The Prime Minister: First, let me say that this is a matter on which people should feel absolutely free to express their opinions and to vote according to their conscience. We have had a good debate and a serious debate. It comes, as a number of hon. Members have said, after decades of this issue not being properly sorted out. Tragically, it has taken a crisis in the press, a very thoughtful report by a senior judge, and then a lot of political will and political co-operation, but we can

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be proud of the fact that the issue is finally being sorted out, with what I believe is a practical, workable, deliverable solution.

Let me say to my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset (Jacob Rees-Mogg), who spoke eloquently against all that is being proposed, that I and everyone in the House care deeply about a free press, but a free press does not mean a press without a means of redress. It does not mean a press without a need to put things right when they get things wrong. It should not mean a press where the rich and the powerful can sue, get injunctions and take action, but where innocent victims have been left to suffer because the regulatory system does not work. A proper free press needs a proper, effective, independent regulatory system, and that is what we aim to achieve.

I thank right hon. and hon. Members for their kind remarks. I do that also on behalf of the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Prime Minister. This has been a genuinely cross-party effort. The royal charter has been hugely improved by the many hours of work that have been put in by all sorts of people to try to get it right. I would like particularly to thank my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, my right hon. Friend the Minister for Government Policy and the deputy leader of the Labour party, who I know have worked extremely hard to try to reach all-party agreement.

A number of hon. Members pointed out that this has been a complicated and at times interesting process. It is complicated when one is trying to achieve something when there are different opinions within all political parties in the House and a need to work across party to get this done.

I note from the debate that there was a warm welcome for the proposals from all parts of the House. I thought it particularly interesting that the current Chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee welcomed what is being proposed, as did a number of past Chairmen of similar Committees. So I believe the proposal starts with good will.

I make the point, which echoes remarks made by the right hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Simon Hughes), that this is only one part of what Leveson discussed. There is obviously the relationship between the police and the press. That needs to be put right, and new rules are being put in place. We need to get the relationship between the politicians and the press right, and there are new rules and new transparency in respect of that. There is the issue of press ethics, and I believe we have made some real progress today.

A number of hon. Members made the point about how much time there had been to study the royal charter. Obviously, in its final incarnation it has been produced only today, but the first version of a royal charter was published on 12 February, so there has been time for people to make points and to consider how it would work. A number of Members pointed to the irony of using a royal charter, even pointing out that some of the language in it is on the flowery side. Yes, it is perhaps ironic, but there is a real purpose. I believe that if we opted for legislation, even about the nature of the recognition body, we would be taking a bad step, so

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it is better to use the royal charter, which allows us to set up an independent body without using statute to describe its purposes.

I join the hon. Members, particularly the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant), who urged the press to sign up. The point made by my hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset (Richard Drax) is correct: this is a voluntary system. What Leveson said we should establish is an independent self-regulatory body that the press have to set up. They then apply for recognition, if they want to, to the recognition body, and it is the recognition body that the royal charter establishes. I think there has been some misunderstanding about that point in the debate. The royal charter does not set up a self-regulator; that is for the press to do. We urge them to do it, and to do it rapidly. I know that work is already under way. It is our task, through the royal charter, to set up the recognition body. The press can decide to seek recognition from it, and then they get the advantages in terms of the exemplary costs and damages, which the House will debate a little later.

A number of Members made the good point that we must not oversell what is being set out today. It is a neat solution to the problem, but it is not a panacea, as my hon. Friend the Member for North Thanet (Sir Roger Gale) said. Those who will be responsible for making the self-regulation work will be the press. They have to set up their self-regulatory body, make sure that it has teeth, make sure that it can seek recognition, and then put in place something that we can be proud of.

I thought the quote of the debate was from the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Sir Gerald Kaufman)—it is now closing time in the last-chance saloon was the phrase he used. The point that I would make in commenting on that is that we are not replacing a self-regulatory system with a statutory regulatory system. We are trying to replace a failed system with one that will work because, crucially, it has real independence at its heart.

A number of Members referred to the fact that the regulatory body will have an independent board. Crucially, not only is it independent, but it will be properly overseen by the recognition body, and crucially, that oversight is established in a way that does not endanger a free press or give Parliament a locus endlessly to interfere. That is important. Of course we all have strong views about the press, press freedom and press regulation, but it would not be right for Parliament to pass laws and then go on amending laws and making changes to laws about what the press should and should not do. It is important that the method that we have chosen means that not only will we not be able to do that, but the royal charter specifically says that it cannot be changed unless there is a two-thirds motion in both Houses of Parliament.

In a way, this is what the whole debate is about: Leveson gave us the architecture, the independent self-regulatory body, and the recognition body to make sure that the press was not marking its homework. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Government Policy played a key role in providing the solution that I think is best, which is using a royal charter so that we do not cross the Rubicon of writing all the rules into the law. I commend the leaders of the Labour party and the Deputy Prime Minister, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, on all the work that they have done to choose to work together to try to deliver something that is practical. It is notable

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that, when those talks broke down on Thursday, they chose to come up with a royal charter which was workable, rather than for us to get back into the trenches and have a fight over whether we should write these changes into law. I am pleased that everyone has taken the opportunity of doing a deal and having an outcome that will be good for our country.

It was right to commission the Leveson inquiry, it was right to listen to the outcome of the Leveson inquiry, and it was right to work out the best way of putting it in place. I know that many people thought it would be kicked into the long grass. It has not been. It has been acted on and acted on properly, and this should be done for the victims above all. I commend the motion to the House.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House has considered the welcome publication of the draft royal charter by the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition, and the Prime Minister’s intention to submit the charter to the Privy Council for Her Majesty’s approval at the Privy Council’s May meeting.

Mr Speaker: We come now to the Crime and Courts Bill [Lords] (Programme) (No. 3) (Motion).

Mr Cash: On a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman does not always choose quite the best moment. Obviously, I am bursting with anticipation to hear the observations of the hon. Gentleman through his point of order, but if he can just be a tad patient we will come to him. We could not forget him.

On the programme motion, it may be helpful to the House if I point out that manuscript amendments (d) to (i) to the programme motion have been tabled by the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone), with the support of a number of other hon. Members. Copies of those manuscript amendments, I understand, are available in the Vote Office. I have selected amendments (d) to (i),

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but not Mr Bone’s tabled amendments (a) to (c). I will therefore invite the hon. Gentleman to move amendment (d) in the course of debate.

When in a moment I call the Leader of the House, it will be to move the programme motion, but I am sure that he will indulge the hon. Member for Stone (Mr Cash).

7.20 pm

Mr Cash: On a point of order, Mr Speaker. On Thursday, the Leader of the House announced the business for this week, and he added that following the European Council meeting there would be a statement by the Prime Minister. We have not had an occasion before when the European Council has not been followed by a statement. My point of order is therefore to ask why the Leader of the House suggested there would be one, but we have not had one today.

Mr Speaker: We have not had one today. The Prime Minister has heard the point of order and he is very welcome to reply if he wishes.

The Prime Minister: Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. We now have more European Councils than sometimes is altogether healthy, and certainly more than there have been in the past. There are almost always oral statements, but I think that on this occasion, when it was very much a take-note European Council rather than one packed with exciting things, a written ministerial statement will probably suffice.

Mr Speaker: I thank the Prime Minister for his reply. [Interruption.] An hon. Member is chuntering “Tomorrow” from a sedentary position. I do not know what tomorrow will bring. All I know is that the hon. Member for Stone has not yet exhausted the resources of civilisation, and I dare say he will return to these matters as and when he thinks fit. I thank the Prime Minister very much for staying to hear that and responding. It is a kind of pre-emptive gratification, and we are grateful for that.

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Crime and Courts Bill [Lords] (Programme) ((No. 3)

7.21 pm

The Leader of the House of Commons (Mr Andrew Lansley): I beg to move,

That the Order of 13 March 2013 (Crime and Courts Bill [Lords] (Programme) (No. 2)) be varied as follows:

1. Paragraphs 2 to 5 of the Order shall be omitted.

2. Remaining proceedings on Consideration and Third Reading shall be taken at today’s sitting.

3. Remaining proceedings on Consideration shall be taken in the order shown in the following Table.

4. Each part of the remaining proceedings on Consideration shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the time specified in relation to it in the second column of the Table.


ProceedingsTime for conclusion of proceedings

New Clauses and new Schedules standing in the name of the Prime Minister and relating to press conduct; remaining new Clauses and new Schedules relating to press conduct.

Three hours after commencement of proceedings on the Motion for this Order.

New Clauses standing in the name of a Minister of the Crown and relating to Legal Aid; amendments to Clause 22, Clauses 24 to 30, Clause 32 and Schedule 16; new Clauses and new Schedules relating to protection of children or to vulnerable witnesses; remaining new Clauses and new Schedules; amendments to Clauses 20 and 21, Clauses 35 to 40; Schedules 19 and 20 and Clauses 43 to 46; remaining proceedings on Consideration.

