Wednesday, September 28, 2011

#Hackgate : Tom Watson - Transcript of Questions to Rebekah Brooks.

Q423 Mr Watson: There are many questions I would like to ask you, but I will not be able to do so today because you are facing criminal proceedings, so I am going to be narrow in my questioning. Why did you sack Tom Crone?

Rebekah Brooks: We didn't sack Tom Crone. What happened with Tom Crone was, when we made the very regrettable decision to close the News of the World after 168 years, Tom Crone had predominantly been a News of the World lawyer. His status as NI legal manager, because of the situation at the News of the World, he predominantly spent most of his time, in fact, pretty much 99% of his time, on the News of the World. The rest of the company and the rest of the titles had appointed new lawyers and there wasn't a job for Tom once we closed the News of the World, and he left.

Q424 Mr Watson: Someone is still dealing with the News of the World legal cases though.

Rebekah Brooks: Sorry?

Mr Watson: Someone is still dealing with the News of the World legal cases though, presumably.

Rebekah Brooks: Yes. The civil cases are being dealt with by—as I said, the first one is the standards and management committee that we've set up. You've seen the announcements on that recently, so I won't go over them. I know that James and Rupert have talked about it. But also Farrers, who've been doing the civil cases all along. We've got some test cases coming up before the judge in January, and there are people dealing with that. Tom Crone's role was as hands-on legal manager of News of the World, and obviously when we closed the paper there wasn't a job there.

Q425 Mr Watson: I must have misunderstood what James Murdoch said. He implied that you sacked him, but I may be—it has been a busy day.
As a journalist and editor of News of the World and The Sun, how extensively did you work with private detectives?

Rebekah Brooks: On The Sun not at all. When I was editor of News of the World, as you know, I came before this Committee just as I became editor of The Sun in relation to "What price privacy now?" and Operation Motorman, as it's called. Back then, we answered extensively questions about the use of private detectives across Fleet Street. As you know, a chart was published. I can't remember where the News of the World was on it, but I think it was fourth, and I think The Sun was below Take a Break Magazine. Certainly in the top five were The Observer, The Guardian, News of the World, Daily Mail—

Q426 Paul Farrelly: Chairman, may I interrupt? I declare that I used to work for The Observer, but left in 2001. The Observer was not in the top four.

Rebekah Brooks: Perhaps the top six.

Paul Farrelly: The Observer had four instances.

Rebekah Brooks: But it was on the table.

Q427 Mr Watson: To answer my question, you extensively worked with private investigators. Is that the answer?

Rebekah Brooks: No. What I said was that the use of private detectives in the late '90s and 2000 was a practice of Fleet Street, and after Operation Motorman and "What price privacy now?" Fleet Street reviewed this practice and in the main the use of private detectives was stopped. Don't forget that at the time, as you are aware, it was all about the Data Protection Acts and changes that were made. That's why we had the committee in 2003.

Q428 Mr Watson: For the third time, how extensively did you work with private detectives?

Rebekah Brooks: The News of the World employed private detectives, like most newspapers in Fleet Street.

Q429 Mr Watson: So it's fair to say that you were aware of , and approved payments to, private detectives.

Rebekah Brooks: I was aware that News of the World used private detectives under my editorship, yes.

Q430 Mr Watson: So you would have approved payments to them.

Rebekah Brooks: That's not how it works, but I was aware that we used them.

Q431 Mr Watson: Who would have approved the payments?

Rebekah Brooks: The payments system in a newspaper—this has been discussed at length—is simply that the editor's job is to acquire the overall budget for the paper from the senior management. Once that budget is acquired, it is given to the managing editor to allocate to different departments. Each person in that department has a different level of authorisation, but the final payments are authorised by the managing editor, unless there is a particularly big item such as a set of photographs or something that needs to be discussed on a wider level, and then the editor will be brought in.

Q432 Mr Watson: So Stuart Kuttner would have discussed some payments to private detectives with you?

Rebekah Brooks: Not necessarily, no. We are talking about 11 years ago. He may have discussed payments with me, but I don't particularly remember any incidents.

Q433 Mr Watson: You don't remember whether you would have discussed any
payments at all?

Rebekah Brooks: I didn't say that; I said in relation to private detectives. I was aware that the News of the World used private detectives, as every paper in Fleet Street did.

Q434 Mr Watson: So you don't recall whether you authorised payments or talked with Stuart Kuttner?

Rebekah Brooks: The payments of private detectives would have gone through the managing editor's office.

Q435 Mr Watson: You can't remember whether Kuttner ever discussed it with you?

Rebekah Brooks: Sorry. What?

