Murdochs urged to appear before British MPs over News scandal

Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch and executive Rebekah Brooks have been asked to appear before a committee of British MPs over the growing News of the World phone hacking scandal.

Rupert Murdoch faces a corporate crisis as shares in News International tumble amid reports that the scandal has spread to The Sunday Times and The Sun.

It is alleged that The Sun targeted the sick baby of the former prime minister Gordon Brown and the Sunday Times used "blagging" - impersonating Brown - to access his bank accounts and other personal records.

In 2006, Rebekah Brooks, then editor of The Sun and now the current head of News International, contacted the Browns to tell them that the paper knew their four-month-old son, Fraser, had cystic fibrosis, the Guardian reports.

The Guardian also says a Sunday Times reporter used a former actor, John Ford, who specialised in "blagging" confidential data from banks, phone companies and the British tax office.

News International has denied the allegations.

The Australian newspaper, owned by the Murdoch empire, reports Brown saying that News International was linked to the "criminal underworld".

The Australian reports:

People acting for The Sunday Times had allegedly used "blagging" to contact Mr Brown's bank, claiming to be him, and to trick lawyers into providing information about a property purchase.

The Guardian published a recording of a man it described as a convicted con artist calling a law firm in 2000 claiming to be an accountant seeking details of a property transaction involving Mr Brown, and said the former PM's bank had had six calls from somebody claiming to be Mr Brown.

Mr Brown told the BBC he was shocked by the paper's tactics and had been left in tears because he and his wife wanted Fraser's health problem to remain private. "Sarah and I were incredibly upset, we were thinking about his long-term future," he said.

Mr Brown said the probe into his financial affairs was also hard to believe "because of the links with known criminals who were undertaking this activity, hired by investigators who were working with The Sunday Times".

Royal protection police officers were accused of betraying the Queen by selling information on her movements and telephone details to NOTW.

The Prince of Wales and his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, have been warned by police their phones may have been hacked.

Meanwhile, the British government has referred Murdoch's bid for the acquisition of BSkyB to the competition commission, delaying any possible takeover by about six months.

The Culture, Media and Sport (CMS) committee asked the trio to give evidence about the phone hacking and police payments scandals at a hearing next week.

"In light of the extraordinary developments this week around phone hacking, serious questions have arisen about the evidence given to the committee by a number of witnesses in its previous inquiry into press standards, libel and privacy," Tory MP John Whittingdale, chair of the CMS committee, said.

"In particular, James Murdoch has said that Parliament was misled. That is a very serious matter that we will not allow to go unquestioned.

"We are therefore today calling James Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch, and Rebekah Brooks to appear before us next week," Press Association reports.

A spokeswoman for News International, publisher of the News of the World, the Sun, the Times and the Sunday Times, could not confirm whether all three would attend the hearing, AP says.

But the company said in a statement: "We have been made aware of the request from the CMS committee to interview senior executives and will co-operate. We await the formal invitation."

It is unclear whether the trio can be legalled compelled to appear because they are not British citizens.

Meanwhile, four senior police are also facing questioning by British MPs over the scandal.