So there has to be a statutory framework, but I suggest that that statutory framework can strengthen the freedom of the press if it is properly imposed. An

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independent press commission should be established, which should have a duty to protect and enhance the freedom of the press, as well as to protect the rights of individuals, particularly in respect of their privacy.

The membership of that body should not be appointed by Ministers or by Parliament. Instead, what should be established by law is an appointing committee at arm’s length from both that, in turn, on a formula, would appoint the independent members of that committee, and the majority of those members ought to be independent, not media representatives. As we have heard, the powers of that commission should include powers of investigation, powers to require a retraction and, in extremis, powers of financial penalty.

I profoundly disagree with my right hon. and noble Friend Lord Kinnock. There is not a parallel here between the broadcast media and the print media. That is a profound error. The broadcast media have to be statutorily regulated—apart from anything else, there is a shortage of spectrum and a high value on it. Of course, it has to be regulated, and in our culture, that regulation is subject to a requirement of balance. However, it would be antithetical to a democratic society to place a requirement of balance on the print media. Doing so, in turn, would also require newspapers to be licensed, which would be anathema.

Instead, we need the commission to establish these high standards. The Government should do what neither the Labour Government nor previous Governments going back more than 40 years did: follow the recommendations of the Younger commission and the late Sir David Calcutt’s committee in 1991 and put in place a tort of infringement of privacy, in addition to the development of a privacy law under the Human Rights Act 1998. Many will think that a slightly technical point, but it is of great importance. Each of us as citizens has direct rights if we are defamed or if our intellectual property rights to what we write are transgressed, but we do not have direct rights if our privacy is invaded. We should. The reforms that I have suggested, which I think can command support across the House—by the way, I am glad that the Press Complaints Commission said in The Times yesterday that it supports them too—could provide a basis for this House to make strong recommendations to Lord Leveson’s inquiry about the way forward.

3.46 pm

Mr James Clappison (Hertsmere) (Con): I served on the Home Affairs Committee inquiry into this matter. I came to the inquiry straightforwardly; I had no previous involvement or personal interest in it. I heard the evidence given to the Committee and shared the conclusions that it came to and which I felt were justified by the evidence. I say with sadness that I am not satisfied with all the evidence that we heard from the police. I say that with sadness as somebody who has the greatest respect for the police. I do not believe that any taint has been put on the integrity of Sir Paul Stephenson or on the thousands of Metropolitan police officers who serve on the force, many of whom live in my constituency. However, questions remain unanswered about the conduct of the investigation, including the original investigation, which, as we now know, seems to have had catastrophic effects on the reputation of the police and, as we now know, on many individuals.

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I heard the contribution from my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Torridge and West Devon (Mr Cox) and agreed with many of the questions that came to his mind. As he said—and this was the evidence that the Committee heard—a considerable amount of material was seized from Mulcaire and Goodman, but the police did not properly pursue investigations with the material that they had. Indeed, some of the large quantities of material was not investigated or read at all, it would appear. Nor did the police look for further potentially relevant material in the normal way by searching premises, seizing documents and interviewing people. We now know that such material might have been at hand because we heard the evidence from the former Director of Public Prosecutions—as it happens, he now works for News International as its counsel—who, when asked to advise on this matter, saw some of the material that had been in the hands of News International and after brief consideration advised that it contained criminal matters that had to be referred to the police. I think that that was in May 2011—that is what the chronology suggests—not in 2005-06 when the matter first came to light.

Mr Cox: I am grateful for what my hon. Friend has said. I can show him the evidence if he wants. On 30 May 2006, the Attorney-General and the DPP were informed that there was a vast array of offending behaviour and that a vast number of telephone numbers in the possession of the police had been accessed without authority. However, there was a conscious decision to confine the investigation, even though they knew that hundreds of people, including Members of the House, had had their phones tapped.

Mr Clappison: I have to say, having heard the evidence, that the answer to my hon. and learned Friend’s point remains hanging in the wind. I am not satisfied with the explanations that we have heard, which will appear in the evidence that will be published by the Home Affairs Committee. One explanation that was given by a senior investigating officer in the case was that the police had other priorities, and this matter was not regarded as sufficiently important when set beside them. We have to accept that police resources are limited and the police have to determine their priorities, but their credibility on the matter is not assisted by what the senior investigating officer of the case wrote about it—incidentally, in a News International newspaper of which he had subsequently become an employee. I am referring to Mr Hayman, who said:

“In the original inquiry, my heart sank when I was told the accusations came from the Palace. This was not the time for a half-hearted investigation—we put our best detectives on the case and left no stone unturned as officials breathed down our neck.”

I believe that was inconsistent with the evidence that we heard from the police about the priorities that they set themselves at the time. That is the honest conclusion that I have come to on the basis of that evidence.

The Committee has gone as far as it can. I believe we have gone to the limits of what a Select Committee can achieve in carrying out an investigation. These questions now remain to be resolved by others in the course of the Leveson inquiry, which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has rightly set up, and further criminal investigations must go forward under the direction of Sue Akers in Operation Weeting. In view of the evidence that we have now heard from the former DPP and

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others, I will not be surprised if evidence is uncovered of further phone tapping, further payments to officers and, I am afraid, possibly other offences involving the corruption of police officers. I hope that that is not the case, but the important thing for the reputation of the police, the good reputation of many honest officers and the public interest is that these matters are now fully investigated impartially and independently, and that those investigations are carried through to their conclusion.

We have heard a great deal about the press. One catastrophic effect of the original failed investigation, along with the failed review carried out by Mr Yates in 2006, was that senior police officers went to see representatives of The Guardian, which had been carrying out an investigation, effectively to try to put them off further investigations by persuading them that their investigation, which was based upon matters that were seeping out through the civil courts, was exaggerated and unjustified. It is to the credit of The Guardian, and particularly its journalist Nick Davies, that it persisted with the investigation. I say that as somebody who is no great sympathiser with The Guardian—I do not expect to receive an invitation to lunch there any time soon, and I do not know the people concerned. However, that was to their credit, and it was an illustration of the value of a free press.

That brings me to my next point. It is very important to keep the criminal side of this separate from the issues that arise in respect of the regulation and ownership of a diverse, free and robust press. The matters that we have been talking about are criminal matters, not just matters of comment or of insufficient comeback from the Press Complaints Commission. They are serious criminal matters involving a wide range of people—politicians, celebrities and, as we have heard, many ordinary members of the public often in tragic circumstances. Each case has to be properly investigated, and anybody who has committed offences has to be brought to justice.

Oliver Heald: Does my hon. Friend agree that we must not forget that there is a presumption of innocence right at the core of our criminal justice system? It is all very well for us to debate matters and examine what speculation there is, but people are entitled to a fair trial in our country.

Mr Clappison: My hon. Friend is right, and that is why I have been very careful to refer to investigations that should take place, and which we now believe are taking place. We should not do anything that will either interfere with the proper course of those investigations or prejudice a fair trial for anybody who is brought to trial as a result of them. However, the question of a free and robust press is separate from that. An under-reaction would not be in the public interest, but neither would an overreaction, would could even be more damaging. We need a diverse, free and robust press that is unmuzzled.

Too great a concentration of broadcasting, which is so important, in one set of hands can be against the public interest. I heard what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said in his statement, and I agree completely with him. He made some very valuable contributions, particularly when he referred to the position of the BBC, which is a sensitive matter. I feel—I suppose I

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would, as a Conservative—that there has at times been a certain amount of bias, or a predisposition, in the editorial line of the BBC, and that certain matters that should have been investigated or highlighted have not been given proper attention. It is to the credit of the BBC that its present director-general has said that, looking back, the BBC did not do full justice to the issue of immigration.

Damian Collins: Does my hon. Friend agree that, as television moves to a single digital platform, having a strong ITV and a strong Sky will provide a good counterweight to the BBC and give consumers more choice?

Mr Clappison: My hon. Friend is right, and this is particularly true in the case of immigration. It is now accepted on all sides—including by the Leader of the Opposition and some of those who advise him—that proper immigration control is a matter of the greatest public importance, but it has not been sufficiently highlighted in the past. It is not the broadcasters but parts of the print press that have reflected public concern on that issue. The broadcasters were prepared to leave it alone, but some newspapers have had the courage to highlight the issue and reflect the public concern that is felt in many places.

I should like briefly to give the House a further example of an issue that is of huge interest to our constituents and of huge importance to the future of our country, but that is not dealt with properly by the BBC—namely, this country’s relationship with the European Union. The BBC’s coverage of the treaty of Lisbon and the debates on that matter in the House of Commons was pitiful. It pays no attention to many of our debates on European matters, and there seems to be a predisposition on the part of the BBC when it comes to matters relating to the European Union.

We must not merge the issues of the criminal conduct that has taken place with those relating to the freedom of the press. We need a free, robust and diverse press that can properly reflect the full range of opinions in this country, not just those that are predetermined by the BBC or by the narrow group of people who form the metropolitan elite and who fail to reflect the views of the overwhelming majority. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister spoke for the country today on this subject. His reputation remains completely intact as a result of all this, and he has taken exactly the right approach to the investigations that he has set in hand and to the question of media ownership. I unreservedly commend his approach on those matters.

3.57 pm

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): During the Prime Minister’s statement, several hon. Members, especially those seated on the Government Benches, asked whether this really matters. Let us face it, there are many other issues that are probably far more pressing and significant to our constituents, including jobs, the economy and the state of the national health service. For some, I admit, that list might also include Europe, although in my experience, Europe tends to be a long way down the list of things that really matter to my constituents.

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Crime is normally at the top. However, the tendency to downplay this issue over the past few years has fed into the cover-up that was originally done by News International, and that was a mistake. I fully understand why it has happened on occasion. Boris Johnson was very foolish to say that this was

“a load of codswallop cooked up by the Labour party”

for party political gain.

In the end, we have seen the two most senior police officers in this country lose their jobs—one of whom, I think, was falling not on his own sword but on the Prime Minister’s. We have also seen some very senior journalists and company executives lose their jobs, and serious questions have been asked about the way in which the police operate. This has called into question the integrity of the police, which in turn strikes at something that really matters to our constituents.

Earlier in the year, the hon. Member for Hertsmere (Mr Clappison) was a little more sceptical about much of this, when he was questioning me and others about it. However, I think that he has seen, over the past few months, that the evidence from senior officers such as Assistant Commissioner Yates has been risible, and has not met the standards that we expect of a senior police officer in charge of counter-terrorism. I had never meet Andy Hayman until I saw him in the Home Affairs Committee the other day, and, frankly, I was shocked that someone of that calibre—or rather, lack of calibre—was in charge of counter-terrorism in this country. The heart of this matter is therefore probably not the original criminality, which undoubtedly was extensive but was in one sense relatively minor, in terms of the criminal law; far more significant is the cover-up that has taken place. I very much hope that people will not feel from yesterday afternoon that we have got to the bottom of what went on at News International.

Let us be clear about what happened. In the criminal case that was brought against Goodman and Mulcaire, both pleaded guilty. We already know that Mulcaire’s fees were paid by News International, even though he was not a full-time employee of the organisation. I presume that Clive Goodman’s legal fees were also met by News International, and that it encouraged them to plead guilty because it did not want this to go to full trial. It did not want all the evidence to come out into the public domain, because then, what the judge said at the end of the process might have been proved: that this was probably just the tip of a very large iceberg, and it certainly did not want the rest of the iceberg to be seen.

The reason why News International continued to pay Glenn Mulcaire’s legal fees, until this afternoon, as I understand it—I thought it was bizarre that James Murdoch still did not know whether it was paying them yesterday; anyway, today he said that it is not paying them any more—was that it wanted to keep control of the case and to make sure that he did not say anything additional that further incriminated other people at the newspaper, or in the wider company.

