I have made clear that our company must fully and proactively cooperate with the police in all investigations and that is exactly what News International has been doing and will continue to do under Rebekah Brooks’ leadership,” he said in a statement.
Murdoch’s response follows a savaging of the paper’s leadership and calls for Brooks to resign by MPs today in a heated Commons debate into the allegations.
Brooks has made it clear she will not step down and has repeatedly said she did not know the hacking was taking place when she edited the News of the World between 2000 and 2003.
But prime minister David Cameron has said he will launch two separate public inquiries into the scandal and it is unclear whether he will still allow Murdoch’s takeover of BSkyB to proceed.
The inquiries will focus on media practices and also an inqury into the police handling of the original hacking investigation.
Cameron also faced embarrassment from Milband over his employment of Andy Coulson, who was Brooks’ deputy at News of the World and who succeeded her as editor in 2003.
Miliband described Coulson’s recruitment by Cameron as a "catastrophic error of judgement".
Cameron employed Coulson as a close communications aide after he resigned from News of the World in 2007 following the conviction of royal reporter Clive Goodman and private detective Glenn Mulcaire on phone hacking charges.
Coulson resigned earlier this year after the hacking allegations refused to die down. News International said today it had passed documents to the police showing that he allegedly authorised payments to the police when he edited the paper.