Tom Watson, a Labour member of Parliament, says Murdoch must explain to the UK House of Commons about journalists illegally hacking into people’s phones. The Commons has approved an inquiry into phone hacking, to investigate whether MPs have been targeted by newspapers – in particular the Murdoch-owned News of the World, a weekly tabloid owned by his company. MPs have moved the matter to the Standards and Privileges Committee, due to meet on Tuesday. The British media has been boiling for the past few days over the phone hacking story. Two News of the World reporters were sent to jail for illegally listening to mobile phone calls. But its former editor Andy Coulson – now Prime Minister David Cameron’s communications head – denied knowing anything about it when he was at News Corp. An editor not knowing what his reporters were up to raised a lot of eyebrows here. The Labour Opposition is piling on the pressure, hoping to force Coulson out and inflict damage on the government.

Now Watson says Rupert Murdoch should be asked to explain the actions of reporters and editors at the News of the World. Watson said: “I doubt that Rupert Murdoch knows about these indiscretions, but he is responsible for appointing people to positions of great power who should, and for that reason he too should explain his actions to the committee.” Normally these Parliamentary committees are pretty toothless affairs. People are invited to give evidence but it’s not compulsory. They’re also normally pretty toothless – I should know, I was summonsed to give evidence to one back in 2003. But the Standards and Privileges Committee has greater power of summons than other committees.

Watson told Parliament: “The barons of the media with their red-topped assassins are the biggest beasts in the modern jungle. They have no predators, they are untouchable, they laugh at the law, they sneer at Parliament, they have the power to hurt us and they do so with gusto and precision.” The News of the World said that “amidst a swirl of untethered allegations” it will investigate any allegation of wrongdoing when presented with evidence. “We have a zero-tolerance approach to wrongdoing,” the paper said.