11 pm

5. Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously disposed of) be brought to a conclusion at midnight.

Last Wednesday, when moving the programme motion for the Report stage, the Minister of State, Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Taunton Deane (Mr Browne), said that the Government would introduce a supplementary programme motion if the cross-party talks on Leveson had concluded, either with or without agreement, to allow a debate on Leveson-related amendments on this second day of Report. This supplementary motion fulfils that undertaking. It allows for three hours, starting now, for the debate on this motion and on the Leveson-related amendments. Thereafter, the House will have until 11 pm to consider the remaining amendments to the Bill, with a final hour, minus Divisions, to midnight for Third Reading.

The House will be aware that the Leveson report was published at the end of November and it is now mid-March. The sooner that legislation relating to exemplary costs and damages is on the statute book, the sooner we can get on with implementing the new regulatory framework. If we do not legislate in the remaining weeks of this session, we risk a further delay of some months or

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more. We therefore needed to secure the debate today on the amendments relating to press conduct, and it is a consequent fact that the amount of time available to consider other amendments today is necessarily curtailed.

Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): It is severely curtailed, because even if there were no Divisions, were the clauses on Leveson to last their full three hours, less than 40 minutes would be left for all the other clauses, dealing with some very important issues, some of which would probably never be reached.

Mr Lansley: My hon. Friend will note that it is a matter for hon. Members to determine to what extent they want to make progress on the next group of amendments, and the rate at which they make progress depends on the character of the debate. That is often true when we consider Report stages. The extent to which later groups of amendments can be considered depends on the time that Members choose to take in debating earlier groups. It may, of course, be that the time to consider amendments relating to press conduct will not occupy all the time available.

Simon Hughes (Bermondsey and Old Southwark) (LD): I hope that the Leader of the House will remember that I and others have suggested that he might look with colleagues at the very simple principle that when we use up some time for other business on a Report and Third Reading day, we have injury time to replace it, so that there is an automatic carry-over to give us the guaranteed time that we were expecting.

Mr Lansley: I do recall my right hon. Friend making that point previously. I simply say that it is an inflexible approach. It is our intention to assist the House in the way we structure programme motions, and that is precisely why this programme motion has been constructed around extending two hours beyond the moment of interruption. I emphasise that we are now four hours and 40 minutes away from the closure of the debate. If a normal Report stage falls on a Monday, it is not unusual for there to be two statements or an urgent question and a statement, which takes the House from 3.30 pm to about 5.30 pm, at which point we are four and a half hours away from the moment of interruption on that day, so I stress that we are not an unusual length of time away from the moment of interruption for a debate on Report.

Mr Nigel Dodds (Belfast North) (DUP): The Leader of the House is right in what he says about the time, but surely what is unusual and exceptional about this programme motion is the importance of the matters that we are debating. The Leveson-related amendments are some of the most important that we could be debating, given the interest out there among the public and in the House. That is the difference, and we should therefore allow sufficient time for them to be debated, as well as the other remaining important matters.

Mr Lansley: The programme motion gives sufficient time for debate on the amendments relating to exemplary costs and damages. On the wider issues relating to press conduct and the Leveson report, the House has had the opportunity for three hours of debate arising from the Standing Order No. 24 application made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.

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Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): What is exceptional today is the Standing Order No. 24 application being granted. On the rare occasions that that has occurred, the Leader of the House has always, in my recollection, changed the remaining timetable so that proper debate took place. I do not understand why that has not happened on this occasion.

Mr Lansley: The point today is that the Standing Order No. 24 application related to matters that were part of the planned debate on amendments on Report in the first three hours. In any case, if the House agrees it, the programme motion will take us two hours beyond the normal moment of interruption. I accept that as a consequence of the pressure on the time for debate today, some hon. Members may be disappointed if a particular amendment that they have sponsored or signed does not receive the amount of discussion that they had hoped.

Sir Edward Garnier (Harborough) (Con): This has nothing whatever to do with personal disappointment. These are matters of some considerable importance; otherwise, they would not be in the Bill. The fact that we wish to debate amendments or new clauses—indeed, the amendments and new clauses have been selected—suggests that they are considered to be of some importance by people other than their individual proponents.

Another point that my right hon. Friend perhaps needs to address is that the emergency debate that we have just had surely cannot have been in his mind when the timetable motion was drafted and tabled. He did not know that Mr Speaker would grant the three-hour debate, so the three hours taken out of the debate—or, as he might say, put in the debate—cannot have been in the calculation. We need to be clear about the thinking behind the timetable motion.

Mr Lansley: I am quite clear about the thinking behind the timetable motion. We wanted to make sure that there was sufficient time to debate Leveson-related issues. Also, it will also not have escaped my hon. and learned Friend’s notice—it did not escape the notice of my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr Cash), who is no longer in his place—that we did not anticipate necessarily that the debate would start at 3.30 pm, not least because I anticipated that the Prime Minister would make a statement on the European Council. Thus, when we consider the overall time available, we find that we are not very far from where we anticipated we would be. My right hon. Friends and I understand that if we cannot have a full debate on all the issues to which the later groups of amendments relates, there will no doubt be future opportunities for us to do so.

Mr Speaker has selected the amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) and other right hon. and hon. Members. Its effect would be to restrict today’s debate to the clauses relating to press conduct and provide an additional third day for consideration on Report, with Third Reading to be scheduled for a future date. I will not trouble the House with questions of how we could fit further days into the diminishing time remaining before the Session concludes, but I would like to make it clear that, as Leader of the House, I have sought with colleagues to provide at least two days on Report for important Bills

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where necessary and possible. My right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury, my predecessor as Leader of the House, and I have done that for 14 Bills in this Parliament, which stands in stark contrast to the previous Administration’s record. Indeed, today’s consideration is in addition to what was originally set out in the programme motion the House agreed on Second Reading. It is wholly exceptional to move to three days on Report; that has been given to only two Bills in this Parliament, and only three between 2001-02 and 2009-10.

I reiterate that if we crack on we will have four and a half hours available for further consideration of the Bill on Report and on Third Reading. Given the widespread interest in the issues before us, I hope that the House will agree to the programme motion quickly so that we can proceed with the substantive business.

7.31 pm

Ms Angela Eagle (Wallasey) (Lab): I rise to support the programme motion moved by the Leader of the House in this short debate. Clearly, the House is having to deal with an unusual situation, because the Bill has become a vehicle for implementing the Leveson proposals on press regulation. The fact that it has evolved in this way has certainly made for some unusual processes that would hardly be considered best practice for the routine passage of legislation through the House, but sometimes needs must.

We must all remember that it has been 20 months since MPs from all parties came together to set up the Leveson inquiry after the revelations about industrial-scale phone hacking and indefensible press intrusion into the lives of families such as the Dowlers and the McCanns. It is time the issue was gripped, and today’s programme motion will allow it to be resolved.

Over 100 days have passed since Lord Justice Leveson’s inquiry reported and all parties promised that we would work together to find a lasting solution to prevent such scandals from ever happening again, while also protecting press freedom. As cross-party talks took place last Wednesday, the Opposition withdrew an amendment to the programme motion that would have allowed some new clauses relating to the Leveson report to be taken ahead of some other parts of the Bill. We withdrew the amendment following an assurance from the Minister of State, Home Department, the hon. Member for Taunton Deane (Mr Browne), that changes to the order of consideration would make it impossible to talk out any attempt to deal with the Leveson amendments in the Bill. The Government were as good as their word and produced a programme motion changing the order of consideration for the clauses in the Bill.

However, on Thursday the Prime Minister decided to pull the plug on the cross-party talks and table his own amendments to the Bill, which did not comply with the Leveson principles. Consequently, a raft of new amendments was tabled seeking to implement Leveson with statutory underpinning and other safeguards of independence. Today’s debate was looking as though it would offer a straight choice between a Leveson-compliant and a non-Leveson-compliant approach. However, as we have heard today, overnight a cross-party agreement was reached that will put in place an enduring solution, protected against pressure from the press, or indeed from Ministers in the Privy Council.

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As part of that agreement, an amendment will be made—I understand that it has been tabled in the other place—to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill to ensure the statutory underpinning necessary to protect the royal charter vehicle from being arbitrarily changed in the Privy Council without reference to Parliament. Essentially, therefore, the programme motion before us ensures that the Leveson new clauses can be debated and added to the Crime and Courts Bill today. We therefore agree that the new clauses on press conduct should be taken ahead of the consideration of other parts of the Bill and that this debate should last for the requisite time.