When the civil cases were brought, there was the next part of the cover-up. News International would have had to provide full disclosure of all the e-mails, all the transactions within the organisation and the whole way in which the scheme was put together whereby Mr Mulcaire engaged in all this activity. I believe that News International was absolutely desperate to make sure that that never

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came into the public domain, so the most important thing for it to do was to make sure that that never went to trial.

Yesterday afternoon, James Murdoch said that his lawyers had advised him at the time that they had to offer £700,000 to Gordon Taylor—I repeat, £700,000—because they were advised by their lawyers that if the matter went to litigation and the court found against them, they might have to pay £250,000 in damages, and in addition, they would have the costs of having run the case. However, James Murdoch must surely know—unless he is using really bad lawyers—of the part 36 procedure. Under it, when an offer is made—of £200,000, let us say—it is put into court and if the court itself does not offer more, the claimant has to pay the legal costs subsequently incurred, which in this case would have been the greater part of £500,000. I am afraid that Mr James Murdoch yesterday was either extremely poorly briefed on the legal situation, or, frankly, he was still dissembling. I believe that in practice, what they were doing was paying £700,000 to Gordon Taylor—and also to Max Clifford—expressly to maintain the cover-up.

Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) (Lab): I do not know whether my hon. Friend noticed that James Murdoch used in his evidence a very ambivalent phrase that has a particular meaning in law and another in common parlance:

“Subsequent to our discovery of that information in one of the civil trials”.

That reinforces exactly the point my hon. Friend is making.

Chris Bryant: Absolutely.

Then there were the subsequent civil cases, which could only be brought once The Guardian had run its story suggesting that there were many more victims of phone hacking. Some people started writing in to the Metropolitan police and then suing the police to force them to give them the information, so that they could then take action against News International and get full disclosure from it. It is only as a result of those cases that the cover-up has effectively been smashed apart.

There remains this issue of the material that was gathered and put into a file in 2007, including various e-mails and other pieces of paper, and given to Harbottle & Lewis. Only this year, it was shown to the former Director of Public Prosecutions, Lord Macdonald, who said that, within three minutes of looking at it, he could see that there was material relating to the payment of police officers that should always have been given to the Metropolitan police. That seems to me a far greater criminal offence than the original criminal offence of phone hacking. That is why my concern is about the cover-up at the heart of this.

Yesterday, Rupert Murdoch was asked whether he was responsible and he said, “No,” but I am afraid that in this country we have to have a much stronger concept of responsibility. It is not just about whether something happens on one’s watch—that is ludicrously broad. If someone has taken all due diligence steps to try to ensure that criminality has not happened, then of course they are not personally responsible. But if someone’s argument is, “Our company is so big that I could not possibly be expected to know whether my journalists were being arrested for criminal activity or whether I

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was paying out £2 million in hush money,” one must question whether they have a proper corporate governance structure or system in place to make sure that the same thing does not happen again next year or next week—or even that it is not happening now.

Bob Stewart (Beckenham) (Con): This is the difference between responsibility and fault. Rupert Murdoch was responsible for what happened in his corporation, but he may not have been at fault for what happened. However, that responsibility includes the real responsibility for checking that things were done properly. I think I support what the hon. Gentleman is saying.

Chris Bryant: I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman, whom—this will ruin his career—I think of as a friend. He knows that if the colonel of a regiment had not done everything in his power to make sure that his privates understood the law on how somebody in Abu Ghraib was dealt with, for example, that colonel would be negligent and therefore, in part, responsible for that.

Naomi Long (Belfast East) (Alliance): Did the hon. Gentleman share my incredulity about the attempts that were made yesterday when evidence was being given to play down the importance of the News of the World to the Murdoch empire? It may have been a small proportion of the overall empire, but I understand that it was the title with the largest circulation.

Chris Bryant: Indeed. In the end, if News Corp cannot provide better corporate governance, it needs to be split apart so that investors can have confidence in it and so that other, non-executive, members of the board can have confidence that they are not going to be held responsible in law for the failures of their company.

I agree wholeheartedly with all those who said that we do not want to muzzle the press. A very good point was made about Nick Davies, whose work in The Guardian has been a phenomenal piece of investigative journalism. This country is undoubtedly better because of that quality journalism. I am sure that there are times when such people have to skirt around the edges of legality but that does not mean they should do illegal things, especially given that half the time all they are looking for is minor tittle-tattle that is of no significance to the nation.

Many other issues need to be dealt with, but the final issue I shall raise today is about the 3,800 victims who have to be contacted. That is going to cost the taxpayer a fortune and I believe that News International should be paying the bill.

4.8 pm

Damian Collins (Folkestone and Hythe) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow the very thoughtful speech of the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) about the phone hacking scandal and the work he has done. I know that he took a strong interest in our Select Committee hearing yesterday.

Although he is not in his place, I also want to thank my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr Whittingdale), the Chairman of the Committee, for the great skill and care he showed in chairing yesterday’s very challenging Committee meeting. I thank also the Clerks of the Committee, who have done a huge amount of work in the past couple of weeks in preparation for that meeting.

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The Prime Minister mentioned FIFA reform as an example of a story that has been generated by challenges to that organisation that have been made by the media and others outside it. I have taken a huge interest in that story, and I think it is absolutely right external pressure has been put on an organisation that would not otherwise reform itself. It does not have any kind of proper internal governance structure or other means for reporting and holding to account senior people within it. Although we might admire the kind of journalism that points the finger at organisations such as FIFA, media organisations have to learn from some of the internal governance structures and faults within such organisations. I wholeheartedly agree with the hon. Member for Rhondda that it is not acceptable to have a situation in which, when wrongdoing is discovered, proprietors can say that they had no idea what had been going on at one level, and neither did the relevant person in the newsroom. If we believe what we were told by Rebekah Brooks in the Committee yesterday, stories were going into the News of the World without the editor, the news editor or that newspaper’s lawyers having full knowledge of their source. That is clearly not acceptable.

It is also unacceptable, when an organisation’s employees are under police investigation, when some are being sent to prison and when millions of pounds of compensation are being paid out by that organisation, for people at a senior level not to be fully aware of the seriousness of what is going on, and to be unable to act. That is a serious issue because one would hope that when people at the top of a professional organisation became aware of wrongdoing, they would become the drivers for internal change and reform and be the ones who make sure that things happen. The report of the Select Committee on Home Affairs shows that there are great concerns about how the Metropolitan police pursued this case and about the fact that evidence lay unchecked and unresearched for a good amount of time, which might have delayed the investigation for some years.

There is also a big challenge for News Corporation. Whatever comes out of the inquiry that has been set up to look into the work of the media and the police inquiry, News Corporation should reform its corporate governance structures so that it has a mechanism to ensure that this never happens again, and that people at a senior level can take the appropriate action at the appropriate time or be held to account at the highest level for the failure of that action.

Richard Fuller (Bedford) (Con): My hon. Friend is making a strong point, as the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) did, about corporate governance needing to be changed. That is absolutely correct. Would my hon. Friend not also say that the culture and the mindset within which executives, even those at the lowest levels of these organisations, are working needs to change? It is not enough not to know what people in an organisation are doing; they need to know what they should and should not be doing.

Damian Collins: My hon. Friend makes a very good point. The point I raised with Rupert Murdoch in the Committee yesterday was about where the boundaries of investigative journalism lie, and whether they are

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clearly understood. Most people who have worked with news organisations—particularly former employees of News International who have spoken out—would say there was tremendous pressure for scoops and news. Some former

News of the


journalists, such as Dave Wooding, who was on “Newsnight” last night, would say that there was that pressure, but that does not mean that they broke the law to go and get stories; they just did their job very hard. There are allegations about other people in the organisation who might have broken the law to satisfy their paymasters, editors and proprietors.

There is clearly a great need for investigative journalism in this country. It gives us a transparent society, and there is a lot more to being a democracy than simply holding elections.

Ian Austin: On this point about investigative journalism, will the hon. Gentleman disassociate himself from the disgraceful attempts that we heard earlier to smear Tom Baldwin for his role in a perfectly legitimate investigation that has been defended not only by The Times but by its then news editor, who now serves in the Government as the Secretary of State for Education, and who, following that investigation, described Lord Ashcroft as

“Ambassador for one foreign country and a tax exile in another”.

He also said that the credibility of the Conservative party was not enhanced by its then leader

“acting as the paid lobbyist for your own title-hungry Treasurer”.

Damian Collins: All I would say is that I would apply the same rule as the Prime Minister: people are innocent until proven guilty. If there are charges and an investigation, that is one thing, but no charges have been brought against Mr Baldwin, so he is innocent until proven guilty, just as anyone else would be.

There is a great challenge of looking at the boundaries of investigative journalism and at what is right and what is wrong. There must surely be a cultural failure within many news organisations if people believe they are being pushed to do things that might lead to their breaking the law, and that must be addressed. What has been said in the debate so far about the regulation of the press is key and part of that involves internal regulation, the corporate governance of news organisations and how they regulate themselves. The right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw), who is no longer in his place, talked about his concerns about self-regulation. Although it is different in different industries, it can be made to work.

My experience working in the advertising industry was that a code enforced by the industry on itself would work. One of the big differences between advertising and the press is that there are real financial penalties for advertisers who break the code. If a company has spent hundreds of thousands of pounds producing commercials and advertisements that then get pulled, there is a big financial loss, and a big loss of face for a number of organisations that might have their messages pulled, too, which damages them in the eyes of consumers.

Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar and Limehouse) (Lab): I declare an interest as the Member of Parliament representing News International in Wapping. Although we all support the principle of “innocent until proven guilty”, some victims of the hacking scandal—employees

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of News International—have lost their jobs; they are victims who will suffer, regardless of their guilt or otherwise.

Damian Collins: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right, and that is an important point. Going back to what I said about the importance of good structures of corporate governance there are victims within organisations that fail the test of corporate governance—innocent people who have done their jobs well lose out as a result of the mistakes of others. That is why it is so important that those structures should be there. Whatever lessons have been drawn from the scandal so far, that surely must be one lesson that the Murdochs have to learn from it; that is of the greatest importance.

Models of self-regulation can work, but clearly there is a need for total reform of the regulation of the press. The principle of a free press is, of course, of the highest importance. That must continue, but that does not mean that journalists can operate outside the law.

Mr Cash: Does my hon. Friend agree that the self-regulation of the press in the 21st century has to be regarded as self-regulation, or regulation, of the media as a whole?

Damian Collins: I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who makes an important point. The media and the news, in particular, work across multiple platforms; people get their news not just from newspapers, but from television and the internet, so there is a case for that, although that is quite a big and broad challenge. Certainly, among the regulators there should be people who have experience of multiple media platforms, and an understanding of what is acceptable. That is something to consider.

In the short time left to me, I want to raise a second point. We all agree that there is a good, strong, and important case for free media and a free press, but there is also a strong role for the regulators with regard to mergers involving media organisations. There was discussion earlier about whether politicians should be taken out of the process. It would be wrong for politicians to exercise independent judgment outside of legitimate advice about what companies are fit and proper, and what companies should, or should not, be merged. That should be based on a good high degree of technical and professional knowledge.

The right hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Simon Hughes) spoke, in answer to an intervention, about the application of a “fit and proper person” test. We on the Select Committee had a briefing about that from Ofcom, in whose eyes it is a real test. It has applied it in the past, and has removed broadcast licences from digital broadcasters in the past. I am sure that if Ofcom is monitoring this debate, it would be happy to send information about that to any hon. Members who have an interest in the issue.

We have an obligation to ensure that there is a free and open marketplace for media. The Leader of the Opposition raised his concern about the dominance of Sky in the pay TV market, but we have to look at that market as a whole, and not just one area of it. Yes, Sky is dominant in pay TV; ITV is also dominant when it comes to traditional advertising revenue generated from television. Most people probably get their news and content from the BBC. In the digital media age, all

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those will be accessible from one platform. When YouView launches next year, there will be more choice more easily available to consumers than ever before.

