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Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks all appear before the House of Commons Select Committee today Press Association Images

LIVEBLOG: Rebekah Brooks before House of Commons select committee

The former chief executive of News International appears before the UK Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport on the phone-hacking scandal in the News of the World.

Good evening – we’ve been live-tweeting the appearance of James and Rupert Murdoch before the House of Commons Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport all afternoon.

One pie in the face, several apologies and multiple answered and unanswered questions later, we are now ready for the appearance of Rebekah Brooks, newly-resigned chief executive of News International, former editor of News of the World and of the Sun.

Rebekah Brooks is adding her apologies to victims of phone-hacking to those of the Murdochs. She also says she has legal representation in the room because of her recent arrest and questioning by police in relation to the scandal.

RB: It was only when we saw the actress Sienna Miller’s case documentations that we knew the extent of what had been happening.

The chairperson of the Select Committee, James Whittingdale, asks if she feels she was lied to. RB says she can’t say that until she has evidence of it.

Brooks causes a shuffle in the room when she says editorial legal advisor Tom Crone wasn’t sacked. “There wasn’t a job for Tom when the News of the World closed, and he left”.

Committee member Tom Watson says he must have been mistaken when he thought James Murdoch said earlier that Rebekah Brooks had sacked Tom Crone.

Paul Farrelly, MP and former City editor of The Observer, takes issue with Rebekah Brooks’s assertion that the Observer was in the top four of papers using private investigators.

RB: The News of the World used private detectives, as did other papers on Fleet Street, and I was aware of it. Asked by Tom Watson who approved payments, she says they were authorised by the managing editor or if a big payment, the editor would be brought into discussions.

RB claims she never met with Glenn Mulcaire. I had never heard his name until 2006 and the Clive Goodman royal staff phone-hacking case.

RB: I didn’t know the name of Jonathan Rees, the private investigator used by the News of the World to get information from police and illegal sources. I don’t know who rehired him at the News of the World.

RB says that Jonathan Rees worked for many media outlets, even for Panorama, which focused on him in an investigative programme.

RB: I did know Steve Whitamore and used private investigators in my time as editor of the News of the World, but always legitimately, and on Sarah’s Law.

Asked if she has any regrets, Rebekah Brooks say, Of course I have. It is “abhorrent”, she says, that Milly Dowler’s phone was hacked. She says the investigation to probe it was too slow.

Committee member Louise Mensch is speaking about Piers Morgan’s book in which he says phone-hacking and other activities for getting “scoops” were widespread in the Daily Mirror. She asks if blagging, hacking and the use of private eyes  was widespread on Fleet Street, that the News of the World would also have felt it admissible to do so.

Rebekah Brooks says that she has never sanctioned a payment to police for information.

Most information from police to newspapers comes “free of charge”, says RB.

Lots of reference from Louise Mensch to Operation Motorman, which reviewed how journalists across all of Fleet Street got their information. She is putting it to Rebekah Brooks that if she refers to these too, and knew these practices took place elsewhere, why would she not know they were happening in her own paper. Brooks says reference she made to payments to police to the Select Committee in 2003 were about “widely-held” beliefs, not a “widespread belief”.

The Sun did its journalistic business in a very clean manner, Brooks notes. She calls the news operation there a “very tight ship”.

RB speaks of breaking the news to the “honorable” reporters in the News of the World, they were saddened and baffled. She says that she told them that they would understand that she and the Murdochs had done the right thing by closing the paper down.

It wasn’t the right decision for the journalists who worked there and had done nothing wrong, she says. She also expects that News Corporation will try to find jobs for as many as possible across their operations.

Committee member Jim Sheridan wants to know why News International were paying Andy Coulson and Glenn Mulcaire legal fees during the Tommy Sheridan perjury conviction. Brooks says Coulson had agreement for paying of fees of NoTW related cases even after he left.

Brooks asked to explain what the process is for putting together a big story like the Milly Dowler case.

It starts with the reporter, says Brooks. They put the information they hear to their news editors, but then they must check out its veracity before the story goes to the backbench. It is then subbed and questions and amendments put to the copy. It is also passed by a lawyer.

The lawyers would be heavily involved in any such big story in particular, says Brooks. Her own involvement? She was over it for many years, even as she moved onto the Sun as it was such an ongoing case.

The Committee member Damian Collins, who is asking Brooks about the Milly Dowler story, is wondering if she was particularly involved in this story. Brooks says she was interested in stories like this, or Sarah Payne’s or the Soham murders, because she was pushing for changes to sex offenders’ legislation.

She believed that in the Milly Dowler and Soham cases, the media were very restrained and respectful of the families. “Clearly, these allegations which came out two weeks ago, are appalling”.

RB says she only knew of the Milly Dowler phone-hacking when the public heard about it. The first thing she did, she says, was to write to the parents of Milly Dowler to apologise and to say they were going to get to the bottom of it.