Mr Hollobone: There is no disagreement between the Leader of the House’s programme motion and the amendment that will be moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone); all agree that the clauses relating to Leveson should be debated and decided upon today. However, the hon. Lady’s support for the Government’s programme motion means that all the other clauses will probably not be reached, including new clause 12, which relates to the provision on intermediaries for very vulnerable witnesses and has been signed by 57 colleagues on the Opposition side of the House.

Ms Eagle: There are important debates that need to take place on the clauses that come after those relating to Leveson. If everybody co-operates and speaks succinctly—I am about to demonstrate this by sitting down—we ought to have time to consider them all. I note, in passing, that some of the amendments to be considered are manuscript amendments and that the House will have had only a short time to examine them before they are debated. It is undesirable in principle to have manuscript amendments, but it is inevitable in the context of the fast-moving cross-party talks on Leveson, which continued into the early hours of this morning. The House has to be flexible and its procedures have to enable agreements to be enacted if the circumstances are exceptional, as I believe they are in this case.

I know that many Members are disappointed that debate on other parts of the Bill will be curtailed or truncated by the programme motion, but I am sure that if we work together we can ensure that we can debate all the parts of the Bill. I hope that Members on both sides will accept the programme motion, which will enable us to implement the findings of the Leveson report on regulation of the press, ensuring that any future victims can have redress, while maintaining press freedom. I also hope that we will be able to debate in an appropriate manner all the other parts of the Bill before finishing those stages at midnight.

7.37 pm

Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): I beg to move amendment (d), at end of paragraph 2, leave out ‘at today’s sitting’ and insert

‘in two days (in addition to the First Day already taken)’

It is normally a great privilege to follow the hon. Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle), but this evening the opposite is the case. I am afraid that what has happened today is part of the deal that has been done to reach

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all-party agreement. The deal was: “Okay, if we agree to this, we won’t object to the fact that these very important amendments and new clauses won’t be discussed.” It is clear that there will now be a maximum of only 40 minutes in which to discuss some really serious issues. I fail to understand how the Leader of the House or the shadow Leader can say that there will be other methods and time to discuss them.

I have moved a manuscript amendment to the programme motion—the first time I have done so—because of the unusual circumstances. In the short time since it was prepared and we knew what was happening today, 15 right hon. and hon. Members from both sides of the House have signed it, including two former Home Secretaries and the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee.

When we were in opposition, we always used to criticise the then Government for curtailing debate on legislation, but I must say that this is the most outrageous example I have ever seen. These are really serious issues affecting extradition and vulnerable people, and to say that, effectively, they will not be discussed because of a clever way of guillotining their consideration is, to my mind, completely unacceptable.

Over 20 amendments have been selected, never mind all those that were tabled but not selected, and very many Back-Bench Members have signed them. It cannot be right to have tabled a programme motion last Thursday at 5.15 pm, after a huge row at business questions, saying that there would supposedly be plenty of time to discuss the Bill—although people had queries about that—without any knowledge that a Standing Order No. 24 application was going to be tabled and granted. I absolutely believe the Leader of the House when he says that when the Government tabled the new programme motion very late on Thursday they did not know—indeed, they could not have known—that there would be a Standing Order No. 24 application and that three hours of today’s debate would be lost.

If the Leader of the House thought that that amount of time should be available, we are going to be three hours short of it today. It would be possible, even now—I know that it is not going to happen because I have been here and seen this too often—for him to get up and say that this is a perfectly reasonable amendment to the programme motion and accept it. All the Leveson clauses would still be debated exactly as was proposed in the original programme motion; all that would happen is that the important amendments that we have lost would be debated on another day. If the Leader of the House is saying that so much legislation is rushing through this House that we have no time to find on any other days, that is hard to believe since the House of Lords has been given an extra week’s recess because we are not progressing enough business.

In May 2009, when we were in opposition, the Prime Minister-to-be made a speech called “Fixing Broken Politics”—I would recommend it to every right hon. and hon. Member—in which he made it clear that the one thing he was not going to do when he was in power was restrict debate; he was going to have open, transparent debate and allow enough time to scrutinise really important issues.

Mr David Winnick (Walsall North) (Lab): Did the hon. Gentleman really believe what the then Leader of the Opposition, now Prime Minister, said? Did not those of us on the Government Benches during those

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years say that the programme motions that were being tabled and passed would almost certainly happen in the same way if the Conservatives won the election? I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is not so naive.

Mr Bone: I am very naive, because that is exactly what I believed. At that time, the hon. Gentleman would have gone through the same experience of the expenses scandal, when there was a real movement in the country for this place to change so that proper scrutiny would take place in this mother of Parliaments.

Previously, any scrutiny occurred down the corridor; we never got the chance to reach important clauses and amendments in Bills. We complained about that week in, week out. Yet here we are tonight having lost any debate whatsoever on really important clauses. Even when the situation was at its worst, under the Blair regime, I cannot remember anything being so dramatically curtailed. Why on earth could not the Leader of the House simply have said that we were going to have another day because of the Standing Order No. 24 debate? We could have extended tonight’s timetable by another three hours—that would have been sufficient—but given that that has not happened, the only way that we could, at the very last minute, come up with an acceptable, in-order amendment, was to say, “Deal with Leveson today and finish that at the time the Government suggested”, which will now be 10.44 pm, “and then move on to these important issues another day.” It is condescending to say that a few Members will be upset. It is not about a few Members being upset; these are really important issues that we should be debating as a House.

Sir Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills) (Con): What my hon. Friend says is true. He did not mention, but could easily have done so, that glorious sunlit day in Birmingham—perhaps he attended the party conference that year—when we were exhilarated to hear the then shadow Leader of the House give the greatest pleasure to us all when he announced that we would no longer automatically guillotine. That is the substance of the matter that has animated so many of us on the Government Back Benches. The deliberate intention not to debate things—to manipulate the order of play, so to speak, on the Floor of the House—deceives the public out there and corrupts the purpose of our being here.

Mr Bone: My hon. Friend puts it far better than I do. Of course, I did rejoice at that. I went into the new coalition Government with a real feeling that we were going to be different—that things would change. Tonight we are taking a huge step backwards. As I said, I cannot recall any occasion on which an SO24 application has been granted and we therefore lose X amount of business that is not then rearranged.

Some cynical people—I am probably one of them—would say that this has suited the business managers enormously, because an amendment had been tabled that they did not want to debate. If I am wrong about that, it would be very simple for the Leader of the House to accept my amendment and we will see how well the Government respond to it.

The other problem is that this debate on the programme motion eats into the time that is allowed for debate on the substantive issues. That is a trick the previous

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Government introduced. We said it was wrong, but it is exactly what has happened tonight. The previous Leader of the House promised that we would not automatically programme business. This is the worst abuse that I have seen since becoming a Member of this House. I urge the Leader of the House, at this late stage, to show that he is a democratic champion of this House, to stick up for Back Benchers, not for the Executive, and to accept my amendment.

7.47 pm

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): It is a great delight to follow the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone), not least because I want to take him up on something that he said the other day and has said again today. He uses the phrase, “the mother of Parliaments”, as though this Parliament is the mother of Parliaments. That is completely and utterly incorrect. John Bright referred to England as being the mother of Parliaments, and his point was to criticise England because it had not yet managed to bring the full franchise to all working men; he was not quite so enlightened as to include women at that time. I know that the hon. Gentleman knows this to be the case because he told me so in the gym the other day, so I hope he will stop misleading the House. [Interruption.] It is not inadvertent; it is deliberate, and I know it is, but I say it in a kindly way.

This has been a very odd day. I have scoured the history books and I cannot find an example of Standing Order No. 24 being used by the Prime Minister to hold himself to account. It was a delight to see him do so, but slightly odd.

The Leader of the House said that he would always, or nearly always, try to provide two days on Report—although we have not ended up with that—and boasted about the fact that there have been 14 such occasions so far. I agree that, broadly speaking, that is a good principle. It may be important to have more than one day’s debate on a long and contentious Bill, particularly a Bill such as this, where the Government are rewriting large chunks of it, or on a Christmas tree Bill that has baubles, tinsel and fairies on top. However, if there are statements or other business, that trammels up the debate on Report. All too often, Whips will try to make sure that certain matters are not reached.

I have some sympathy with what the hon. Member for Wellingborough is saying, but my complaint is that it is a bit rich for the Government to complain, as they have been doing in the media and in the House today, that Members are trying to hijack other Bills. Perhaps the Leader of the House should timetable in the hijacking of Bills between now and the general election, because we have every intention of hijacking as many as possible in order to make sure that we get better legislation. That is what the whole process is about. If we can persuade the Liberal Democrats, as well as the minor parties, to join us on more occasions than thus far, we hope that we will manage to get better legislation.

