News Corp executive James Murdoch said on Thursday that staff within his company had ordered private investigators to follow and investigate members of the parliamentary committee investigating the phone hacking scandal.

The company had previously admitted carrying out surveillance on public figures and lawyers representing victims in hacking cases.

I am aware of the case of surveilling Mr (Tom) Watson, and again I think under the circumstances I apologise unreservedly for that, he said. It is not something I condone, not something I have knowledge of and not something that has a place in the way we operate.

Murdoch said that the former head of legal Tom Crone had been involved in the commissioning of surveillance of public figures. Watson has been one of the most vocal critics of News Corp in the phone hacking scandal.

(Reporting by Kate Holton and Paul Sandle)