RB says that the second thing she did on hearing of the hacking allegations, was to meet with the family’s lawyers to see if they could assist. The third was to contact Surrey police to ask if they came across any information of hacking that they pass it to Metropolitan police or to the Dowlers’ lawyers. She said she got an answer at the end of last week which said that the Surrey police could not tell her anything because it was part of a criminal investigation.

RB: I don’t know anyone in their right mind who would sanction listening to the voicemail of Milly Dowler in those circumstances.

Paul Farrelly takes on the questions to Rebekah Brooks. He says that in his time as a journalist, there was no such thing as a public list of addresses of people with mobile numbers. He says you would have to go about getting it from a mobile phone company or the police, and you would need a public interest defence to do so.

Farrelly asks if the mobile mentioned by Brooks as tracked by NoTW is of a paedophile, she says she thinks that it should have been. But she can’t say for sure, as that individual says he has not done anything wrong.

Brooks hits back that private detectives were used at the Observer during Farrelly’s time there and that he, as she did, must have thought they were always used for legitimate purposes.

Farrelly moves on to the Milly Dowler case and the “myth” that Mulcaire was a rogue operator at the time of the royal staff phone hacking scandal. The Dowler case, he said, blew that out of the water.

RB: At the time of Glenn Mulcaire’s trial, that’s what we were told, and that’s what we believed.

RB: From my own knowledge, in 2006, when my own phone voicemails were accessed by Glenn Mulcaire on a number of occasions, then yes, it was going on. But I didn’t know about it.

RB: She says that it is slightly irrelevant whether she was on holidays or not at the time of the Milly Dowler hacking. “It happened on my watch.” Andy Coulson was deputy editor at the time.

As soon as the file on emails held in the Harbottle and Lewis was made made known to her in April, she acted on it, as did James Murdoch. Asked if Jon Chapman had asked that legal team in H&L to write a “misleading letter” on what was in that file, Brooks says she doesn’t think they would.

Why did the company’s lawyer Jon Chapman leave News International? Is he a fall guy – Farrelly continues to press Brooks.

Paul Farrelly claims only the Guardian, the Independent, the FT, and the New York Times were pretty quiet on the original royal phone hacking story. Brooks denies that she asked the editors of any other papers to not cover the story.

Committee member Therese Coffey has the floor now.

Coffey accepts that Brooks found the idea of hacking Milly Dowler’s phone as “abhorrent” but wonders did no-one ask where the story printed on the NoTW based on information gained that way came from? Brooks says that of course it would have been asked – but doubts that if someone said it came from phonehacking would it not have been pulled.

RB asked who she would trust of who had worked for her. Brooks says the whole newsroom is based on trust. “You rely on the people who work for you to behave properly”.

Therese Coffey asks if Rebekah Brooks has any regrets about any headlines she stood over.

RB says she defends the right of the free press and will do for the rest of her career.

Committee member Philip Davies asks how often she would have spoken to James and Rupert Murdoch at News International.

Much more often since she became chief exec than when she was a paper editor, she says.

RB asked why she’s not trying to find a job for “poor old” Tom Crone if News International is so eager to find jobs for other NoTW staff. It’s too specific a job he did, she says.

Rebekah Brooks: I never knew that Thurlebeck was a police informer. She says she’s not sure if he was or not, citing the “working relationship” most crime corrs have with their police force.

Brooks says that she, and the Murdochs, come in front of the Select Committee to try to be transparent and helpful.

Brooks on her relationship with British Prime Minister David Cameron: I read the other day that we have met 26 times, I’m not sure, but I can come back to you on that.

She says she did go regularly to Downing Street during Gordon Brown and Tony Blair’s years at Downing Street. Six times a year or so, she says, perhaps more regularly in the final years of Blair.

Davies recalls that the Sun always seemed to him when he was growing up as “anti-establishment”. Has Brooks’s relationship with previous prime minister made her part of the establishment?

Not if the previous prime ministers’ complaints about coverage in the Sun were anything to go by.

Brooks says she can’t ever remember being asked to “spike” a story by a prime minister, or a politician in general.

Brooks says she doesn’t know where the stories are coming from about her relationship with British Prime Minister David Cameron. Reports about her going horseriding with him, or owning a racehorse with him, or owning a piece of land with him are completely untrue.

He’s a neighbour and a friend and that’s it.

RB tells committee member Adrian Sanders that it was not her idea that Andy Coulson, her former NoTW deputy, should be David Cameron’s spin doctor. The idea came from George Osborne she says.

Paul Farrelly gets in a final question about concern about relationship between News International, the police and politicians.

Brooks says it is wholly unfair to single out the NoTW.

Ken McDonald, advising News Corporation, does not advise on the phone-hacking allegations because of his past in the UK’s Director of Public Prosecutions, says Brooks.

Rebekah Brooks finishes up by asking the Select Committee that they might invite her back when she is “free of the constraints” imposed by a criminal investigation so she can answer their questions more fully.

Unsurprisingly, Committee chairman James Whittingdale, says they most certainly will.

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