Part of the problem is that last week one programme motion was tabled within 10 minutes of the close of play. Such practice makes it impossible for ordinary hon. Members to know what the next day will hold and when we will discuss individual Bills. If the whole idea of programme motions is that they are for the convenience of the House, it is for the multiple inconvenience of the

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House if they are tabled at the very last minute, especially when, as I understand it, the Government did not even understand last week that such a motion is amendable or that there is no way that the Opposition or any other Member can seek to amend it until it has been tabled. That happened at the very last minute last Tuesday night and last Thursday night, so Mr Speaker was left with a very difficult decision on whether it was right to allow the House to proceed on the basis of manuscript amendments such as those that have been tabled by the hon. Member for Wellingborough or other manuscript amendments that have even been tabled by the Government. That is a shabby way of doing business. It brings this House into disrepute when people cannot make proper arrangements.

Last Thursday the Government were not even aware that, if they wanted to discuss certain things relating to Leveson, they had to table a motion under Standing Order No. 75. That motion was eventually tabled five minutes before the close of play on Thursday, but it has not been moved. We have all ended up looking like we are living in cloud cuckoo land.

The Leader of the House also said last week that he would table amendments when the discussions had concluded. I asked him what he meant by “concluded” and he rolled his eyes and pulled the slightly grumpy, Deputy Dawg face that he is pulling now. The papal conclave ended and amendments were tabled a long time afterwards. Incidentally, the one good thing about this papal conclave is that at least a woman—my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman), the deputy leader of the Labour party—was allowed to be on it.

A lot of important issues need to be considered with regard to extradition. The hon. Member for Wellingborough is right that under the current programme motion we are unlikely to reach the amendment tabled in his name and the names of, I think, 95 other Members, most but not all of whom are Conservative.

Sir Gerald Howarth (Aldershot) (Con): I agree with the hon. Gentleman that today has been an odd day, but it has been extremely beneficial to discuss all the issues relating to Leveson. However, the issues of extradition and the European arrest warrant are of huge concern to the people of this country. I say to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, through this intervention, that, given the many cases when the United States in particular has sought the extradition of people from this country and raised huge concern among the British people, debate on the issue should not be truncated. The House should be given more time to debate it.

Chris Bryant: Indeed. I commend those who brought issues of extradition to the House’s attention on the basis of Back-Bench motions. However, given that it is now exactly a year since this House unanimously agreed a motion on the visas of those involved in the death of Sergei Magnitsky, we now know that a motion of the House means absolutely nothing unless it is part of the legislative process.

The hon. Gentleman is right. I would like to be able to debate extradition and the European arrest warrant and we have tabled an amendment in the names of my

18 Mar 2013 : Column 690

right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and others. Indeed, many people will be looking to this House to have a proper debate on the provisions that will end the right to appeal for those applying for a visitor visa. The hon. Gentleman and I may take a different view on that, but the Government have ordered the business in this way when they could easily have said last Thursday that they would not debate the Bill today, but would do so tomorrow, Wednesday or Thursday. That would have made it perfectly possible to have a debate on Leveson and then on something else, which would have been a much better way of proceeding.

I am afraid that there is not much point in supporting the amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Wellingborough. Frankly, I hope he will withdraw them, because a vote would waste another 16 minutes when we could be getting on with business. I say to the Leader of the House that it is a shame that we are proceeding in this way.

7.55 pm

Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): I do not think that defending the right of this Chamber to scrutinise the Executive is a waste of time and I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) will press his amendment to a vote. To be frank, this is an abuse by the Government of their privilege in setting the timetable of this House and it is a huge shame that Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition are joining in that exercise.

There is no disagreement at all that we should debate the Leveson clauses until 10.21 pm. Whether the amendment or the Government’s programme motion is passed, that will be the effect. We have already had a very interesting three-hour debate and by the time the vote on the amendment to the programme motion is finished we will probably have time for another two-hour debate on the relevant clauses. There is no disagreement about that.

The disagreement lies with all the other clauses, schedules and amendments that will be lost as a result of the Government’s programme motion. For example, new clause 12 has been signed by 57 Members, mainly Opposition Members, and relates to the provision of intermediaries for very vulnerable witnesses. New clause 14 has been signed by 110 Members, mainly Government Members and also relates to very vulnerable witnesses. New clause 13 will probably never be reached, but it relates to exceptions to automatic deportation and has 104 signatories from both sides of the House. Those are important new clauses, which we will either not debate at all or to which we will give very little and totally inadequate attention. This is not the way that this great House of Commons ought to behave. Of course, it would not behave in this way if we had the business of the House committee that Her Majesty’s Government promised they would deliver by 2013.

Some Members present may think that the effect of the amendments tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough would be to extend tonight’s sitting, but, unusually for my hon. Friend, that is not the case. If the manuscript amendments are passed, tonight’s main debate would finish at 10.21 pm. If the Government’s programme motion is passed, we will be here until midnight. Members should not turn around and blame

18 Mar 2013 : Column 691

my hon. Friend or me when they are moaning about being here at midnight. What the two of us want to see is another day given for discussion of the Bill’s important extra clauses. What is unreasonable about that? All we want is for this Chamber to scrutinise those clauses and come to a decision on them. It will not be able to do that in the 40 minutes that the Government feel are adequate.

It is a great shame that the Leader of the House did not go into any detail about possible alternative days to discuss these issues. We finish our main business on a Tuesday at 7 o’clock. We have had exceptional circumstances today and everybody understands that. I think that most Members would be supportive, given the circumstances, of staying longer tomorrow night. Were the Government to extend tomorrow’s sitting to 10 o’clock, we could probably deal with the extra new clauses and amendments, but the Leader of the House has not made any such suggestion. Next Tuesday, we have a Back-Bench afternoon. The Government could have replaced that with the remaining stages of the Crime and Courts Bill. We could therefore wrap it all up before the Easter recess in a perfectly satisfactory way, with proper scrutiny of all the new clauses and amendments.

However, that kind of imaginative thinking does not seem to come from the Government, which is a great shame. The Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Prime Minister have been innovative today in knocking their heads together and agreeing on this Chamber’s response to the Leveson report. Most Members would agree that that is a good thing. But now, we are being let down by Her Majesty’s Government, who refuse to extend that innovative thinking into ensuring that this House scrutinises legislation properly. That is a great shame.

8 pm

Mr Elfyn Llwyd (Dwyfor Meirionnydd) (PC): I appreciate everything that has been said by the hon. Member for Kettering (Mr Hollobone) and I support the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone).

When the Leader of the House made an announcement last week about rescheduling the business for today, naively, given my 21 years’ experience, I presumed that a good part of the crime and courts work would be taken elsewhere. For the past few months, we have been treading water. There have been many Opposition days and Back-Bench business days flying around. That is not a bad thing and I am not running those things down, but there has been plenty of slack in the system and there remains slack in the system. The hon. Member for Kettering has identified two opportunities in the past couple of minutes.

What are we dealing with at the moment? An Executive who are treating this place with contempt. Earlier, we were all back-slapping and grinning, and saying that we were doing something about Leveson and getting stuck into doing something for the public. The public should know that conscientious parliamentarians, such as those who have spoken today, are being denied the opportunity to scrutinise important legislation, such as provisions on the all-important European arrest warrant, exceptions to automatic deportation and provisions to deal with vulnerable witnesses. As a lawyer, I find it abhorrent that we are not able to discuss provisions that deal with vulnerable witnesses.

18 Mar 2013 : Column 692

Mr Winnick: The Leader of the House said that there would be other opportunities to discuss those issues. Would it not be useful, arising from the strong representations and speeches that have been made from both sides of the House on the right of Parliament to debate such issues, if the Leader of the House indicated when we will be able to discuss such issues if he is not willing to agree to the amendment?

Mr Llwyd: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making that point, with which I agree fully.

The Executive are overriding completely the will of this place. The matters that we are not able to discuss are not minor ones; they are vital matters that concern people out there. They are not matters for the twittering classes of Westminster alone; they are vital matters that affect ordinary citizens up and down the UK. For example, we are dealing with automatic deportation and ensuring convention rights. We cannot be expected to run through such vital issues in a matter of minutes. I find the whole thing utterly unacceptable.

I was in Parliament in 1992 when the then Conservative Government thought better of such practices and provided time for debates to take place. Very rarely were debates truncated in this way. It is utterly unacceptable and I am sure that people outside this place will see that. We took a step forward this afternoon, but we are taking a major step back this evening.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans): I call Mark Garnier—or even Edward.

8.3 pm

Sir Edward Garnier (Harborough) (Con): It is always great to be a legend in one’s own—whatever the saying is.

The Government’s response to the amendment is unwise and intolerable.

Mr Deputy Speaker: I will keep taking the tablets, Sir Edward.

Mr Winnick: On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Would it not be appropriate for the Leader of the House to show respect for the views that have been expressed in the past 15 minutes and at least come to the Dispatch Box and make some comments? He is just sitting there grinning and showing indifference. What sort of respect does that show for the views of the House of Commons?