Q436 Mr Watson: You can't remember whether Kuttner ever discussed it with you.

Rebekah Brooks: I can't remember if we ever discussed an individual payment, no.

Q437 Mr Watson: In your letter to us in 2009, you said that you did not recall meeting Glenn Mulcaire. You will appreciate that this is an inadequate answer in the circumstances, and that we require a specific response to our questions. Did you ever have any contact, directly or through others, with Glenn Mulcaire?

Rebekah Brooks: No. None whatsoever.

Q438 Mr Watson: Would your former diary secretary, Michelle, be able to confirm that?

Rebekah Brooks: Michelle?

Mr Watson: Your former diary secretary.

Rebekah Brooks: I've had a PA for 19 years called Cheryl.

Mr Watson: Okay. Would your PA be able to confirm that?

Rebekah Brooks: Absolutely.

Q439 Mr Watson: Does she hold your diary for the last 19 years?

Rebekah Brooks: No, she probably doesn't. We don't keep that for 19 years, but she may have something from back then. I don't know.

Q440 Mr Watson: Would it be in a paper format or an electronic format?

Rebekah Brooks: I did not meet Mr Mulcaire.

Mr Watson: I am talking about your diary. Is it in electronic format or a paper format?

Rebekah Brooks: It would have been in a paper format until very recently.

Q441 Mr Watson: Okay. Do you think Glenn Mulcaire would deny that he ever met you?

Rebekah Brooks: I am sure he would, although—yes; it's the truth.

Q442 Mr Watson: Were you aware of the arrangement that News Group Newspapers had with Mr Mulcaire while you were the editor of News of the World and The Sun?

Rebekah Brooks: No.

Q443 Mr Watson: So you didn't know what he did?

Rebekah Brooks: I didn't know particularly that Glenn Mulcaire was one of the detectives that was used by the News of the World, no.

Q444 Mr Watson: You didn't know he was on the payroll?

Rebekah Brooks: In fact, I first heard Glenn Mulcaire's name in 2006.

Q445 Mr Watson: Did you receive any information that originated from Glenn Mulcaire or his methods?

Rebekah Brooks: What to me, personally?

Q446 Mr Watson: You as editor. Did anyone bring you information as a result of Glenn Mulcaire's methods?

Rebekah Brooks: I know it is an entirely appropriate question, but I can only keep saying the same answer: I didn't know Glenn Mulcaire. I had never heard the name until 2006. There were other private investigators I did know about and had heard about, but he wasn't one of them
Q447 Mr Watson: We will come on to that. Now that you know what you know, do you suspect that you might have received information on the basis of stuff gathered by Glenn Mulcaire?

Rebekah Brooks: Now I know what I know—this is one of the difficulties. Obviously I know quite an extensive amount now, particularly from the past six months of investigating this story. Glenn Mulcaire, I am aware, worked on and off for the News of the World, I think, in the late '90s, and continued through until 2006 when he was arrested. Obviously, if he worked with the News of the World for that time, he was involved. I think the judge said in 2007—again, we may disagree with that now—that when Glenn Mulcaire was convicted, he had a perfectly legitimate contract with the News of the World for research and investigative work. The judge said that quite repeatedly throughout the trial. So that is what I can tell you.

Q448 Mr Watson: Did you ever have any contact directly or through others with Jonathan Rees?

Rebekah Brooks: No.

Q449 Mr Watson: Do you know about Jonathan Rees?

Rebekah Brooks: I do. Again, I have heard a lot recently about Jonathan Rees. I watched the "Panorama" programme, as we all did. His wasn't a name familiar to me. I am told that he rejoined the News of the World in 2005 or 2006, and he worked with the News of
the World and many other newspapers in the late 1990s. That is my information.

Q450 Mr Watson: Do you find it peculiar that, having served a sentence for a serious criminal offence, he was then rehired by the paper?

Rebekah Brooks: It does seem extraordinary.

Q451 Mr Watson: Do you know who hired him?

Rebekah Brooks: No I don't.

Q452 Mr Watson: Do you know who signed his contract?

Rebekah Brooks: No. Sorry.

Q453 Mr Watson: If you have been conducting an investigation for six months, did you not take the time to find out?

Rebekah Brooks: The investigation that we have been conducting over the six months is particularly around the interception of voicemails, as you know. The management and standards committee at News International is going to look at Jonathan Rees, and we already do have some information. As to the conclusion of that investigation, I do not know.

Q454 Mr Watson: What information do you have?

Rebekah Brooks: We have information that, as I said, Jonathan Rees worked for many newspapers in Fleet street in the late '90s, and then he was rehired by the News of the World sometime in 2005, maybe 2006.