Although media companies are very different, it is right that we consider them as part of the same entity. We also have to consider that in the internet age, people will increasingly get their news from powerful online organisations such as Google, and social networking sites such as Facebook, which are out of the scope of the regulation of the UK media. We have to consider how media organisations in this country can compete with added pressure from those platforms, so we have to look at the totality of the media market.

We should recognise that newspapers are an enormously important part of our national life; many millions of people still enjoy buying and reading physical newspapers every week, as well as accessing them online, but newspapers, as a business model, struggle. They often succeed better when they are part of integrated media companies with the financial muscle to support them. To refer to remarks made earlier, that is why it is important that there should be oversight of the whole market, and that we consider the competitiveness and regulation of the whole market, and see it as a single entity producing news and taking it to people. When it is well run, healthy and respectable, it is of the greatest importance to a free society and a great democracy.

4.19 pm

Sir Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton) (Lab): I declare to the House that I was in Oxford university Labour club with Rupert Murdoch, that when I was chairman of the club he was unseated as secretary for breaking the campaigning rules, but that our relationship was sufficiently repaired that, by the time I worked for Harold Wilson at No. 10 Downing street and was his host at lunch, he had by then purchased the News of the World and The Sun, and both of those supported the Labour party in the 1970 election—for all the good that did!

The title of the debate demonstrates the Government’s shifty efforts to evade any sort of accountability for the events that have disgusted the nation over recent weeks. It is of course undeniable that there has been corrupt, possibly criminal, behaviour by senior figures at New Scotland Yard, and it is essential that these wrongdoings, both institutionally and by individuals, should be dealt with in the sternest way, particularly for the sake of the thousands of police officers doing a challenging job on behalf of the community.

It is undeniable too that there has been criminality in the News of the World,and that that criminality should be investigated and, where appropriate, prosecuted. Senior figures in News International and News Corp have, however belatedly, expressed their contrition and, convincingly or otherwise, claimed ignorance of the worst excesses that have been revealed. I have to say that that reveals their inadequacy in holding the jobs that they did. When I worked at the Daily Mirror, which I did for nine years, and Hugh Cudlipp, that great journalist, was editorial director, he would have known what was going on—except that he would have stopped it going on before it happened. The standards have deteriorated in newspaper proprietorship.

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It is difficult to reconcile what Rebekah Brooks told the Culture, Media and Sport Committee yesterday about payments to the police with what she told the Committee under my chairmanship on 11 March 2003:

“We have paid the police for information in the past.”

That was pretty categorical. She argued yesterday that it was not inappropriate for her to have the Prime Minister as a friend, and that is acceptable. On the other hand, it was entirely inappropriate for the Prime Minister to have Rebekah Brooks as a friend. The list of his meetings with journalists, dragged out of him in recent days, demonstrates an extraordinary cosiness with executives of News International newspapers, with nearly twice as many meetings with them as with all other media groups combined, including three stays at Chequers for Rebekah Brooks.

Andrew Selous: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman, who is a distinguished Member of the House, for giving way to me. If he is saying that it was wrong for the Prime Minister to have that close a relationship with Rebekah Brooks, by the same token would he say that it was wrong for the last Prime Minister to have had such a close relationship with Rupert Murdoch, to the extent that their children played together?

Sir Gerald Kaufman: He did not have that kind of relationship with Murdoch. He did pursue Murdoch too much, I grant the hon. Gentleman that, but he did not have that kind of close personal relationship that the present Prime Minister has had with Rebekah Brooks. No Prime Minister, almost certainly ever, has had such disproportionate contacts with one newspaper group and in such a short time. Heath, Thatcher and Major never had such chummy relationships with the media. Stanley Baldwin, referring in the 1930s to press excesses, spoke—the words were supplied to him by Rudyard Kipling—of

“Power without responsibility—the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages.”

This Prime Minister has proved both incorrigible and suspect in his relationships with News International executives. The most notorious, of course, was his hiring of Andy Coulson as his head of communications. He played round that this afternoon when he answered questions, but the fact is that he should have been aware before appointing Coulson of Coulson’s 2003 admission to the Select Committee of payments to the police, followed by his claim that such payments to the police were within the law—which is impossible, since bribing the police is a criminal offence. To take on someone who has confessed to criminal activity and then lied about it is utterly culpable, especially since numerous warnings were sent to the Prime Minister not to take him on. I repeat what was said earlier: Rebekah Brooks made it very clear that Coulson was appointed by the Prime Minister on the recommendation of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Odd things have gone on under the Prime Minister’s leadership of the Conservative party. He was imprecise and evasive when asked about the employment of Coulson’s former deputy Neil Wallis, who has been arrested by the police as part of the hacking investigation, and who did work for the Tories in the run-up to the general election.

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The warnings to the Prime Minister about Coulson seem not to have been passed on by Ed Llewellyn, the Prime Minister’s chief of staff. That was a grave dereliction of duty. No previous Prime Minister would have accepted such conduct, but as we know, Wallis’s conduct was even more bizarre.

When John Yates, then assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan police, in advance of an arranged meeting with the Prime Minister, offered to brief him on phone hacking, Llewellyn rejected it, saying:

“We will want to be able to be entirely clear, for your sake and ours, that we have not been in contact with you about this subject.”

People go on about the inappropriateness of briefing the Prime Minister about operational police matters, but the offer was not to brief him about operational police matters, and if anyone tells me that the police do not brief the Prime Minister about operational matters relating to action against terrorism, which Yates was also in charge of, I say, “Pull the other one.”

Llewellyn was seeking to claim deniability on the issue, but no Prime Minister ought to need to claim deniability on any subject. The Prime Minister’s attitude to this entire imbroglio has been unacceptable. He has made statements about it outside the House and then had to be dragged to the House. This debate is the latest example. He held meetings with Rebekah Brooks right in the middle of the process of Government consideration of the News International bid for BSkyB, which was until recently regarded as a wave-through, and it would have been waved through if this scandal had not broken.

Today the Prime Minister was questioned again and again, including by my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr Skinner), about whether he had discussed the BSkyB takeover with Rebekah Brooks or anyone else from News International. He did not answer. He dodged the question. It is perfectly clear from his failure to respond that he discussed the BSkyB bid with News International, and if he wants to intervene now to deny it in categorical terms, I shall be delighted to give way. But he has not, and he will not.

The Government have behaved to Parliament and the country as no Government have behaved since the Profumo scandal. Their priority has been appeasing one brand of press baron. That has to come to an end; the Government cannot get out of it.

4.28 pm

Mr Don Foster (Bath) (LD): I have great respect for the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Sir Gerald Kaufman), but I regret his speech today. It was in marked contrast to the tone throughout the debate, which was rightly set by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in their opening remarks. They made it clear that both major parties have made huge mistakes in their dealings with the media over the past 20 years. The right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton seemed to want to suggest that it was entirely one-sided, but I could refer to a long list, from Tony Blair’s flight to see Rupert Murdoch on Hayman Island in 1995 to Sarah Brown planning a party for Rebekah Wade. Surely the right hon. Gentleman accepts that today we have heard both major political parties saying they have made mistakes and that they are willing to work together to sort out the mess.

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John Mann (Bassetlaw) (Lab): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr Foster: I will in a minute.

We join both major political parties in saying that it is vital to acknowledge that there are some very good police officers and journalists, sadly including many who have lost their jobs because of what happened at News International.

Sir Gerald Kaufman: I agree entirely with the right hon. Gentleman that there are wonderful police officers—as there are in my constituency—and outstanding journalists, who have played an important part in this episode. I said to the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) that if Tony Blair had misbehaved, and that includes the visit to Australia, I disapproved. However, the current Government have had a greater cosiness with one newspaper empire than any other Government I have known.

Mr Foster: I regret allowing the right hon. Gentleman to intervene because, yet again, he is trying to engage in the party political knockabout for which the public will not forgive us. They want us to get on and sort out the mess. They want the police inquiry to get under way and be done properly this time around. They want the judge-led inquiry that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has set up to do its work as quickly as possible.

Yesterday we saw the excellent work of both Select Committees in their investigations. Sadly, we learned relatively little from the Culture, Media and Sport Committee. We got the welcome, but well-rehearsed contrition. We found that The Sun cannot tell the difference between a custard pie and a paper plate full of foam. We discovered that, bizarrely, Glenn Mulcaire’s legal fees continued to be paid. Thank goodness it has been announced that, as of today, those fees are no longer being paid. Above all, we discovered that there should be genuine concern about the corporate governance of News Corporation. We need to address that concern and its implications for us.

The Prime Minister rightly said that we must consider competition legislation—we certainly must. He also rightly said that we must consider plurality. I say to my right hon. Friend that we must consider not only when the test is applied—the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport has already committed the Government to doing that—but what the plurality rules cover. I think that all hon. Members recognise that we currently base the definition on news and current affairs. Yet surely all hon. Members also acknowledge that a powerful drama can transform how we view our world and each other, and that a powerful comedy can have the same effect. When we consider plurality, we need to widen the remit of what is covered so that it is not confined to news and current affairs.

Damian Collins: The right hon. Gentleman may have been coming to the point that I am about to make, in which case, I apologise, but does he also agree that strong media companies have the budgets to invest in new creative content and talent, which are important to the entire industry?

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Mr Foster: My hon. Friend is right, but the other point that I want to make is that we need to reconsider the fit and proper persons test. If we have real concerns about corporate governance, we should be able to test whether a corporation—an owning organisation—is fit and proper to own, for example, BSkyB or parts of it. I think that we should consider whether News Corporation is fit and proper to own not only more shares in BSkyB, but its existing 39% of shares.

I am pleased that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is here because I have some concerns about one aspect of his announcement today. He announced the possibility—depending on certain circumstances—of extending the judge-led inquiry’s remit to cover other forms of broadcasting and social media. Before the debate, my concern about that was relatively simple. The issues are so complicated that extending the remit would lengthen the time of the inquiry for such a long period that we would not get on and tackle matters. We should consider some of the concerns that people have raised separately, as part of developing the communications Bill in the next 18 months or so.

What really worried me today, however, was the fact that it became increasingly clear from some of the comments made by colleagues on the coalition side of the House that there was another motive, potentially, for what was to be added to the remit. Some of the remarks attacking the BBC and its independence and its high-quality work make me wonder whether some people on the coalition Benches are seeking to—wrongly, in my view—clip the wings of the BBC. I hope that is not the case.

Let me briefly mention some comments that have been made about the need for what the Prime Minister called independent regulation. The whole House would accept that the Press Complaints Commission has been a failure. Many examples of its failure have been cited. The fact that the Richard Desmond newspapers—the Express and the Star—can simply walk away of their own volition is a pretty good reason for saying that it has failed. The fact that it cannot conduct investigations is another, as is the fact that it cannot fine.

Today we have heard some very helpful lists of ideas of how we can move forward. I particularly welcome the speeches by the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw) and the Chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee. It is crucial that the new, independent body that replaces the PCC has the ability to carry out investigations, and that it has a much more powerful system of redress, including requiring the payment of fines, but I would warn the House about the way in which “independence” can be interpreted by some people.

I recently looked back at the MacTaggart lecture given by James Murdoch, who only yesterday appeared before the Select Committee to give evidence. The House might be interested to hear a small extract from what he said in that lecture:

“Yes, the free press is fairly near the knuckle on occasion—it is noisy, disrespectful, raucous and quite capable of affronting people—it is frequently the despair of judges and it gets up the noses of politicians on a regular basis. But it is driven by the daily demand and choices of millions of people. It has had the profits to enable it to be fearless and independent.”

He goes on:

“The only reliable, durable, and perpetual guarantor of independence is profit.”

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I fundamentally disagree with him, and I would urge people who are looking at how we progress, for example, our creative industries, not to believe that the removal of all regulation will enable the right sort of growth—the growth that we want. It is crucial that we have, for all parts of the creative industries, including and in particular the press, appropriate regulations. That is why the Prime Minister is absolutely right to talk about regulation—yes, by an independent body, but that regulation is needed.

