It’s Been Over 1,300 Days Since All Parties Agreed To Implement Leveson

As I told the house today, these reforms have been discussed and debated enough. They should have been implemented years ago. The victims of press intrusion cannot wait a day longer for this Government to honour its promises.

It is over five years since David Cameron stood at the despatch box and announced the Leveson inquiry would begin.

Yes, a lot has happened since then. We’ve had the Hillsborough Inquiry and its findings on misleading police statements to government officials and subsequently newspapers.

We’ve had the case of Mazher Mahmood, the fake sheikh who perverted the course of justice to secure his ‘scoops’ and left scores of previous convictions unsafe.

We’ve had senior officers like John Yates having to resign over phone hacking.

We’ve had more information emerge about the brutal murder of Daniel Morgan, a private investigator who was threatening to reveal police corruption to the press.

The Secretary of State tried to claim today that this litany of criminality means we’ve learned enough about corruption to halt Leveson Two before it starts. I think that’s an impossible conclusion. I think this makes Leveson Two more urgent, not less.

The second part of the inquiry was meant to look at the relationship existing between newspapers and police. One of its terms of reference is:

“To inquire into the extent of the corporate governance and management failures at News International and other newspaper organisations and the role, if any, of politicians, public servants and others in relation to any failure to investigate wrongdoing at News International.”

In other words, it’s the investigation into how the cover-up of phone hacking was conducted.

So in effect, what the government did today was announce a consultation on whether the cover-up should be covered up.

If I wasn’t so appalled, I’d be impressed at their sheer nerve.

Let’s remind ourselves why Leveson was established. It was to allow an independent inquiry to draw conclusions free from vested interests and political interference.

And let’s remind ourselves what the Secretary of State said in committee last week:

“I expect to see robust regulation of the press, but it has been made very clear to me by a number of editors and others that they would not consider applying for recognition under the Press Recognition Panel.”

Leveson was supposed to stop Ministers being put under that exactly kind of pressure by newspaper editors. And yet, as we heard today, the Culture Secretary is abandoning that principle. She’s taking back the power from an independent judge. In so doing, she’s opened up the executive to accusations that they have succumbed to the vested interests of media barons.

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