Mr Deputy Speaker: Clearly, that is not a matter for the Chair.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

The House divided:

Ayes 40, Noes 508.

Division No. 191]


8.4 pm


Bingham, Andrew

Blackman, Bob

Brady, Mr Graham

Campbell, Mr Gregory

Corbyn, Jeremy

Crouch, Tracey

Davies, Philip

de Bois, Nick

Dodds, rh Mr Nigel

Donaldson, rh Mr Jeffrey M.

Drax, Richard

Durkan, Mark

Edwards, Jonathan

Flynn, Paul

Hermon, Lady

Hoey, Kate

Hopkins, Kelvin

Hosie, Stewart

Jarvis, Dan

Llwyd, rh Mr Elfyn

Lucas, Caroline

Mactaggart, Fiona

McCrea, Dr William

McDonnell, John

McIntosh, Miss Anne

Munn, Meg

Nuttall, Mr David

Reckless, Mark

Rees-Mogg, Jacob

Ritchie, Ms Margaret

Shannon, Jim

Shepherd, Sir Richard

Simpson, David

Turner, Mr Andrew

Walker, Mr Charles

Weir, Mr Mike

Williams, Hywel

Winnick, Mr David

Wishart, Pete

Wood, Mike

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr Philip Hollobone


Mr Peter Bone


Abbott, Ms Diane

Abrahams, Debbie

Adams, Nigel

Afriyie, Adam

Ainsworth, rh Mr Bob

Aldous, Peter

Alexander, rh Danny

Alexander, rh Mr Douglas

Alexander, Heidi

Ali, Rushanara

Allen, Mr Graham

Anderson, Mr David

Andrew, Stuart

Arbuthnot, rh Mr James

Ashworth, Jonathan

Austin, Ian

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Bain, Mr William

Baker, Norman

Baker, Steve

Baldry, Sir Tony

Baldwin, Harriett

Balls, rh Ed

Banks, Gordon

Barclay, Stephen

Barker, rh Gregory

Baron, Mr John

Barwell, Gavin

Bayley, Hugh

Beckett, rh Margaret

Begg, Dame Anne

Beith, rh Sir Alan

Bellingham, Mr Henry

Benn, rh Hilary

Benton, Mr Joe

Benyon, Richard

Beresford, Sir Paul

Berger, Luciana

Berry, Jake

Betts, Mr Clive

Birtwistle, Gordon

Blackman-Woods, Roberta

Blears, rh Hazel

Blenkinsop, Tom

Blomfield, Paul

Blunt, Mr Crispin

Boles, Nick

Bottomley, Sir Peter

Bradley, Karen

Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben

Brake, rh Tom

Bray, Angie

Brazier, Mr Julian

Brennan, Kevin

Bridgen, Andrew

Brine, Steve

Brokenshire, James

Brooke, Annette

Brown, Lyn

Brown, rh Mr Nicholas

Brown, Mr Russell

Bruce, Fiona

Bruce, rh Sir Malcolm

Bryant, Chris

Buck, Ms Karen

Buckland, Mr Robert

Burden, Richard

Burley, Mr Aidan

Burnham, rh Andy

Burns, Conor

Burns, rh Mr Simon

Burrowes, Mr David

Burstow, rh Paul

Burt, Lorely

Byles, Dan

Byrne, rh Mr Liam

Cable, rh Vince

Cairns, Alun

Campbell, Mr Alan

Campbell, rh Sir Menzies

Carmichael, rh Mr Alistair

Carmichael, Neil

Champion, Sarah

Chapman, Jenny

Chishti, Rehman

Clappison, Mr James

Clark, rh Greg

Clark, Katy

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Coffey, Ann

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Connarty, Michael

Cooper, Rosie

Cooper, rh Yvette

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Crabb, Stephen

Crausby, Mr David

Creagh, Mary

Creasy, Stella

Cruddas, Jon

Cryer, John

Cunningham, Alex

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Cunningham, Sir Tony

Curran, Margaret

Dakin, Nic

Danczuk, Simon

Davey, rh Mr Edward

David, Wayne

Davidson, Mr Ian

Davies, David T. C.


Davies, Geraint

Davies, Glyn

Denham, rh Mr John

Dinenage, Caroline

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Dobbin, Jim

Docherty, Thomas

Donohoe, Mr Brian H.

Doran, Mr Frank

Doughty, Stephen

Dowd, Jim

Doyle, Gemma

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Dromey, Jack

Duddridge, James

Dugher, Michael

Duncan, rh Mr Alan

Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain

Dunne, Mr Philip

Eagle, Ms Angela

Eagle, Maria

Efford, Clive

Elliott, Julie

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Ellman, Mrs Louise

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Engel, Natascha

Esterson, Bill

Eustice, George

Evans, Chris

Evans, Graham

Evans, Jonathan

Evennett, Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Fallon, rh Michael

Farrelly, Paul

Farron, Tim

Featherstone, Lynne

Field, rh Mr Frank

Field, Mark

Flello, Robert

Flint, rh Caroline

Foster, rh Mr Don

Fox, rh Dr Liam

Francis, Dr Hywel

Francois, rh Mr Mark

Freeman, George

Freer, Mike

Fullbrook, Lorraine

Fuller, Richard

Gale, Sir Roger

Gapes, Mike

Gardiner, Barry

Garnier, Mark

Gauke, Mr David

George, Andrew

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gilbert, Stephen

Gillan, rh Mrs Cheryl

Gilmore, Sheila

Glass, Pat

Glen, John

Glindon, Mrs Mary

Godsiff, Mr Roger

Goggins, rh Paul

Goodman, Helen

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Gove, rh Michael

Graham, Richard

Grant, Mrs Helen

Gray, Mr James

Grayling, rh Chris

Greatrex, Tom

Green, rh Damian

Green, Kate

Greening, rh Justine

Greenwood, Lilian

Grieve, rh Mr Dominic

Griffith, Nia

Griffiths, Andrew

Gummer, Ben

Gwynne, Andrew

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Hague, rh Mr William

Hain, rh Mr Peter

Halfon, Robert

Hames, Duncan

Hamilton, Mr David

Hamilton, Fabian

Hammond, rh Mr Philip

Hammond, Stephen

Hancock, Matthew

Hands, Greg

Hanson, rh Mr David

Harman, rh Ms Harriet

Harper, Mr Mark

Harrington, Richard

Harris, Rebecca

Harris, Mr Tom

Hart, Simon

Harvey, Sir Nick

Havard, Mr Dai

Hayes, Mr John

Heald, Oliver

Healey, rh John

Heath, Mr David

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Hemming, John

Hendrick, Mark

Hendry, Charles

Hepburn, Mr Stephen

Herbert, rh Nick

Hillier, Meg

Hilling, Julie

Hinds, Damian

Hoban, Mr Mark

Hodge, rh Margaret

Hodgson, Mrs Sharon

Hollingbery, George

Holloway, Mr Adam

Hood, Mr Jim

Hopkins, Kelvin

Hopkins, Kris

Horwood, Martin

Howarth, rh Mr George

Howell, John

Hughes, rh Simon

Hunt, rh Mr Jeremy

Hunt, Tristram

Huppert, Dr Julian

Hurd, Mr Nick

Irranca-Davies, Huw

Jackson, Glenda

James, Margot

James, Mrs Siân C.

Jamieson, Cathy

Jarvis, Dan

Javid, Sajid

Johnson, rh Alan

Johnson, Diana

Johnson, Gareth

Jones, Andrew

Jones, Graham

Jones, Mr Kevan

Jones, Susan Elan

Jowell, rh Dame Tessa

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald

Kawczynski, Daniel

Keeley, Barbara

Kelly, Chris

Kendall, Liz

Khan, rh Sadiq

Kirby, Simon

Knight, rh Mr Greg

Laing, Mrs Eleanor

Lamb, Norman

Lammy, rh Mr David

Lancaster, Mark

Lansley, rh Mr Andrew

Latham, Pauline

Lavery, Ian

Laws, rh Mr David

Lazarowicz, Mark

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Jessica

Lee, Dr Phillip

Leech, Mr John

Lefroy, Jeremy

Leslie, Charlotte

Leslie, Chris

Letwin, rh Mr Oliver

Lewis, Brandon

Lewis, Mr Ivan

Lewis, Dr Julian

Lidington, rh Mr David

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Lloyd, Stephen

Lord, Jonathan

Loughton, Tim

Love, Mr Andrew

Lucas, Ian

Luff, Peter

Lumley, Karen

Macleod, Mary

Mahmood, Shabana

Marsden, Mr Gordon

Maude, rh Mr Francis

May, rh Mrs Theresa

Maynard, Paul

McCann, Mr Michael

McCarthy, Kerry

McCartney, Jason

McCartney, Karl

McClymont, Gregg

McDonald, Andy

McFadden, rh Mr Pat

McGovern, Alison

McGovern, Jim

McGuire, rh Mrs Anne

McKechin, Ann

McKenzie, Mr Iain

McKinnell, Catherine

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

McPartland, Stephen

McVey, Esther

Meacher, rh Mr Michael

Meale, Sir Alan

Mearns, Ian

Menzies, Mark

Metcalfe, Stephen

Miliband, rh David

Miller, Andrew

Miller, rh Maria

Mills, Nigel

Milton, Anne

Mitchell, Austin

Moon, Mrs Madeleine

Moore, rh Michael

Mordaunt, Penny

Morden, Jessica

Morgan, Nicky

Morrice, Graeme


Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, David

Morris, Grahame M.