We have spent a lot of time discussing the way forward in terms of regulations and new structures, but it is crucial to remember that we are at present gravely concerned about the illegal activity that has taken place, and that is why it is crucial that everyone be required to contribute fully and provide full evidence to the investigation. Let us hope it is a better investigation than the one by the police last time around.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans): Order. As hon. Members can see, there are still a lot of Members who wish to get in. I want to accommodate as many as I possibly can, so the time limit is being reduced to six minutes, and it may even be reduced further later on.

4.39 pm

Cathy Jamieson (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (Lab/Co-op): I will try to be as brief as possible. The debate is very welcome; it is good for the public to see that we are taking these issues seriously. In the past few weeks we have seen perhaps an unprecedented interest from members of the public, who have suddenly realised, perhaps because of the Milly Dowler situation, exactly what has been going on in some sections of the media.

I want to add a couple of remarks on the family of Milly Dowler. When a scandal becomes associated with the victim of a crime, it is extremely difficult for them to move on and live their lives. I hope that when all these matters are dealt with, that family will recognise that we have tried to do the best thing in their interest and in the interests of other victims of crime, so that they are allowed to move on.

As hon. Members may be aware, I was not able to participate in the evidence given to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee yesterday, but I watched it carefully. I was astonished to hear some of the evidence from both Rebekah Brooks and the Murdochs. By any stretch of the imagination, in the capitalist world, that corporation is a successful one in terms of profit and turnover, but those people simply did not know who had authorised the spending of money at various points. That beggared belief. It also beggars belief that within that system, they could not identify who had authorised illegal payments to the police. It seems that there was no oversight or governance in relation to those payments.

At any time, an intrusion into people’s privacy is a delicate matter. There will be times, in the interests of national security or of tackling serious and organised crime, when intrusions will be made. Hon. Members will know that when those serious actions are taken, a range of measures must be in place. They are right and proper, because responsibilities go with such intrusion.

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In the interests of allowing the press to conduct investigations and so on, the press must take its responsibility seriously. However, I cannot conceive of a situation in which any reasonable person would say that it is proper for the press to undertake some of the so-called investigations that have been undertaken, or that it is proper for the press to make illegal payments to do so. It worries me when we slip into the shorthand and talk of “hacking” or “blagging”, because “hacking” is accessing people’s private information illegally, sometimes by paying money. The word “hacking” should not slip off the tongue without further consideration. Blagging, of course, is trying to obtain people’s private information—usually financial information such as bank account details—illegally by assuming someone else’s identity.

I mentioned that I found it difficult to understand why nobody in News International seemed to know who had done what. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant), who asked this question: if News International and News Corp have got so big that nobody knows what is happening, how could they possibly countenance taking on another company and looking after it with any proper governance?

I welcome the inquiries that have been set up and the Prime Minister’s assurance today that the inquiry will cover Scotland. Of course, this is not simply about one part of the UK, and neither is it just about News International, so I welcome the fact that the inquiry will extend to other police forces and that it will look at all newspapers and media. However, I am a bit of a pedant for the detail. The Prime Minister said that “relevant forces” would be included in the police inquiry. In his winding-up speech, will the Minister confirm whether all police forces are relevant in that context?

I asked a question earlier in relation to the Scottish Government, who I am sure will want absolutely to co-operate with the inquiries. I hope that they immediately publish information about their contacts with News International.

Ian Murray (Edinburgh South) (Lab): What are my hon. Friend’s thoughts on why the normally robust and vocal First Minister of Scotland has been very quiet on this very serious issue?

Cathy Jamieson: I would never seek to put words into the mouth of the normally loquacious Mr Salmond, the First Minister of Scotland—I am sure he can speak well for himself—but it is important that that information is put into the public domain and that it forms part of the inquiry.

I conclude by making a couple of points about the Press Complaints Commission and whatever will replace it. A member of the public—not a politician, a lawyer or someone involved in this from day to day—who finds themselves on the wrong end of a newspaper report will find it extremely difficult to take that matter up. Whatever we do, we must ensure that the body is accessible to the public.

It will, of course, take time for the inquiries that are under way to report to the House. However, it is important that that does not send the signal that nothing should change in the meantime. I therefore call on all police forces to go through their records to ensure that there has been no illegality regarding the receipt of payments. I also call on newspaper editors and owners to do

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exactly the same. If they find that illegal payments have been made, they should cease that practice forthwith. If any of their reporters or staff have been involved in so-called blagging, they should make it clear publicly that that illegal operation will cease. Politicians have a role in this, but so do the press and the police. It is up to us all to take our responsibilities seriously so that we give back to the public the confidence that they deserve.

4.46 pm

Dr Thérèse Coffey (Suffolk Coastal) (Con): Sadly, the phrase “Don’t believe everything you read in the press” now seems to be true. In addition to dealing with criminality, I hope that this process will ensure that we can believe everything that we read in the press, just as we can believe the phrase “You can always trust a policeman”.

A great cross-party approach has led to the inquiry, so I commend the Leader of the Opposition for working with our Prime Minister and the other party leaders. However, I wish that Labour Members had acted when they were in government, as I am sure they agree.

I associate myself with the apology that my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr Whittingdale) made to Mr Rupert Murdoch yesterday, and I give Mr Murdoch some credit for staying on to answer Committee members’ questions. My hon. Friend also referred to outstanding points for the inquiry. As the Committee has not yet concluded its report, I do not intend to make specific comments about what was said yesterday, but I encourage hon. Members to read the transcript and to note that we will set out written follow-up questions.

The hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) suggested that at least two people had lied to Parliament in the past 24 hours. I assume he was referring to Sir Paul Stephenson’s comments about his resignation, and perhaps to Mrs Brooks and the Murdochs.

John Mann: That is four people.

Dr Coffey: I do not know to whom the hon. Member for Rhondda was referring.

We have to be careful when we say that people have lied to Parliament. However, I agree with the hon. Gentleman that we have not got to the bottom of the matter—as the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Cathy Jamieson) said, some of the testimony was frustrating—and to do so we need to call further witnesses to our inquiry. However, I now know that the Committee’s intention is that the police and the judicial inquiry see further witnesses rather than us.

I welcome a lot of the suggestions that have been made about equal prominence for apologies and about fining and compensation powers. I asked Mr Murdoch yesterday whether, given his experience in the media spotlight, he would think again about his newspapers’ headlines and some of the targets of their investigative journalism. I appreciate that a headline such as “Up Yours Delors” is quite entertaining and unlikely to cause damage, but The Sun once published the headline “Bonkers Bruno Locked Up”. At that time, Mrs Brooks learned a lesson straight away because the following day she published a front-page editorial from the charity SANE, as well as making appropriate restoration. I see

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that the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Steve Rotheram) is not in the Chamber, but I should point out that

The Sun

has made no such restoration of reputation for the Hillsborough 96, which I think would be welcomed by the people of Liverpool.

Newspapers and the Press Complaints Commission itself do not need to wait for the creation of a new regulator because they could change the code of conduct by bringing in several ideas that have been suggested. Although, the PCC’s credibility has sadly, been somewhat destroyed, that does not mean that it should be sulking, as I perceive that some of its comments suggest is the case, although I am sure that that is not its intention. People should look in the mirror before they write those headlines and decide what they are going to put out there. As I said, some of the treatment that editors, both past and present, have recently received will, I hope, make them think again.

Both in the testimony that we heard yesterday and in the Home Office report, there was extremely heavy reliance on lawyers’ advice, for example, on the sum for which people should settle. The Home Office report considered the question of whether former Deputy Assistant Commissioner Clarke relied on lawyers’ advice about undertaking more investigation if News International was not co-operating, and whether he was told that the police could not really exercise certain powers because it would be seen as fishing. From my own experience of corporate life, lawyers always take the lowest-risk approach, and one has to decide whether one wants to take that advice. Indeed, the House decided earlier this year that it was not happy with advice about prisoners’ votes. People should not necessarily hide behind lawyers’ advice. They should listen to it, but they should be prepared to make different decisions.

Sheila Gilmore: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Dr Coffey: I was about to conclude, so, in deference to other hon. Members who wish to make a speech, I shall not give way.

I applaud the cross-party approach that some hon. Members have taken, but I deplore the tribalism demonstrated by others. I am afraid, however, that I might introduce a little bit myself. It was Mr Yates who led the investigation into cash for honours in which an official serving the then Prime Minister was arrested. I am not aware that people were calling on the then Prime Minister to apologise—I think that there was surprise—and, as has been said by the Prime Minister and by other Members, we should wait until people are charged and, indeed, found guilty before we condemn the decisions of those involved in employing them. On that matter, I commend the motion, and particularly the desire of everyone to make sure that we have a cleaned-up press and a police force whom we are confident can lead such investigations.

4.52 pm

Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): A number of Members have said that we all bear some responsibility for our relations with the press, which are sometimes uneasy. That is also true of our relations with the police. At times, Members are anxious about criticising the police lest they appear to be expressing a lack of support. At other times, we are fulsome in our praise when there is a need for criticism.

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I think of myself as someone who supports the police, but there are lessons to be learned from what happened at the Met in this unhappy episode. There are serious questions about managerial control at the Met, and that will be a consideration when the next commissioner is appointed. I was struck by the way in which Lord Blair, the former commissioner, wanted immediately to distance himself from the original inquiry, and did not want to have anything to do with it. I accept that he did not have operational control, but he was the guy in charge. I was struck by the way in which Andy Hayman seemed to be in charge of the inquiry, but not remotely in control of what was happening. John Yates did not seem to be at all clear about what Sir Paul Stephenson had asked him to do when he conducted an eight-hour mini-review. Mr Fedorcio seemed to run the public affairs directorate as an odd-job man might recruit customers—it was almost unbelievable.

We need better managerial control at the Met. It is astonishing that no one thought to ask a question about the fact that 10 of the 45 employees in the public affairs directorate were ex-News International. Anywhere else, that would be a question worth asking. The way in which Mr Wallis was awarded a contract worth £1,000 a day is open to question, too. The fact that in the midst of investigations senior officers could have dinners with people who might be directly relevant to their inquiries seems astonishing.

I do not see that the Mayor has played a particularly useful role, with his reference to codswallop and his attempt to roll back. I mention this because the Mayor is the model for police commissioners that the Home Secretary wants to impose on the rest of the country, and the Mayor seems to have played no useful part in terms of accountability during this process. What looks like one of the least accountable forces in the country is set to become the model for the rest of the country. There is an argument that, even at this late stage, the Government should think again about the problem.

Andrew Selous: Will the hon. Gentleman explain to the House how he thinks a police force is more accountable to an unelected official than to an elected one?

Steve McCabe: That is not really the point. The point that I am making is that in the face of this enormous scandal, the man who was supposed to make the police more accountable did nothing about it.

If Lord Macdonald is right about what he saw in the file, sadly some officers will have to go to jail to restore public confidence. There is no way in which that can be swept under the carpet now.

I echo the points made by the Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, my right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz), and by my colleague on the Committee, the hon. Member for Hertsmere (Mr Clappison), about victims. At the core of the problem is the way people were treated. Unless additional resources are devoted to identifying the victims and something is done about that, the stench associated with these events will never go away. While there is doubt about whether all the people who have been

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mistreated have been accounted for, the problem will not go away. There will be no closure until we identify all the victims and they are properly and fairly treated. I urge the Government to think about that aspect.

In criticising the police, we should not forget the pressures they were under at the time, with the incredible terrorist threat that was sweeping the country. We should not underestimate the pressures that ordinary rank and file officers feel they are under because of the cuts and the relentless pace of change that the Government are imposing on them. We need to recognise that wrongdoers must be punished and failure in all its forms in the police must be addressed, but ordinary officers need a break from the relentless attack on honourable policing traditions, which is the problem now afflicting police forces throughout the country.