Q455 Mr Watson: Do you know what he was doing at that time?

Rebekah Brooks: I don't. I'm sorry—no.

Q456 Mr Watson: Did you not ask?

Rebekah Brooks: Well I was the editor of The Sun at the time and I didn't know they had rehired him. I have only found that out recently.

Q457 Mr Watson: When you were chief executive of the company, did you not wonder what he did in 2005-06, given that you have a hacking scandal breaking around you?

Rebekah Brooks: Absolutely, and I have the information that "Panorama" had, that Jonathan Rees worked as a private investigator. The "Panorama" programme said that he was conducting many, many illegal offences—that is what I saw, as you did. Also, he used to work for "Panorama". He worked for many newspapers, presumably before his conviction, as you say, and then he was rehired by the News of the World.

Q458 Mr Watson: Do you believe that he conducted illegal activities on behalf of News of the World?

Rebekah Brooks: I can only comment on what I know, and I don't know that.

Q459 Mr Watson: What is your belief?

Rebekah Brooks: I don't know.

Q460 Mr Watson: You don't know what he did?

Rebekah Brooks: I don't know what he did for the News of the World—I'm sorry.

Q461 Mr Watson: Do you not think that people will just find it incredible that, as chief executive of the company, you don't know?

Rebekah Brooks: It may be incredible, but, again, it is also the truth. I heard about Jonathan Rees's rehiring by the News of the World through an investigation conducted by "Panorama".

Q462 Mr Watson: Did you ever have any contact, directly or through others, with Steve Whittamore?

Rebekah Brooks: Yes.

Q463 Mr Watson: What did you do with him?

Rebekah Brooks: Steve Whittamore was one of the private detectives, as I said, who formed, I think, the major part of Operation Motorman.

Q464 Mr Watson: I don't want to know what Steve Whittamore did; I would like to know what you did with him.

Rebekah Brooks: Sorry?

Q465 Mr Watson: I would like to know what you did with him.

Rebekah Brooks: In the main, my use of private investigators while I was editor of the News of the World was purely legitimate and in pursuit in the main, as you know, of the addresses and whereabouts of convicted paedophiles through Sarah's law. That is my majority—if not almost my exclusive—use of private investigators. But I respect that the News of the World also used private investigators for other stories.

Q466 Mr Watson: Are you aware that Steve Whittamore conducted two ex-directory look-ups on the Dowler family in Walton-on-Thames?

Rebekah Brooks: I was not aware of that until two weeks ago.

Q467 Mr Watson: You are now.

Rebekah Brooks: Yes, I am.

Q468 Mr Watson: Why did you hold a mobile conversion from Steve Whittamore?

Rebekah Brooks: As I said, it was 11 years ago. I have answered this question many times, but just to repeat, a mobile conversion is finding an address from a mobile phone, and it can be got through legitimate means. In fact, in the story that you refer to, the mobile phone number was a business number and the address was widely known.

Q469 Mr Watson: So you can remember what the story was.

Rebekah Brooks: I have just said to you that I can—

Q470 Mr Watson: What was the story you were working on?

Rebekah Brooks: I read it in The New York Times.

Q471 Mr Watson: Was it a paedophile that you were after then?

Rebekah Brooks: It would be unfair to the person concerned, because he has been named by The Guardian and The New York Times. But I am saying that the very few occasions on which I used private detectives were on Sarah's law.

Q472 Mr Watson: Can you name other private detectives you worked with?

Rebekah Brooks: No.

Q473 Mr Watson: You cannot remember them?

Rebekah Brooks: No.

Q474 Mr Watson: Are you aware that the paper used other detectives, though?

Rebekah Brooks: Sorry?

Q475 Mr Watson: Did the paper use private detectives other than Steve Whittamore, Jonathan Rees and Glenn Mulcaire?

Rebekah Brooks: He was the one that I was aware of at the time. As I said, the first time I heard about Glenn Mulcaire was when he was arrested in 2006.

Q476 Mr Watson: Is it your belief that the paper used other private investigators, and you just cannot remember them today?

Rebekah Brooks: No, it isn't that I cannot remember. You have the same information as I have, which is from Operation Motorman.

Q477 Mr Watson: One last question: do you have any regrets?

Rebekah Brooks: Of course I have regrets. The idea that Milly Dowler's phone was accessed by someone being paid by the News of the World—or even worse, authorised by someone at the News of the World—is as abhorrent to me as it is to everyone in this room. It is an ultimate regret that the speed at which we have found out, and tried to find out, the bottom of this investigation has been too slow.
James and Rupert accepted that earlier. We—they, now that I have left the company—are endeavouring to continue to investigate. But of course there are regrets.