Morris, James

Mosley, Stephen

Mowat, David

Mudie, Mr George

Mulholland, Greg

Mundell, rh David

Munt, Tessa

Murphy, rh Mr Jim

Murphy, rh Paul

Murray, Ian

Murray, Sheryll

Murrison, Dr Andrew

Nandy, Lisa

Nash, Pamela

Neill, Robert

Newmark, Mr Brooks

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Norman, Jesse

O'Brien, Mr Stephen

O'Donnell, Fiona

Offord, Dr Matthew

Ollerenshaw, Eric

Onwurah, Chi

Opperman, Guy

Osborne, rh Mr George

Osborne, Sandra

Ottaway, Richard

Owen, Albert

Paice, rh Sir James

Parish, Neil

Patel, Priti

Pawsey, Mark

Pearce, Teresa

Penning, Mike

Penrose, John

Percy, Andrew

Perkins, Toby

Perry, Claire

Phillips, Stephen

Phillipson, Bridget

Pickles, rh Mr Eric

Pincher, Christopher

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Pound, Stephen

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pugh, John

Qureshi, Yasmin

Randall, rh Mr John

Redwood, rh Mr John

Reed, Mr Jamie

Reevell, Simon

Reid, Mr Alan

Reynolds, Emma

Reynolds, Jonathan

Riordan, Mrs Linda

Robertson, rh Hugh

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Rogerson, Dan

Rosindell, Andrew

Rotheram, Steve

Roy, Mr Frank

Roy, Lindsay

Ruane, Chris

Rudd, Amber

Ruddock, rh Dame Joan

Ruffley, Mr David

Russell, Sir Bob

Sanders, Mr Adrian

Sandys, Laura

Sarwar, Anas

Sawford, Andy

Scott, Mr Lee

Seabeck, Alison

Selous, Andrew

Shapps, rh Grant

Sharma, Alok

Sharma, Mr Virendra

Shelbrooke, Alec

Sheridan, Jim

Shuker, Gavin

Simmonds, Mark

Simpson, Mr Keith

Skidmore, Chris

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Smith, rh Mr Andrew

Smith, Angela

Smith, Miss Chloe

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Smith, Nick

Smith, Owen

Smith, Sir Robert

Soames, rh Nicholas

Soubry, Anna

Spellar, rh Mr John

Spelman, rh Mrs Caroline

Spencer, Mr Mark

Stanley, rh Sir John

Stephenson, Andrew

Stewart, Bob

Stewart, Iain

Stewart, Rory

Streeter, Mr Gary

Stride, Mel

Stringer, Graham

Stuart, Ms Gisela

Stunell, rh Andrew

Sturdy, Julian

Swales, Ian

Swayne, rh Mr Desmond

Swinson, Jo

Swire, rh Mr Hugo

Syms, Mr Robert

Tami, Mark

Teather, Sarah

Thomas, Mr Gareth

Thornberry, Emily

Thornton, Mike

Thurso, John

Timms, rh Stephen

Timpson, Mr Edward

Tomlinson, Justin

Tredinnick, David

Trickett, Jon

Truss, Elizabeth

Twigg, Derek

Twigg, Stephen

Tyrie, Mr Andrew

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Uppal, Paul

Vaizey, Mr Edward

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vaz, rh Keith

Vaz, Valerie

Vickers, Martin

Walker, Mr Robin

Wallace, Mr Ben

Walley, Joan

Walter, Mr Robert

Ward, Mr David

Watkinson, Dame Angela

Watts, Mr Dave

Webb, Steve

Wharton, James

Wheeler, Heather

White, Chris

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Whittaker, Craig

Whittingdale, Mr John

Wiggin, Bill

Willetts, rh Mr David

Williams, Mr Mark

Williams, Roger

Williams, Stephen

Williamson, Chris

Williamson, Gavin

Wilson, Phil

Wilson, Mr Rob

Winterton, rh Ms Rosie

Woodward, rh Mr Shaun

Wright, David

Wright, Mr Iain

Wright, Jeremy

Yeo, Mr Tim

Young, rh Sir George

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Noes:

Mark Hunter


Joseph Johnson

Question accordingly negatived.

18 Mar 2013 : Column 693

18 Mar 2013 : Column 694

18 Mar 2013 : Column 695

18 Mar 2013 : Column 696

Main Question put and agreed to.

18 Mar 2013 : Column 697

Crime and Courts Bill [Lords]

[2nd( )Allocated Day]

Further consideration of Bill, as amended in the Public Bill Committee

New Clause 21A

Awards of exemplary damages

‘(1) This section applies where—

(a) a relevant claim is made against a person (“the defendant”),

(b) the defendant was a relevant publisher at the material time,

(c) the claim is related to the publication of news-related material, and

(d) the defendant is found liable in respect of the claim.

(2) Exemplary damages may not be awarded against the defendant in respect of the claim if the defendant was a member of an approved regulator at the material time.

(3) But the court may disregard subsection (2) if—

(a) the approved regulator imposed a penalty on the defendant in respect of the defendant’s conduct or decided not to do so,

(b) the court considers, in light of the information available to the approved regulator when imposing the penalty or deciding not to impose one, that the regulator was manifestly irrational in imposing the penalty or deciding not to impose one, and

(c) the court is satisfied that, but for subsection (2), it would have made an award of exemplary damages under this section against the defendant.

(4) Where the court is not prevented from making an award of exemplary damages by subsection (2) (whether because that subsection does not apply or the court is permitted to disregard that subsection as a result of subsection (3)), the court—

(a) may make an award of exemplary damages if it considers it appropriate to do so in all the circumstances of the case, but

(b) may do so only under this section.

(5) Exemplary damages may be awarded under this section only if they are claimed.

(6) Exemplary damages may be awarded under this section only if the court is

satisfied that—

(a) the defendant’s conduct has shown a deliberate or reckless disregard of an outrageous nature for the claimant's rights,

(b) the conduct is such that the court should punish the defendant for it, and

(c) other remedies would not be adequate to punish that conduct.

(7) Exemplary damages may be awarded under this section whether or not another remedy is granted.

(8) The decision on the question of—

(a) whether exemplary damages are to be awarded under this section, or

(b) the amount of such damages, must not be left to a jury.’.—(Maria Miller.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

8.22 pm

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Maria Miller): I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

18 Mar 2013 : Column 698

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans): With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Government new clause 22—Relevant considerations.

Government new clause 23—Amount of exemplary damages.

Government new clause 24—Multiple claimants.

Government new clause 25—Multiple defendants.

Government new clause 26—Awards of aggravated damages.

Government new clause 27A—Awards of costs.

Government new clause 29—Meaning of “relevant publisher”.

Government new clause 30—Other interpretative provisions.

Government new schedule 5—‘Exclusions from definition of “relevant publisher”.

Government amendments 121A and 122.

Maria Miller: The Leveson inquiry shone a spotlight on the worst excesses of the press. As a result of the revelations involving the hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone and all that went before it, we have seen the closure of a national newspaper and a range of ongoing criminal investigations.

Lord Justice Leveson heard evidence for more than a year. I should like to pause for a second to pay tribute—[Interruption.]

Mr Deputy Speaker: Order. Please will Members leaving the Chamber do so quietly? I am finding it very difficult to hear what the Minister is saying.

Maria Miller: Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker.

I should like to pay tribute to those who gave evidence that involved them revisiting those harrowing experiences. I hope it will be clear today that that ordeal has not been in vain.

Today marks a turning point. We can move on from simply talking about Lord Justice Leveson’s report to starting to act on it, with a new package that is agreed by all three party leaders. The package includes a new royal charter, as announced by the Prime Minister earlier; a new costs and damages package that seeks to maximise incentives for relevant publishers to be part of the new press self-regulator; and one short clause reinforcing the point that politicians cannot tamper with the new press royal charter, which is the subject of debate in the other place.

Before I discuss the Bill, I should like to make clear what we are not talking about. The Prime Minister said to the House on the day the report was published that he had serious misgivings about statutory press regulation. He—I agreed with him—was determined to find a better way of establishing the recognition body that would oversee the tough self-regulatory body that Lord Justice Leveson envisaged. That is what our royal charter does.