In the light of what we have experienced in this horrible affair, there is a chance to pause and think again about some of the things that are happening to other forces at this time. It would be a tragedy if we did not learn anything from the experience and went on to create conditions in other forces that mean that the same problems are repeated elsewhere at some point in the future.

4.58 pm

Mr Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): I welcome the recall of Parliament. I am only sorry that we are not being recalled to discuss the problems of the eurozone, the slowdown in the world economy in the face of higher energy prices, and the famine in east Africa. We may well have to be recalled in August to discuss the first of these issues.

We are here today to discuss, among other things, the relationships between politicians and the media. It behoves us all, therefore, to declare any connections with the media in general and News International in particular. I was going to say that I had none, but my wife reminded me that in 1997 The Times supported my bid for the leadership of the Conservative party. In view of the fact that, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague) discovered and the Leader of the Opposition will discover, becoming Leader of the Opposition after 12 years in power is a poisoned chalice, it might be thought that endorsing me was more a malicious act than a reason for me to feel any obligation. Anyway, The Times subsequently precipitated my departure from the Front Bench by publishing no fewer than 16 hostile articles critical of my Butler memorial lecture—the first time it had ever received such attention in The Times. I think therefore that my slate is clean as far as Murdoch is concerned, which is just as well because I might say some things that are mildly favourable to News International.

There has been great outrage in this country over the hacking scandal and Milly Dowler, but I am worried that it is being used by some people who want to shackle the freedom of the press, which would put not only our freedom in danger but a major industry and employer in this country at risk. Politicians tend to suffer from the delusion that the press and the media have far more power than they do—the power to swing votes. In fact, readers do not take instructions from editors. When The Sun had been backing the Tories for a decade and claimed, “It’s the Sun wot won it”, a survey

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found that a majority of readers of

The Sun

thought that it was a Labour-supporting newspaper. Readers who are interested in politics choose their newspaper because it has congenial political views; the rest are largely uninfluenced by an editor’s views. Successful editors follow their readers, not vice versa.

None the less, we in the House tend to be subject to this delusion, and none more so than those on the left of politics. The reason is that the left needs an explanation for why the majority of ordinary people do not share its views on the EU, crime, family, welfare and taxes. Those on the left conclude, as they have to, that people must have been indoctrinated, and clearly the indoctrinator-in-chief is Rupert Murdoch and News International. I have looked through the literally hundreds of e-mails that I have received on this issue. Only one mentioned Milly Dowler; one other expressed outrage about hacking. All the others were about Rupert Murdoch, News International and even Fox News, which does not even operate over here, and about its size, its share of the market, its views and its foreign ownership. These are legitimate concerns, but they are partisan.

Sheila Gilmore: Like the right hon. Gentleman, I have received numerous representations this year on the BSkyB takeover. As a councillor, I was always advised that in matters that might involve a conflict of interest, perception was everything. Does he agree that it would have been better had the Government from the outset—at the end of last year—referred the bid to the Competition Commission, and not got involved with undertakings from an organisation that had already proven itself to be untrustworthy on undertakings? That would have improved the public’s perception of the Government.

Mr Lilley: I do not believe that perception is all; substance is the most important thing, along with following the law, which is what I believe the Government did.

Labour Members have expressed no concern today about the media share held by the BBC, about the behaviour of The Mirror, which was often implicated by Nick Davies in his investigation, or about the ownership of the Standard or The Independent. I think that we need to recognise that the press does not have the power that people suppose. It does not swing votes—perhaps a few—and it does not determine popular views but follows them. The one important power that the press has is the power to tell the truth. All credit should go to Nick Davies of The Guardian for his investigations, both on this particular issue and more widely. Sadly, his searing critique of the media, “Flat Earth News”, received remarkably little coverage from his colleagues in the media and appallingly little interest from the political class in the House. At its launch in this House, I was one of only two Members of the House of Commons who attended to hear his views. But we should listen, because he says that there is wrongdoing in many organs of the press other than News International.

Having listened, we should be extremely wary of believing that the solution is to burden the media with more regulation and with statutory controls. Hacking is already illegal—we do not have to pass laws to make it illegal. However, such things as intrusion on personal grief, though repugnant, are not justiciable. Bias and distortion are regrettable, but they are not really justiciable unless we are to set up censorship of the press. We

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should be very wary of going down that road, and we should not get carried away or allow partisan concern about the views expressed by one player in the media to be used in the political process to damage that player or the freedom of the press.

Louise Mensch (Corby) (Con): On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I am sorry to interrupt the House, but I have just learned that the BBC journalist, Mr Paul Lambert, who reported yesterday on the egregious breach of security during the Culture, Media and Sport Committee sitting, has had his parliamentary press pass removed by the House authorities. I hope the House will agree that it is appropriate that we support the freedom of the press, particularly when the press are reporting on serious failures of security in this House.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans): I am sure that this will be looked into in more detail as news of what the hon. Lady has just spoken about arrives. It is news to me, but I am sure that it will be fully looked into and may be properly addressed later on.

Helen Goodman: Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. There are clearly a number of concerns about who gets press passes. I wonder whether, when the matter that the hon. Member for Corby (Louise Mensch) has raised is looked into, some consideration might be given to publishing who has press passes. At the moment, we do not know that.

Mr Deputy Speaker: Again, I am sure that will be looked into. I am not absolutely sure whether the names of those who have press passes are not already in the public domain in the directory that is made available to the House, but I will look into the matter myself to see what the truth is.

5.7 pm

Mr Michael McCann (East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow) (Lab): Today’s debate is entitled “Public confidence in the media and police”, but whatever the shortcomings of that title, everyone who is in the Chamber can agree that both of those have been shaken to the core by recent events.

The evidence offered by senior police officers yesterday and by senior Met officials could be assessed either as a demonstration of unprofessional and naive behaviour or as a wilful neglect of the integrity that we normally associate with those who have been given the privilege of holding high public office. Whichever conclusion we draw, it ain’t good. In particular, I draw attention to the evidence of Dick Fedorcio, which was unintelligible to me. That is more worrying when we consider that he is the man responsible for the Met’s message. Although John Yates has carried out distinguished work during his career—of that there is no doubt—I fear that he will be remembered for a Mr Magoo-style botched and bungled phone hacking investigation.

Like many others, I watched with great interest the theatre of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee hearing yesterday. At times, Rupert Murdoch cut a figure of an amalgam of all the caricatures that we have seen of him over the years, but it was the young pretender, James Murdoch, who revealed the most through half-answered questions. At times Mr James Murdoch looked

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on in terror at Mr Rupert Murdoch, wondering what he was going to say next. However, it was James Murdoch’s revelation about Mr Glenn Mulcaire’s legal costs being paid that brought Rebekah Brooks’s prophetic words into sharp focus. Members will remember that she said to

News of the World

staff that

“in a year’s time every single one of you in this room might come up and say, ‘OK, well I see what you saw now’.”

James Murdoch’s disclosure that Mulcaire’s legal fees were paid will, I believe, unlock Rebekah Brooks’s prediction. We must wait and see whether that is the case, but people do not pay for a criminal’s legal defence if they have nothing to hide.

My main purpose in contributing to today’s debate is to call on the Government to extend their investigations to every part of the media, not just the print media. Yes, there is no doubt that the behaviour of News International was indefensible and beyond the pale, but anyone who believes that it stops there displays Olympian detachment from reality. The behaviour of the printed news media in this country has, with few exceptions, been appalling at various times, and it is not until we enter the political arena that we see the worst of it. That behaviour has been sanctioned by a Press Complaints Commission that is paid for by the newspapers. I am reminded of the words of Luke 4:23, “Physician, heal thyself.” Self-regulation has to end. Mr Deputy Speaker, you were in the Chair on the evening of my Adjournment debate on 27 April, when I brought the House’s attention to the deficiencies in the self-regulation of the press. Like Alice Cooper, I consider myself to be ahead of my time, because shortly thereafter, press self-regulation became a headline issue.

It is my view, however, that the review of the regulation of the media must be extended to include the broadcast and electronic media as well. When debates on statutory control and self-regulation took place in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, the printed news media were the public’s primary source of information. Now, however, it is Sky News, the BBC News channel and the electronic media. The behaviour of those media must also be investigated, and the public must be afforded the opportunity to contribute to that investigation. I personally would be more than happy to contribute evidence on the behaviour of BBC Scotland, an organisation that I believe has broken its editorial code at our expense. It is currently under investigation following three separate complaints that I have made to Ofcom.

Debates about regulation have raged for decades. Royal commissions have come and gone, general councils have been set up and failed, and, as I pointed out on 27 April, self-regulation has also failed. I am delighted to see that all the main players now agree with me on that. I value freedom of the press and the rule of law, and, following this tide of terrible events, we now have a once-in-many-generations opportunity to set things right. I put it to the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport that we should not fetter those who have been given the challenge of finding solutions to these problems.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans): Order. The time limit is being reduced to five minutes.

20 July 2011 : Column 1020

5.12 pm

Mark Reckless (Rochester and Strood) (Con): The Home Affairs Committee commenced its report on a cross-party basis 10 months ago. That report shows that the relations between the police and the media, particularly News International, are too close. Indeed, there were so many lunches and dinners that I am surprised that senior police officers had time for anything else. Despite that, I do not incline to the view that there is high-level corruption or conspiracy at the top of the police. Given the evidence that I have seen, as far as the police are concerned, I think that this is more about cock-up and perhaps incompetence in some places, although Lord Leveson might find otherwise. I take that view because of the evidence that our Committee saw on the role of the Crown Prosecution Service and the way in which it clearly let down the police.

I asked John Yates yesterday whether he thought that blame had been fairly ascribed between the police and the CPS, and he said that he most certainly did not. He felt that he had been bumping his head against the proverbial brick wall in trying to get people to understand the role of the CPS. It might be more interesting for the media to look at the relationship between the media and the police, but it is the relationship between the police and the CPS that gets us to the heart of this matter.

We must ask why those 11,000 pages of Mulcaire’s documents were not looked at and why the police did not do anything about them, but we must also ask why the CPS did nothing. Even yesterday, Kier Starmer was not quite clear as to whether the CPS had seen them all; he said that it had seen only the ones up to August 2006. We have now heard from my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Torridge and West Devon (Mr Cox), however, that, on 8 August, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Attorney-General were notified of the existence of what was described as a

“vast array of offending behaviour”

and the material to back that up. What happened? They do not seem to have done anything about it.

The current DPP looked at this issue in July 2009. He was new to the job. He went through all the materials and tried to find out what happened at the time. He concluded that nothing happened because of the law:

“To prove the criminal offence of interception the prosecution must prove that the actual message was intercepted prior to it being accessed by the intended recipient.”

It was on that basis that the CPS constrained the police investigation.

Whether the noble Lords Goldsmith and Macdonald were asleep on the bridge, just gave incompetent legal advice, or in some way prevented this police investigation are very serious questions. I am delighted that the Prime Minister has revised the terms of reference of his Lord Leveson inquiry, and that it will look at the role of the prosecuting authorities and why the CPS gave this, in my view, extraordinary and clearly wrong advice that it had to be proved that the message was intercepted before it was listened to.

Section 2(7) of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 is clear on this issue. Parliament made our intentions clear. We said that a communication remains in transmission while a system is

“storing it in a manner that enables the intended recipient to collect it or otherwise have access to it.”

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So there is no basis for the CPS saying that the police had to prove that the message was intercepted before it was listened to. However, it seems that that is what stopped the investigation back in 2006. The noble Lords Macdonald and Goldsmith have to answer for themselves on that: why did they give that advice, which is clearly wrong in the light of section 2(7)?

Keir Starmer of the CPS is acting loyally, and as far as I can see acted properly in trying to look into this matter in July 2009. He has now recanted from the evidence that I just quoted, which he gave to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee. He is saying at best, “Well, perhaps it is uncertain. Perhaps there could be a prosecution.” However, even that would have hugely constrained the police, because it made matters much more difficult for them. The advice of the CPS was much clearer at the time: it said that prosecution was not possible on that basis.

