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Yesterday, I wrote a blog post about how, in my view, Louise Mensch was misrepresenting the contents of the contents of the DCMS report into phone hacking.

One of the thrusts of her argument was that “no one is accusing Rupert Murdoch of misleading Parliament”. My assertion was that, in paragraph 228 of the report, it did just that when it said that he gave:

a misleading account of his involvement and influence with his newspapers.

Bear in mind that this paragraph, although not all Conservatives supported the (Paul Farrelly) amendment that inserted it into the report, was not, they claimed, an assertion they could not accept. Only paragraph 229, Tom Watson’s amendment that included the “not a fit person” led them to disavow the whole thing.

Which they did. Mensch herself called the report “fatally flawed” and “essentially worthless” (Newsnight, 1st May, 2012).

So, the key question, to my mind is: does the assertion that Rupert Murdoch gave a misleading account to Parliament necessarily mean that he misled Parliament?

Fortunately, someone asked just that at the press conference when the report was launched (start from 57:19 in the video below if it doesn’t do it for you).

The question was asked as to whether or not giving a misleading account amounted to misleading Parliament. Paul Farrelly, who proposed the amendment that contained the paragraph, and who should know if anyone does, dodged the question.

He said:

You’ve got the text there.

And then he moved on to raise the wider point of the corporate misleading of Parliament for which the report holds both J and R Murdoch responsible.

Which doesn’t really answer the question.

The report clearly says that Rupert Murdoch gave the Committee:

a misleading account of his involvement and influence with his newspapers.

And yet not only do the Labour members of the Committee allow other Committee members to present the report as if no such allegation has been made, but they refuse even to explain clearly what it implies when asked directly.

We get a hint that it means what it says (“You’ve got the text there”) but an unwillingness to expound on it, clarify it, or even to insist that others mention it when describing the report.

So, I’ll ask again. In the eyes of Tom Watson, in the eyes of Paul Farrelly, and in the eyes of Louise Mensch does giving a misleading account of your activities to a Parliamentary Select Committee amount to misleading Parliament or not?

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