Our proposals will provide the toughest system of regulation that this country has ever seen. The system will protect the public and ensure that the freedom of the press is not undermined. Alongside our proposals, we will include a three-line clause that reinforces the language within the charter and says that it cannot be

18 Mar 2013 : Column 699

changed without a two-thirds majority in both Houses. The clause ensures that, for generations to come, Ministers cannot interfere with the new system without explicit and extensive support from both Houses.

We have achieved all of that without needing to set out a system of press regulation in legislation—hence, our proposals are not statutory underpinning. The three-line clause applies to all royal charters of a particular nature from this point onwards. It is simply a safeguard.

We are in the House to debate amendments that will put in place a new, tough set of incentives for publishers. There are two such incentives—the first relates to the award of exemplary damages, and the second relates to the award of costs in litigation involving relevant publishers. The package forms a crucial part of the new regulatory regime, providing strong new incentives to relevant press publishers to join the press regulator. When they choose to join the press regulator, they will receive a series of benefits on costs and damages. However, those that choose not to join the regulator will be exposed to the tough new regime, which includes payment, in most cases, of the costs of people who bring claims in the courts against publishers on civil media laws, regardless of whether those people win or lose; and exposure to a new exemplary damages regime—we are introducing a new punitive damages regime for breaches of those media laws for those who do not sign up to the regulator.

Victims of press mistreatment will, for the first time, have access to a new toughened complaints mechanism with prominent apologies, tough £1 million fines, and access to a new arbitration system.

Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab): The Secretary of State gives us the welcome news that this is the toughest regulatory system in the UK, but will the system impose on newspapers the duty of political balance that is imposed by the royal charter on the BBC and ITV?

Maria Miller: The hon. Gentleman knows that we are trying exactly to protect freedom of speech, so that newspapers have the ability to comment on proceedings in this place and more widely. We are protecting that important ability and maintaining and promoting freedom of speech.

Jacob Rees-Mogg (North East Somerset) (Con): I want to clarify schedule 4 of the royal charter, which states that a “relevant publisher” is

“a newspaper or magazine containing news-related material”.

Does that include, for example, newspapers published by local Conservative associations? Might we therefore have to register?

Maria Miller: My hon. Friend is slightly jumping the gun—we will come to that in more detail later—but I can give him a sneak preview of the answer, which is no. Clear tests included in new clause 29 make it clear that such publications will not be covered.

8.30 pm

The first group of amendments relates to exemplary damages. It will perhaps be helpful to the House to explain their effect. Exemplary damages are already available, as I am sure hon. Members know, under common law. They are, however, very rare, and reserved

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for the most serious cases. They are designed to punish only where there is no alternative. That general position will not change, but the new scheme will change the position for relevant publishers in certain types of cases relating to the media, namely: defamation, misuse of private information, breach of confidence and harassment. They would give effect to the recommendation in Lord Justice Leveson’s report that exemplary damages should be put on a statutory footing for media cases, with the aim of incentivising publishers to join the regulator.

New clause 21A incentivises publishers to join the regulator by making it clear that a court may contemplate awarding exemplary damages only in cases where a publisher has not joined the regulator, with very limited exceptions, on the basis that a publisher joining the regulator will already face the prospect of regulatory fines of up to £1 million, as set out in the royal charter. This approach, therefore, is designed to incentivise publishers to join the regulator by offering them protection from the award of exemplary damages. However, the clause also provides that if a court feels that a regulated publisher has acted in a way that would lead the court to award exemplary damages but for their membership of the regulator, and that the regulator has acted “manifestly irrationally” in its approach to sanctioning that conduct, then the courts may, in exceptional circumstances, make an award of exemplary damages in that case.

Sir Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD): Will the right hon. Lady confirm that the legislation has been driven by the behaviour of certain national newspapers, and that our local newspapers and provincial press have not been responsible, but will have to pay for the sins of Fleet street?

Maria Miller: I understand the sentiment behind my hon. Friend’s question. I can reassure him that we have been working directly with representatives of the local press to ensure that the new system does not, as he suggests, burden them unnecessarily. Perhaps the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman) will remark on that further; I will do so in my comments later.

Exemplary damages will be awarded only in the most serious cases, in line with both the Leveson report and the report of the 1997 Law Commission. The test for the award will be: where the defendant’s conduct has shown a deliberate or reckless disregard of an outrageous nature for the claimant’s rights; where conduct is such that the court should punish the defendant for it; and where other remedies would not be adequate to punish that conduct. The supplementary new clauses ensure that the new exemplary damages system works in practice.

New clause 22 sets out factors that the court must take into account in deciding whether an award of exemplary damages is appropriate, and whether membership of an improved regulator was available to the defendant at the time of the events giving rise to the claims. If so, what reasons the defendant had for not being a member are factors that can be considered. The court must also have regard, so far as it is relevant, to whether the defendant has internal compliance procedures of a satisfactory nature in place and how they are adhered to.

Sir Edward Garnier (Harborough) (Con): I wonder whether my right hon. Friend could provide me with some clarification. She says that the exemplary damages

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regime will apply as per the new clauses and so on. One of the exclusions from the definition of a “relevant publisher”, which she will find in new schedule 5, is:

“A person who publishes a title that relates to a particular pastime, hobby, trade, business, industry or profession”.

Maybe the “hobby” relates to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset (Jacob Rees-Mogg). What is the position of an irrelevant publisher, if I can describe him as that, who publishes a magazine or some other publication about a pastime, hobby or trade, but who none the less behaves within the terms of Rookes v. Barnard? Would the court still be able to award exemplary damages in that circumstance?

Maria Miller: My hon. and learned Friend raises an issue in which he is well versed. If I do not provide a complete answer, then I will get back to him with all the details. Clearly, if somebody is not a relevant publisher then they are not drawn into the self-regulatory scheme. They would not be subject to exemplary damages or be eligible for the scheme. Therefore, they would not be caught within this remit. We have so drawn the definition of “relevant publishers” to ensure that the scheme does not catch people we do not need to catch, and that is why we have been careful to set out the three tests in new clause 29—to ensure that we are clear about who is covered. Some individual organisations might well fall close to the line, but then it would be for the courts to decide.

New clause 23 sets out matters to which the court must have regard in deciding the amount of exemplary damages appropriate, and the key principles governing the court’s consideration are that the amount should be no more

“than the minimum needed to punish the defendant for the conduct complained of”

and that it should be “proportionate”. New clauses 24 and 25 ensure that those provisions will operate effectively in cases involving more than one claimant or defendant.

For completeness, I shall also mention new clause 26 and amendment 121A. New clause 26 implements recommendation 71 in Lord Justice Leveson’s report and confirms that, in cases under the new system, aggravated damages should be awarded only to compensate for mental distress and should have no punitive element. Amendment 121A provides that the provisions on exemplary damages come into force one year after the date on which the body is established by royal charter. That will be a powerful incentive to the press to establish the new regulator on a timely basis. For all their rarity, the availability of exemplary damages should send a powerful signal to publishers.

I turn to the provisions relating to costs in new clause 27A. The proposals are designed to give further real and powerful incentives and give effect to Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendation that the award of costs should be another tool to encourage publishers to join the regulator. The new clause would provide a clear presumption that where a claimant took a publisher inside the regulator to court, even if the claimant was successful, the normal rule that their costs would be met by a losing publisher would not apply. In other words, a defendant publisher that had joined the regulator should pay a claimant’s costs only in limited circumstances—if

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the issue could have been resolved at arbitration, had the defendant agreed to its being referred, or if it was just and equitable for the defendant to pay the claimant’s costs.

Guy Opperman (Hexham) (Con): The fundamental problem is not necessarily the costs paid at the end of the case, but the costs of a litigant’s bringing an action against a publisher. I and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Harborough (Sir Edward Garnier) have represented many individuals who would have struggled to bring such actions without protections. Will the Secretary of State advise the House of what protections are in place, and may I highly recommend the protective costs order regime that provides protection to an impoverished, but justified, litigant as against a very wealthy publisher?

Maria Miller: My hon. Friend pre-empts something that I will cover in more detail later. I will not only deal with the cost regime, but explain that to comply with Leveson the new self-regulatory regime will include free arbitration, so giving those individuals the access to justice that he rightly says they should have.

New clause 27A establishes a second presumption—that a relevant publisher that chooses to stay outside the regulator would generally have costs awarded against it in proceedings for media tort, whether or not the claim is successful. In other words, a defendant publisher that does not join the regulator should always pay the claimant’s costs, unless the issue could not have been resolved at arbitration if the publisher had been a member of a regulator, or unless it were just and equitable for the defendant publisher not to pay those costs. These provisions deal with defendants and the costs they should or should not pay to claimants. The issue of claimants and the costs they might have to pay to defendants is also important and is addressed in subsection (5).