That is the problem we are left with, and I want to know why the CPS did that. The CPS needs to be more accountable, and I look forward to seeing stage 2 of these elected commissioners—and not just for the police. As with police, the royal commission in 1981 said that the CPS should be put under elected control and oversight.

5.17 pm

Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) (Lab): This is clearly an extremely important debate for the future and quality of our democracy and the nature of our country. Across the House, Members are in agreement that we want a free press, but at the moment we are not quite agreed on what we mean by freedom of the press. A free press is obviously part of the rights we have under the European convention on human rights to free speech and free expression, but I remind Members that the exercise of this freedom also carries duties and responsibilities. The convention says that the exercise of these freedoms is “subject to” limitations

“in the interests of national security…public safety…the prevention of…crime”—


“the protection of health or morals”

and so on. So, this freedom of expression is not a freedom from all constraints or legalities, and nor is it a freedom to chase stories using any technique possible. Significantly, it is also limited by article 8 of the European convention, on the right to privacy. As we move forward and look at the appropriate regulation, we need to have in mind article 8 as well as article 10.

It really is not reasonable for people to pretend that uncovering the sex lives of footballers is equivalent to the fight for freedom of expression we have seen in north Africa and the middle east in recent months. It is also disingenuous for so-called celebrity columnists to pretend they are some latter-day combination of Bob Woodward and Dean Swift. I do not agree with Lord Kinnock about the rules on balance for the broadcast media being taken across into those for the press, but I do think that the Leader of the Opposition was absolutely right that the problems we have faced over a long period of time have been because of a very significant concentration of power, which led to a web of corruption.

It is not acceptable that a quarter of the Met press office had formerly worked for News International. It is a matter of concern that Andy Hayman went to work

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for News International from the police, that the former DPP went to work at News International and that News International has also employed, as a so-called independent adjudicator, a former High Court judge, Sir Charles Gray. I am not suggesting that all those cases involve impropriety, but we must know what the rules are. I hope when the Secretary of State winds up he will be able to tell us the truth about what happened in the autumn of 2009, when, it is widely rumoured, the broadcasting policy that he wanted to publish was held up because the Chancellor of the Exchequer had to clear it with James Murdoch.

What I really want to remind hon. Members is that those who have suffered most as a result of these abuses are ordinary people. What has been uncovered very recently has been extremely shocking, and there is a long history of ordinary people being abused and not having proper recourse because they did not have the money to employ lawyers and because the PCC is such a toothless tiger.

Let me tell hon. Members a couple of stories about that.A boy in my constituency, who was obviously badly behaved, was described in one of the tabloids as “terrorising” the town, which was a total exaggeration and is not a way in which any of us would allow our children to be described. In another case, a woman I met who was a victim of domestic violence was also denigrated—in The Sun in this instance—because her neighbours had been blagged. There was complete deceit about the nature of the inquiry and how the story would be written up. We are talking about extremely vulnerable people and we must take them into account in any new regulations that are set up.

5.22 pm

Alok Sharma (Reading West) (Con): First, I add my voice to the unanimous view of the House that the phone hacking scandal is a total and utter disgrace and that those who are found to have broken the law should face the consequences. Hacking, blagging and any similar illegal activities are absolutely despicable and we all feel for the vulnerable individuals and their families who have been subject to this illegal activity and awful intrusion at some of the most difficult times of their lives.

In the past few days, it has been reported that my predecessor, the former Member for Reading West, was one of those targeted by a private investigator implicated in the News of the World scandal, and that he was targeted because he had refused to support a News of the World campaign to allow parents access to the sex offenders register. It is shocking that any hon. Member, or indeed any member of the public, should be subject to such an invasion of their privacy just because they choose not to support a media campaign. If the allegations prove to be true, I hope that justice will be served.

Secondly, I welcome the Prime Minister’s statement this morning giving further details of the judicial inquiry. I also welcome the very forthright views that he has set out in the past few weeks and today on this issue. His frankness about the collective failure of politicians, the press and the police to get to grips with this whole issue much earlier has been very much in line with the mood of the House and of those outside it. The Leader of the Opposition said in the House last week that “all of us” should

“accept our share of responsibility for not having spoken out more on these issues.”—[Official Report, 13 July 2011; Vol. 531, c. 391.]

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He was right. The Labour Government of the day did not act on the Information Commissioner’s reports of 2006 or on the Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s report of 2003. To be fair, the Prime Minister has also said that the then Opposition did not make enough of those reports either.

We know that phone hacking was discussed in Cabinet by the previous Labour Government, but they did not act. Last week, the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown) came to the House and spoke at length, absolving himself from responsibility for not taking action on his watch. I do not know whether he forgot, but he was Chancellor and then Prime Minister. He was in charge but he did not act.

By contrast, this Prime Minister has acted decisively. He has taken weeks to set up a public inquiry, not years. I should also add that the freedom of the press is a hugely important part of our democracy. We all want to see a clean press, but we do not want to see a cowed press. I hope that, as the inquiry gets under way, that will be uppermost in the minds of those leading the inquiry.

There has been lots of focus, quite understandably, on News Corp and the Murdochs in recent weeks, but we must also keep it in mind that the issues we are discussing have a bearing on the media as a whole, not just the Murdoch press. As has been mentioned, the 2006 Information Commissioner’s investigation spoke of

“a widespread and organised undercover market in confidential personal information.”

In the Operation Motorman case, the police and the ICO found evidence that there were about 300 journalists working for a wide range of newspapers that had used a variety of techniques to obtain personal information and stories. This morning’s report from the Home Affairs Committee was pretty clear. It said:

“Some of the information could have been obtained only illegally”.

It is clear that it is not only the Murdoch press that has questions to answer and the inquiry needs to take a long hard look at all those issues.

I also welcome the fact that that the judicial inquiry will consider relevant police forces other than the Met, but we need to remember that the vast majority of police officers are good, upstanding and honest. One thing we certainly want to ensure is that, as with former Ministers, former senior police officers do not simply traipse into certain private sector roles just weeks or months after leaving office.

Finally, over the past weeks there has rightly been huge focus in the House on the hacking scandal. That is absolutely right and the way it should be, but we have several inquiries under way right now and we should let them get on with their work. We also need to get back to talking about the economy and jobs: the bread-and-butter issues that matter greatly to our constituents. Last week, we saw a drop in inflation and a drop in unemployment. It is all welcome news, but there are ongoing concerns in the eurozone and other issues that also need the attention of the House.

I welcome all that the Prime Minister has done to set up the judicial inquiry and to create cross-party consensus. It is the right way forward.

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5.27 pm

Mr Michael Meacher (Oldham West and Royton) (Lab): I welcome this debate and, like others, I want to talk about corporate governance. The Murdoch newspapers had 37% of the UK newspaper market—slightly less now, of course, because Murdoch had to sacrifice the News of the World to buy time—and by any standards that is far too great a concentration of power, above all in such a sensitive area as agenda setting in a democracy. Worst of all, that power was used not to disseminate information and opinion but to intimidate individuals and pressurise Governments to conform to his will. The need for major reform and media governance is now overwhelming.

Should any one person or organisation control more than one daily and one Sunday paper? I think not. Should the law restricting monopolistic cross-media ownership between the broadcast and print media, which Mrs Thatcher swept to one side in the early 1980s, setting Murdoch on his way to power, be consolidated and strengthened? I certainly think it should. Should a right of reply be instituted here in this country, as in so many other countries, giving space and prominence equal to that of the offending article? How best can new entrants to the media market be encouraged to increase diversity and improve balance in the press? I certainly do not think it should be done by licensing, but more balance would be helpful. The question of how that can best be done needs a lot of examination.

Since self-regulation of the press has proved such an abject failure, how can the right balance be found between statutory regulation, if it is strictly necessary in certain areas, and—most important of all—preserving the freedom of the press to pursue its proper role? We have already seen sanctimonious warnings against any interference with press behaviour, which is exactly what happened 20 years ago when David Mellor, then the Minister with responsibility for the media, warned that the press was drinking in the last chance saloon, since when things have got steadily worse.

Even more disturbing is the continual drip of damning revelations about the shadow power structure made up of the police, News International and No. 10; that is part, I suppose, of the secret governance of Britain. We learned yesterday that a quarter of Scotland Yard press officers had worked at News International, and we learned that the News of the World’s chief reporter, Neville Thurlbeck, was an official police informer. Of course, it was already known that the hiring by Scotland Yard of Neil Wallis, the former deputy editor of the News of the World, was unbelievably casual, with no due diligence at all, as though the Met and News International were symbiotically intertwined. Perhaps most damagingly of all, we now know that Wallis acted as an informal adviser to Andy Coulson, even when Coulson was ensconced at No. 10, so the clean break that the Prime Minister has always said Coulson made from the News of the World was not really so clean at all.

The Home Secretary’s proposals for dealing with the situation are not adequate. Establishing an inquiry into setting up a new code of police-media ethics will not resolve the issue of the recently exposed profound dereliction of duty by police at the highest level, which includes taking bribes estimated to total £130,000 for illegally passing on private information. Dealing with such abject

20 July 2011 : Column 1025

irresponsibility and deep-seated and pervasive corruption requires much more stringent and proactive strategic supervision.

There has been talk about whether the Independent Police Complaints Commission should have more power, but the fact is that the IPCC remains a body for investigating complaints. It is not about proactive strategic supervision. What is needed is a much more powerful new supervisory body that not only reorients the police towards what we all want, which is more reduction of crime, but pursues criminality in high places, where the damage is really done. We need much more profound far-reaching reforms that can prevent the corruption in the power structure that is at the root of this whole scandal.

5.32 pm

Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con): All of us should approach this debate with a degree of humility before we stand in judgment over the press and the police, given the collective black mark that we MPs received in the last Parliament because of the expenses scandal. We are right to comment on these matters, and to draw and learn lessons, but we should remember and put on record that our collective performance in the previous Parliament was not terribly good on certain scores.

It is wholly unacceptable that Rupert Murdoch was attacked in the Committee yesterday. If we want witnesses to come before Select Committees of this House—it is important that they do—they must have the assurance that there will be no repetition of such incidents. I am pleased to learn of the Speaker’s inquiry into the matter.

I have to raise a few points put to me by my constituents, who are urging us collectively to learn the lessons, move on, and deal with the serious bread-and-butter issues that face them day in, day out—jobs, public services, the economy, and what is happening in Europe. We are right to focus on the issue and learn lessons, but I think that they are collectively saying to us, “Remember what’s happening in our lives, day in, day out.” I just want to put that firmly on the record.

We need to accept that it is not a crime for politicians and journalists to talk to each other, and it will not be in future. Politics matters; it is about the conveyance of important ideas. We want politics to be in the newspapers, and the media and journalists enable our message to get out to our constituents. We want a healthy, open, and transparent relationship in future. No more entering Downing street through the back door. It is not a crime for a journalist to go into No. 10 Downing street; it just needs to be transparent and open, and I hope that we are moving into an era in which it is.

I remain extremely concerned about payments to the police from journalists, about which we have heard a certain amount today. I want briefly to illustrate that with three true stories that have been brought to my attention recently. A former Member of the House who went on to have an important position in public service was accused of fraud. At the time of his arrest at 6 o’clock in the morning at his family home there were television crews around his house. He was later found to be innocent and there were no charges to answer. It became obvious that an officer involved in the investigation had tipped off the press and camera crews to record what was obviously a traumatic event for him and his family. That is absolutely wrong.

