“This is the most humble day of my life”, declared Rupert Murdoch as he denied knowledge of the phone hacking scandal engulfing his News International papers and refused to resign as chairman of News Corporation.

He, along with son James, faced a grilling by UK parliamentarians overnight regarding their involvement in the News of the World phone hacking scandal and allegations of police bribes.

Rupert and James had a pre-written statement they had wanted to read before the hearing began that apologised to the victims and promised to “work tirelessly to merit their forgiveness”, but the inquiry refused. Instead the first question went straight to James, with Rupert interrupting his son’s answer to announce that it was the most humble day of his life — a line straight from his pre-written statement.

It was MP Tom Watson who continually battered Rupert for answers, notes Dan Sabbagh in The Guardian.

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“Tom Watson, the Labour MP who knows most about phone hacking, then focused relentlessly on the ageing mogul, refusing to allow the clearly better briefed James to intervene.

Rupert struggled with the answers, at times clearly unable to hear. There were marathon pauses, mystified looks, the beating of the table to emphasise a point, and several attempts to defer to James — all denied by Watson.”

Rupert deflected blame for the scandal, telling the inquiry that he employees 53,000 people, NotW made up just 1% of his company and that he couldn’t be held accountable for all its actions. Asked who did hold that responsibility, Rupert replied “The people I trusted to run it and maybe the people they trusted.”

James Murdoch admitted to the culture, media and sport inquiry that News contributed to the legal costs for Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire — Goodman was the NotW‘s royal reporter and Mulcaire the private investigator at the centre of the phone hacking — even after they were convicted and jailed in 2007. James said he’d been “very surprised” to learn that News had paid Mulcaire’s legal costs but had been told it was “customary” to pay costs for former employees and that strong legal advice had recommmended it. “I do know certain legal fees were paid for Mr Mulcaire by the company and I was as surprised and shocked to learn that as you are,” said James.

Asked whether that payment would have been signed off by former News Corp exec Les Hinton — who resigned just this weekend — Rupert replied “It could have been”.

James handled the questioning differently to his elderly father, says Sabbagh:

“James Murdoch had considerably more information at his disposal in answering the committee, able to put together the lengthy answers that both appeared to satisfy the MPs, and which went on sufficiently long to leave the committee members struggling for a follow-up.

However, his answers stuck tightly and carefully to a brief, which was aimed to demonstrate that he knew little about phone hacking at the News of the World until towards the very end of 2010.”

Former NotW editor and News International executive Rebekah Brooks also faced the committee today, in a separate sitting from the Murdochs, telling the hearing that News Limited acted “quickly and decisively” when told of the phone hacking allegations. Brooks insisted that the full spectrum of the disaster only became clear to News Limited execs when actress Sienna Miller recently sued NotW for hacking into her voicemail.

Brooks resigned from News International last Friday and was arrested by police over the phone hacking issue and allegations of police bribes on Sunday. But Brooks deflected questions about payments to private investigators — specifically Glenn Mulcaire, who was jailed for his role in hacking voicemails — saying that payments of this type were handled by the managing editor.

Brooks told the inquiry that “the editor’s job is to acquire an overall budget from management” and the managing editor is responsible for each department’s budget. “Final payments are authorised by the managing editor, unless there is a particularly big item, a set of photographs or something that needs to be discussed on a wider level,” said Brooks.

Former director of public prosecutions Lord Macdonald faced another hearing today, run by the home affairs committee, telling them that when he viewed emailed from NotW staff it became “blindingly obvious” that payments to police offers were being made and criminal investigations needed to occur. Macdonald then showed the evidence to a meeting of News Corp board members — chaired by Rupert Murdoch — telling the inquiry: “There was no dissent. They were stunned. They were shocked. I said it was my unequivocal advice that it should be handed to the police. They accepted that.”

The Tories admitted today that Neil Wallis, former deputy editor at NotW, provided “informal advice” to the Conservatives during its latest election campaign. The exact nature of his involvement is unknown, but relates to advice given by Wallis to Andy Coulson, the disgraced former NotW editor, during Coulson’s tenure as chief spinner for now-PM David Cameron.

Outgoing Met commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson and the outgoing assistant commissioner John Yates — both resigned from their posts on Monday — appeared for questioning by the home affairs committee on the conduct of police into the NotW investigation and why Wallis was hired by police to give communications advice.

Yates told the hearing that David Cameron’s chief of staff, Ed Llewellyn, refused the opportunity for police to brief Cameron on the news that Wallis had been giving PR advice to the Met because it would mean Cameron would be “compromised”.

Of the 45 public relations staff who work for Scotland Yard, 10 of those are former News Limited employees, said Stephenson. For other issues revealed by Stephenson and Yates at their hearing, check out The Guardian‘s list.

The Murdoch hearing wasn’t without its own controversy, with a comedian, Johnnie Marbles, attempting to hit Rupert in the face with a shaving cream pie. Wendi Deng, wife of Rupert, sprang up and hit Marbles, which caused one MP to later tell Rupert “Mr. Murdoch — your wife has a very good left hook”. This slowed-down video shows just what happened, with particular kudos for Wendi’s quick slap.

Shortly after the pie incident, Louise Mensch, one of the parliamentarians questioning Murdoch, tweeted:

“Idiot with the pie got precisely opposite result to one he expected, since Mr. Murdoch (and Mrs. Murdoch) came out of that w/ great credit.”

After Rupert and James Murdoch faced the inquiry, News Corp stocks jumped up 6%.