20 July 2011 : Column 1026

Another person known to me over the last few years did fantastic service by fostering difficult teenage children in his home. One night there was an incident and one of the teenage children whom he had fostered made an accusation that he had been molested by my friend, who was then arrested by the police. Next day that matter was on the front page of the Daily Star in very lurid terms. There was no charge against my friend; he was wholly innocent. No action was taken, but considerable damage was done. Again, a quick backhander from a journalist to the police to get that story. That is absolutely not right. I am focused on ensuring that we have complete transparency and ensure that payments from journalists to the police do not continue. We need real systems to ensure that such payments cannot be made in future. That is something that the police and the press need to concentrate on.

We have heard about apologies made by newspapers. When the press do admit that they have something wrong or have maligned someone, there is a tiny reference to that on page 2 or 3—a small column on the side of the page—when the original story was on the front page—

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans): Order.

5.37 pm

John Mann (Bassetlaw) (Lab): Yesterday Rebekah Brooks described The Sun as a “very clean ship”, and the Murdoch family appears to be suggesting that now that the News of the World is defunct we can move on. The Sun has had some remarkable scoops for which people do not appear to have gone to court and been convicted. These are scoops by one reporter; there are others, of course, under The Sun. The following footballers have been the subject of scoops, usually front page scoops, in The Sun by the same reporter, all of which can only have come from the Metropolitan police. There is no other possible source for any of these stories.

This is my squad for the World cup: Frank Lampard, Jay Bothroyd, Carlton Cole, Manuel de Costa, Paul Gascoigne, Armand Traoré, Cristiano Ronaldo, Paul Merson, Tony Cascarino, Stan Bowles, Bobby Zamora, Quincy Owusu, Jack Wilshere, Kieron Dyer, Nicklas Bendtner, David James, Didier Drogba, Juan Verón. Manager: José Mourinho—that was in 2007. Captain: Wayne Rooney—on 1 August 2008. Wayne Rooney was not arrested near Oxford street in London, but he was, according to The Sun exclusive, read his rights. All those stories involved footballers, all of them in London. However, when Mr Rooney and Mr Gerrard had run-ins with the police in the north-west, every newspaper had the story, with no scoops for The Sun. When Mr Robin van Persie, a London footballer, had an altercation with the police in Holland, The Sun was a day later than the rest of the media. Do not be a footballer in London and be in any situation with the police without being charged, if The Sun is around.

But this does not just involve footballers. Do not be a police officer, either. On 6 July 2011 a front-page headline read, “Threat to kill dead dogs in car cop”. Sackloads of hate mail targeted a sergeant who was a dog handler, in whose car two dogs had, sadly, died. The article said:

“One source said: ‘Thousands of letters were arriving’.”

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The only possible source for that story was the police—the Metropolitan police. There were dozens of such examples while Brooks was in charge of The Sun, all involving the Met—no other police force—doing in their own.

Murder cases are involved too. I have written to Sue Akers about them, and I shall not go into them now, as this is a time to tread delicately around them. Suffice it to say that I am asking her to look into texts to or from murder victims that have mysteriously appeared in the media. Who gave the media those texts? There is a range of cases that the House will be familiar with, but they have not been mentioned in relation to phone hacking. Texts need to be part of the inquiry, not least those that appear in The Sun.

London’s celebrities are not just footballers: Hugh Grant, Ms Dynamite, Lily Allen, Peaches Geldof, Adam Ant, Jude Law, Liz Hurley, Rod Liddle, Keira Knightley, Leslie Ash, Elliott Tittensor, Mohammed al-Fayed, Woody Harrelson, Joe McGann, Christian Bale, Sean Bean and Mike Tindall; it could even be someone marrying the Queen’s granddaughter. They are all in London. If you want to have a car crash, have it outside London. If you want to have a drink and an issue with a photographer, have it outside London. If it happens in London, someone in the Met will be handing over or selling your information to The Sun .

Relatives of the famous are affected too: John Terry’s father, Cristiano Ronaldo’s cousin, Ashley Cole’s brother, Jermain Defoe’s brother, Sadie Frost’s sister, Tony Blair’s son, Patricia Hewitt’s son and Nelson Mandela’s grandson. On 4 November 2005 The Sun exclusive was Steve McFadden and Angela Bostock: police officers were there at the time. On the same day, Detective Constable David Dougall, a Scotland Yard officer, was convicted of selling information to The Sun. Why has that case, including the comments of John Ross, who bought the information, not been made public? The police dropped their investigations against The Sun because, Ross believes:

“It would have revealed a lot of conversations between Mike”—

Sullivan, The Sun’s crime reporter—

“and senior officers and they didn’t want to open that can of worms.”

Giving evidence on behalf of Ross were Sky News crime correspondent Martin Brunt and others. In the Press Gazette, Sullivan kindly put his diary—

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans): Order.

5.42 pm

Anna Soubry (Broxtowe) (Con): It is always a great pleasure to follow my fellow Nottinghamshire MP, the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann). Only two weeks ago we held a similar debate, although it seems much longer, and much has changed since then. Like many Members, I was struck by the desire on both sides of the House that we work together in the spirit that was properly and well outlined by the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant), who talked about the need for honesty and courage.

I congratulate the Prime Minister on his statement and his speech today. I certainly took the view that courage and honesty were the major words underpinning his speech. I hope that on both sides of the House we

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continue to speak courageously and with honesty about the mistakes made in the past so that we learn from them and, as the Prime Minister said today, that we take this golden opportunity—the opportunity of a generation —to clean up our media and our police and the way we do politics.

As ever, time is against me. I do not want to speak for too long, and in any event I shall probably not be allowed to. I am pleased that the terms of the inquiry include all the media. The right hon. Member for Bath (Mr Foster) was concerned that the inquiry might be used to knock the BBC. The point being made from the Conservative Benches is that there has been concern that the BBC is in some way in a privileged position. In my view, competition in all sections of the media, notably in broadcasting, means that we have better and much healthier media.

I declare an interest. Before I returned to the Bar, I worked for Central Television for many years, so I am a passionate fan of ITV. I know its value, especially as a genuine and true alternative to the BBC. It did a great job in regional news. It is also worth reminding the House of the figures. About 5 million people watch the BBC’s “Ten O’Clock News”. Invariably, fewer than 200,000 watch Sky, but 2.5 million people watch ITV’s news at that time. Those who are in real competition are the BBC and ITV. Long may that continue. I know that the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport has been in consultation about the sort of changes that ITV wants so that they are on a level playing field. I urge him to consider them, because I know that ITV wants to reinvest money in British television, which is good for our economy.

ITV also wants to encourage regional news. At least two other Members here, perhaps more, from the east midlands will have seen the demise of Central news in recent years. The right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) and the hon. Member for Gedling (Vernon Coaker) are nodding in agreement. In the good old days it was an equal fight between the BBC’s “East Midlands Today” and “Central East”. Now, as the right hon. Gentleman and others know, “Central East” compromises a 10-minute opt-out, with the news coming from Birmingham. We want to revert to good healthy competition.

Good, healthy competition throughout our media means that people have real choice. We must never forget that, at the end of the day, the people who can determine the future and enable our media to be cleaned up are those who choose whether to buy, to tune in, to use the internet for news, and so on. I made the point two weeks ago, but it is worth making it again: we should urge people not to buy newspapers that breach all the codes. Never mind the written codes: people do not need a code to tell them that they should not hack into the phone of a dead child.

Mr David Burrowes (Enfield, Southgate) (Con): My hon. Friend is right to mention the responsibility of the public for their purchasing decisions. It is not just a case of regulation or law, but a cultural issue. Although the public are revolted about people hacking into Milly Dowler’s phone and the phones of other victims of crime, why do we have such a prurient interest in other people’s private lives? Do not we all have to hold up a

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mirror to ourselves and ask why we buy those papers and feed a beast that we now want to slay? Have we not all got questions to answer?

Anna Soubry: I could not have put it better than my hon. Friend has done, and I am sure that we are all grateful for his wise words. He is right. I hope that we will seize the opportunity as a people to change our culture and values. As my hon. Friend says, we should think much more carefully about why we buy papers and enjoy looking at some of the photographs in them. I include celebrities, because it is not fair to say that they, or indeed Members of Parliament, should somehow be outside the code governing the way in which people should operate. When looking at certain photographs, we should think, “That must have been a gross intrusion into that person’s privacy; a long lens must have been used. I won’t buy that newspaper.”

As I said in my question to the Prime Minister earlier, a process of cultural change needs to happen. It involves not just people and the papers they buy, but the way in which the media and the press operate today. That process can begin today. That is why, as has already been said, we should ensure that our police officers no longer divulge details about people who have been arrested. Papers should not print such details or behave in the grossly irresponsible and disgraceful manner that we saw in Bristol.

I had hoped to talk about the police too, but I shall simply say that in my view the police should not have any social contact with any journalist. The press play an important part in the work of the police in preventing and detecting crime, but Nottinghamshire police employ five press officers. They do not need to employ that many. Police officers should use the press, but they should not dine and sup with them.

5.48 pm

Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab): I believe that I am the first London Member from the Opposition Benches to speak in the debate. That is unfortunate, given the prominence of the Metropolitan police in our discussions, but I hope that my colleagues from London will catch your eye later, Mr Deputy Speaker.

I would like to say a lot, but we are constrained by time at the tail end of our discussion. Suffice it to say that I believe that the power of News International and many other media organisations, as many hon. Members have said, has distorted the way in which politicians and others in public life go about their daily business, but what is wrong is the fact that the ownership of our media is out of kilter. It should not just be an issue about BSkyB and whether News International increases its influence in it; it should be about whether News International is a fit and proper company and should be allowed to continue to hold sway over such a large part of our national media.

In what is left of my time allocation, I wish to speak about the influence of the Mayor of London on the Metropolitan police. I think it was wrong for him to say that the phone hacking issue was “codswallop”—that it was a plot

“cooked up by the Labour party”,

that it was

“a song and dance about nothing”,

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and that he was not going to become involved in the issue, only as far back as September 2010. The Metropolitan police were under pressure from people outside the House and some hon. Members, as we all know, to reopen the investigation and look into the phone hacking scandal. It was bound to influence the views of those police that the Mayor of London, who is supposedly given influence over issues relating to policing matters on behalf of people in London, had already made public statements to say that he did not think such an inquiry worth while—that he thought it was a load of rubbish. It was bound to influence their thinking about whether to reopen that inquiry.

I sincerely hope that the Leveson inquiry will look into that fact, because it will be an important factor in whether we decide to go forward with elected police commissioners throughout the country, because when the Government advocate elected police commissioners, they always use the Mayor of London as an example. Well, actually, the Mayor of London is accountable to the Metropolitan Police Authority for what he does with the police. The members of the MPA have a great deal of influence in London, and it is a democratically based body, with other co-opted members to make it broadly representative of London. We are diluting the influence of the MPA and converting it into a panel. We are not giving it any teeth whatever to enable it to have oversight, and we are placing all the influence and power in the hands of a directly elected Mayor or his appointed deputy Mayor.

The problem that we have faced is the over-burgeoning power of the media and their ability to twist and manipulate individuals, particularly politicians at times. I would stand here and criticise the former leader of my party for going halfway around the world to pay court to Rupert Murdoch—I made that criticism openly at the time and I do so now—but that is because those individuals’ power has been too great. We have seen the tentacles go deep into the Metropolitan police and into our political life. We have officers who are now probably facing prison because they were corrupted by journalists throwing money around; we have politicians who have been too close and embarrassed themselves by their relationships with the media. It is extremely corrupting.

The Mayor of London said that this matter was “codswallop” only days after the article appeared in The New York Times which resulted in the reopening of the Metropolitan police inquiry. So we have to look at how the Mayor has been influenced by the media and the way he has used the media.

John Mann: Would my hon. Friend be astonished to learn that one of his constituents, as a police officer in 2005, received a suspended jail sentence for selling information to The Sun for a mere £200? Does that show how endemic the problem has become?

Clive Efford: I think it does, and it shows why Parliament was recalled so that we could have this debate. I am sure that that police officer, for that small sum of money, seriously regrets his judgment, but what underlies such transactions is the power of the media to suggest that their influence stretches so far that they are not accountable, and will never be accountable, because they are under the umbrella and shield of our protection because they think themselves so great and so mighty. The fact that

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Rebekah Brooks thought she could walk into Parliament and say, “Yes, we pay the police,” and walk out again without being held to account for it was an absolute disgrace. The Met must never return to that again.

The Mayor of London, however, used his influence to try to stall the inquiry. His reasons for that will have to come out as these matters are investigated, but without question his attitude to the investigation into phone hacking could only have had influence on the thoughts and decisions of the police, and that must be investigated.

5.55 pm

Oliver Heald (North East Hertfordshire) (Con): My old friend the hon. Member for Eltham (Clive Efford) is right in one respect: there are faults in all parties in the House and successive Governments in not tackling this issue early enough. However, I completely reject his criticism of the Mayor of London, because the Mayor’s comments predate the most recent allegations.

Clive Efford: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Oliver Heald: No, I will not, because I have so little time. That is the way it is tonight.

I shall make three points. First, people in this country have a fundamental right to live under the rule of law, but Members on both sides of the House must look back on this period and ask themselves this: did we uphold the rule of law? As the hon. Gentleman said, journalists felt that they could break the law willy-nilly, and people felt that they could talk to Select Committees about breaking the law, and nothing would happen. That is a failure of this Parliament over a period of time to uphold one of the basic rights of our people.

That is why it is right that the Prime Minister has agreed to a full, judge-led, independent inquiry, and why it is right that we have a proper police investigation under Sue Akers to go after the evidence. Our Select Committees did a good job yesterday in showing that even the most powerful people in the land, and even the world, can be questioned before a Select Committee just like anyone else. That is how it should be in our country. People should not feel that they can get away with it.

Let us ask how we got into that position. Many hon. Members have said that after 1992, Labour politicians were desperate for the good opinion of the media. They went out to the Canary Islands and all sorts of places—[ Interruption. ] They went to the Cayman Islands and Australia too. They were out to curry favour with the media regardless. The combination of currying favour with the media and the sofa-style government that we had under Tony Blair meant that we ended up with the sort of situation that was described by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Torridge and West Devon (Mr Cox), who said that the Attorney-General was told in a letter from the police that a vast quantity of private information and criminality needed investigation, but nothing happened.

How did that happen? It should not have been possible, and there should have been a report to the Cabinet. The right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw) said that no such report ever occurred. That reminds us of what the Butler inquiry said about sofa-style government, when

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there are no formalities. We ended up going off to war in Iraq without members of the Cabinet seeing all the papers. That same, sloppy approach is not the way to run a country. It is right that we have the inquiries, but the House must get together to ensure the proper rule of law.

My second point is that the separation of the criminal justice system from politicians is very important. I was surprised to hear the Leader of the Opposition say that he expected the Prime Minister to be briefed by an assistant commissioner about an ongoing police inquiry. The assistant commissioner actually offered that service to No. 10, but Edward Llewellyn was absolutely right to say no, because we want that separation. The cosiness of the police and the media, and sofa-style government, blurs the formalities that protect our constitution.

Finally, I want to mention the presumption of innocence. When in opposition, it is easy to cast stones and to rely on bits of gossip and speculation as if they are evidence, but in this country, thank goodness, we have a fair system of trial with the presumption of innocence at its core. I would not want that to change. All those who throw stones and pretend that someone is guilty just because a newspaper says so ought to think about where that leads. Let us stick up for the constitutional principles of the rule of law and the separation of powers, and let us ensure that we continue to have fair trials.

6 pm

Barry Gardiner (Brent North) (Lab): We heard yesterday from people who said that they did not know about hacking and that they did not authorise payments for it. It is extraordinary that those executives did not take their responsibilities for corporate governance seriously enough to determine who did know about hacking, who authorised it and who paid for it. This question is not just for the House, but for the shareholders of News Corp and News International. How can those shareholders have confidence in a management who, six years on, have failed to find out those simple facts and to hold people to account?

The £500,000 settlement to Gordon Taylor was discussed at the time by James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks in a meeting with other officers of News Corp and News International. They were discussing a payment to someone who was the victim of the company’s illegal practices, so the House must consider whether it is at all credible that at that meeting James Murdoch did not put one simple question: why do we have to pay this money? Any chairman would want to know the full details of why he was being asked to make such a payment, so of course he was told the details of the breaches of privacy suffered by Gordon Taylor and others. However, any semi-conscious corporate lawyer would ask a further question: what is the full extent of our liability? When James Murdoch asked that question, it is inconceivable that he would have accepted anyone answering, “We don’t know,” or, “We haven’t bothered to find out,” yet in effect that was the response that he and his father gave to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee yesterday. Had he received such a response, I think that his answer would have been swift and sharp.

If the House accepts that that question must have been asked and then fully and honestly answered, it follows that James Murdoch knew that Jon Chapman

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and Daniel Cloke had full knowledge of the extent of the phone hacking because, of course, they reviewed the files given to Harbottle & Lewis. James Murdoch told the Select Committee that he did not tell his father about the £500,000 payment to Gordon Taylor until after it had been made in 2009. He did not explain why he had failed to tell his father that he knew what Chapman and Cloke knew, namely that widespread hacking and illegality had taken place, and that that was why they had to buy Gordon Taylor’s silence.

The files at Harbottle & Lewis are crucial. Yesterday, James Murdoch told Parliament that the actions of News Corp did

“not live up to the standards that our company aspires to…and it is our determination to put things right”,

yet News Corp has refused to allow Harbottle & Lewis to release those documents to the police. Being determined “to put things right” starts with releasing those files.

Why, in 2009, did Deputy Commissioner Yates decide that there was no new evidence in The Guardian’s revelations about the hacking of Gordon Taylor? Mr Yates has been at pains to insist that this was not a full-scale review. I accept that, but it takes not even eight minutes, never mind eight hours, to appreciate that the reason there was new material evidence was that a royal correspondent—the subject of the original investigation—would not have been doing an investigative story on the chief executive of a football association. In other words, that gave the lie to the widespread assumption that this was just one rogue reporter.

Keith Vaz: Sir Paul Stephenson’s evidence yesterday stated that Mr Yates was put under no time limit, so if he had needed more than eight hours, he could have had it.

Barry Gardiner: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, who has carried out excellent work on this, for that comment. My point is that Mr Yates did not need even eight hours. He needed eight minutes, because all he had to consider was the central fact that the latest information in The Guardian revealed that there was not one rogue reporter, but more than one.

Paul Stephenson, in his resignation statement, made a distinction between his appointment of Mr Wallis and the Prime Minister’s appointment of Mr Coulson. A distinction has repeatedly been made in the House by the Home Secretary and others, who have tried to say that an important line has to be drawn between the investigated and the investigator. I agree: that is absolutely right, but it is equally right and it is of fundamental importance in our debate about public confidence in the media and the police that we should consider public confidence in the Government and in the Prime Minister. If there is a proper line between the investigator and the investigated, there should be a proper line between the law maker and the law breaker.

6.6 pm

Mr Robert Buckland (South Swindon) (Con): There have been many constructive and thoughtful contributions to the debate. The tone that we need to strike, and which, in the main, has been struck, is one of great humility. There is nothing worse than the British Parliament having a periodic fit of morality, particularly bearing in

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mind the context of the debate and the disastrous cocktail of criminality and neglect that has resulted in appalling acts committed as long ago as 2003 coming to light in only the past few weeks. That should be the tone of our remarks, and we should remember that the vast majority of the police and of journalists are doing their best. They do a good job. A small minority in both cases have, unfortunately, brought both professions into disrepute.

Much has been made of the Harbottle & Lewis file, and the assertion of legal professional privilege. My understanding is that privilege would apply to correspondence between solicitor and client, but that if third-party documents disclose the furtherance of a crime, for example, they would not be subject to such privilege. The truth—I have not seen the file, and I do not know what it contains—is probably that there is a case for a thorough review of the file to ascertain whether privilege can be asserted by its owner, News International. If documents in the file clearly disclose the furtherance of a crime, they should be disclosed. My strong advice to News International is that if the spirit of the Murdochs’ evidence yesterday is to be followed through, disclosure of the file would be in their interests and the wider public interest.

The events of the past two weeks have caused us to focus on phone hacking, but the spectrum is much wider than that. Only a few months ago—perhaps even more recently—we were looking at super-injunctions and privacy, which are part of that spectrum. At one end are people, usually with fame and means, who can assert their privacy by the use of injunctions and occasionally super-injunctions. At the other are ordinary members of the public—innocent people—who are living quietly and getting on with their lives, sometimes subject to tragedy, who find themselves at the butt-end of criminality and abuse by powerful media operations.

Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con): We must also consider something else that has not been raised in our debate. Does my hon. Friend agree that communications companies have a role in ensuring that communications are kept secure so that people who wish to transgress and break the law cannot do so?

Mr Buckland: Absolutely right. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point.

There is a sense of something old and something new about this debate. The old aspect of it is the ever-present role of the press baron in our public life. A hundred years ago it was Lord Harmsworth, then it was Beaverbrook, then Maxwell and Murdoch in latter times. That is not new. It is lamentable and wrong, and the House seems to agree that it is time for a change. I welcome that.

There is also something new—the unprecedented vulnerability of private data. Information is the new valuable property of the modern age. We have spent our years guarding our homes and our possessions against theft and burglary, but have forgotten and neglected the sometimes even more valuable private information that can be used in a way that can seriously prejudice the lives of ordinary people. My hon. Friend is right to mention communications companies and the ease of access that there seems to be to telephone data and other personal information. That is wrong, and there is now an historic opportunity to get things right.

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I welcome the judicial inquiry, and I remind the House that we have set up a Joint Committee of both Houses to look at privacy, super-injunctions and the future role of the Press Complaints Commission and the media in that context.

Mr Cash: Is my hon. Friend aware that the terms of reference of that Joint Committee refer to media regulation as a whole? We therefore need to concentrate on that in relation to the inquiry as well, as set out in part 1, paragraph 2(b) of the terms of reference.

Mr Buckland: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He makes the point that I was about to make. There is a link. There is a direct role for both Houses of Parliament through the Committee to do some valuable work to produce recommendations for changes to media regulation. The Committee has been set up and will report by the end of February 2012. We have an opportunity as parliamentarians in the Chamber and in Committee to make constructive and proper proposals.

I was interested in the suggestions and observations of the Leader of the Opposition earlier about the form of some of the changes that could take place. He rightly talked about redress of grievance. The question is how we build that. If it takes the form of damages, we have to think about how that will be funded. Will there be a contingent fund organised by the newspapers and the media? We must bear in mind that for all the big beasts in the jungle, there are small local newspapers that are struggling to make ends meet. We must be mindful of the ability of the industry to fund a proper system of damages. The right hon. Gentleman and the Prime Minister are right to emphasise the need for a new regulatory body to have teeth and to give ordinary people the chance to see their grievances properly redressed.

For far too long, it has been a case of the big beasts of the jungle trampling over the rights of ordinary people. I do not say that in a spirit of arrogance or anger. I say it in a sense of deep humility and sadness that we have reached this stage in our public life. We have an opportunity. Let us seize it together.

6.13 pm

John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington) (Lab): I shall be brief. I make a plea to put an item on the Leveson agenda. As a result of the work of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, Leveson will be looking at the ethics of journalism. There have been calls in the House today and throughout the debate over the past three weeks for greater adherence to the Press Complaints Commission code of conduct.

The commission’s code of conduct is based on the National Union of Journalists code of conduct, which was first developed in 1936. Every NUJ member has to sign the code when they become a member of the union. It is policed by the ethics council, and there is an ethics hotline to advise journalists. The code includes the principle that a journalist

“strives to ensure that information disseminated is honestly conveyed, accurate and fair”.

Journalists must obtain their material