Lord Justice Leveson endorsed Lord Justice Jackson’s recommendation that qualified one-way cost shifting should be introduced for defamation and privacy cases. QOCS is a form of cost protection. The Government accepted that recommendation, and we have asked the Civil Justice Council, chaired by the Master of the Rolls, to make recommendations by the end of this month on appropriate cost protection measures to be introduced for defamation and privacy cases. The Government then expect to introduce a cost protection regime through the civil procedure rules.

Let us be clear: the new provisions on the awarding of costs, coupled with the provisions I have set out on exemplary damages, provide a powerful incentive to join the regulator and for disputes to be resolved through arbitration that meets the standards set out in the royal charter. Those defined as a “relevant publisher” for the purposes of the new legislation will, if they choose to sit outside the regulator, be exposed to the full force of the new exemplary damages and costs provisions. We want to ensure that the new provisions act as a powerful incentive—as I am sure you can hear me say, Mr Deputy Speaker—but we do not want to draw in too broad a range of publishers.

Mark Reckless (Rochester and Strood) (Con): Is it not the case that the incentives are so powerful—with the exemplary damages and the requirement to pay the

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other side’s costs, even if their claim may be very poor —that, in essence, we are almost forcing the press into joining the new regulator and being subject to the regulation framework determined by Ministers through the Privy Council?

Maria Miller: I gently remind my hon. Friend that the criteria used in reaching judgments will not be determined by Ministers, as he will know from the earlier debate. The reason we are establishing a royal charter is exactly so that all this is put very much at arm’s length from Ministers. I suggest to him that every publisher has a choice it can weigh up. Publishers can come inside the self-regulatory process and get the support of the regime for exemplary damages and costs, or they can choose to stay outside. That was absolutely the essence of Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendation not to have compulsion, and that is why the Prime Minister and I were so against taking a statutory approach—because we did not feel the press would want to take part in such a regime, which would be a fundamental weakness in the system.

Mark Reckless: But is it not the case that Ministers, albeit with senior members of the Opposition, have agreed the royal charter on Privy Council terms—in some ways that is worse than statutory regulation, because MPs have had no opportunity to debate it on behalf of our constituents—and that in many cases the only choice the media face will be whether to join or be bankrupted?

Maria Miller: I would say to my hon. Friend that when I have heard people talk about the approach they want the Government to take, they say that they want regulation of the press to be very much at arm’s length from politicians. What we are talking about is a self-regulatory body for the press, set up by the press. The royal charter is a verification panel that will ensure that the press is doing what it should do. It will not be under the eyes of Ministers; it will be independent. However, I urge him to look at the detail of the charter so that he does not take just my word for it, but sees it written down in black and white.

Guy Opperman: Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Maria Miller: There are lots of people who want to take part in the debate on these amendments, so if my hon. Friend lets me make a little progress, perhaps he can intervene on me a little later.

In new clause 29 we set out a definition of “relevant publisher” that captures national newspapers and their online editions, local and regional newspapers and their online editions, and online-only edited press-like content providers, as well as gossip and lifestyle magazines. Exemplary damages and costs are designed to catch larger news publishers—those at the centre of the circumstances giving rise to Leveson. As highlighted by my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Sir Bob Russell), who is no longer in his place, many of those are not necessarily the smaller publications.

8.45 pm

The new provisions will act as the key incentive for joining the new press regulator. However, our new clause is also designed to protect people who are not intended

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to be covered by the new regulator. Three interlocking tests will apply in that regard. They ask whether the publication is publishing news-related material in the course of a business, whether its material is written by a range of authors and whether that material is subject to editorial control. This provision aims to protect small-scale bloggers and the like. Together with new schedule 5, it will ensure that the publishers of special interest, hobby and trade titles such as the

Angling Times

and the wine magazine


are not caught in the regime. Student and not-for-profit community newspapers such as the one mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset (Jacob Rees-Mogg) will not be caught, and scientific journals, periodicals and book publishers will also be left outside the definition and therefore not exposed to the exemplary damages and costs regime.

Jacob Rees-Mogg: We in this corner of the Chamber have been discussing definitions and wondering which magazines would count as hobby magazines. How, for example, would my right hon. Friend define Hello! magazine? It is surely not a newspaper, given that it indulges in the publication of gossip and celebrity pictures. Would it be covered, or would it be exempt, and who will decide where the line is to be drawn?

Maria Miller: My hon. Friend tempts me to repeat what I have just said, but perhaps he should read Hansard or the Bill instead.

New clause 29 describes in great detail who will be caught by the definition of “relevant publisher”. The publisher would have to meet the three tests of whether the publication is publishing news-related material in the course of a business, whether their material is written by a range of authors—this would exclude a one-man band or a single blogger—and whether that material is subject to editorial control. This is specifically designed to protect small-scale bloggers. Lone bloggers clearly do not meet those criteria. I hope that that clarifies that point.

Mr Richard Bacon (South Norfolk) (Con): One could easily envisage a railway enthusiasts’ magazine which had a range of authors whose material was subject to editorial control but which many people would nevertheless consider to be a hobby magazine. It would fall outside the regime because it was aimed solely at enthusiasts. What would happen, however, if such a magazine were to get hold of some information, perhaps confidential information, about High Speed 2? Would it then be caught by the regime? Does my right hon. Friend not see the path that she is going down?

Maria Miller: We have clearly set out the direction that we are going in, and it is there in the information for my hon. Friend to read. Ultimately, the court will decide whether any particular issues fall near the line. If a publication is concerned about whether it would be caught by the new regime, it can of course seek legal advice, but we have done a great deal to make this clear to individual publications. I am sorry—I did not make it clear to my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset whether Hello! magazine would be caught by the provisions. Yes, it will be. People tell me that it is a gossip magazine. I am not a regular purchaser of it.

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Mark Durkan (Foyle) (SDLP): The Minister mentioned publications that would not fall into the category of “relevant publisher”. If a publication posing as a constituency newsletter—perhaps with a title like Target Marginal South—were to make a serious allegation against someone in another party, what would happen if a relevant publisher were to pick up the story and publish it? Where would they stand if they published a controversial story that had originally been published by a non-relevant publisher?

Maria Miller: I am sure that the hon. Gentleman knows that such instances already arise and that they are covered by the normal laws of libel. That would continue to be the case because those organisations would not be deemed to be relevant publishers. The normal laws would therefore be in play. Hopefully, that provides him with some clarification.

In conclusion, getting the balance of incentives right is clearly important, as it was really important in the Leveson report. We are, I believe, striking a balance through these amendments that will present a tough new system of press regulation, but equally one that does not compromise the freedom of the press or investigative journalism. We are all clear that investigative journalism and freedom of the press should be given paramount importance in the process. Throughout cross-party talks, we agreed a set of proposals that will create a tough new system of self-regulation.

I believe the package put in front of us all today provides real incentives with real effect. It embodies a crucial part of Lord Justice Leveson’s proposals and part of the tough new regime for press regulation. These amendments have been put forward with cross-party support, so I commend them to the House.

Ms Harriet Harman (Camberwell and Peckham) (Lab): I rise to support the Government new clauses in the group and the manuscript new clauses standing in the name of the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. The manuscript new clauses arise out of the cross-party talks, into which I thank the Secretary of State for inviting us. That explains why hon. Members have not, I am afraid, had much time to look at them. We all want to be sure that hon. Members have the opportunity to scrutinise provisions in advance, but because we worked late into the night in attempting to agree them, they have been brought before the House with inadequate notice. I offer my apologies for that.

I hope to add to the points made by the Secretary of State, with which I greatly agree. Also, because hon. Members have not had much chance to look at the manuscript amendments and consider what they mean, I shall try to explain my understanding of how they sit with the new framework set out in the royal charter.

As the Secretary of State has said, the choice Leveson made was not to impose direct regulation on newspapers as a complaints system, but to invite them instead to set up their own regulation system and to encourage subscribers to it, not only because it is a good idea as the framework is fair and reasonable, but because incentives and disincentives have been provided. That, of course, leaves the choice to them—the point of incentives and disincentives is that they incentivise and disincentivise—but encourages them to go into the new regime.

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It is also crucial—this is a major change—that a new arbitration system is being set up. Over the years, people have wrung their hands about how inaccessible the courts are to people who have been defamed, while newspapers have wrung their hands about being tied up for ages with the enormous costs that can arise if some oligarch takes a newspaper to court. Importantly, therefore, arising from the Leveson report is not just a new complaints system but a new arbitration system. Media torts, defamation and privacy claims that would otherwise have gone to court will instead go into the arbitration system. The manuscript new clauses on cost will incentivise not only newspapers but individual complainants to go into an arbitration system and not straight to court. There is an incentive for a complainant who wants to bring an action against a newspaper that is a member of a regulatory body to agree to arbitration, which will be available to members of the body and which will be run inexpensively. A complainant who does not want to go to arbitration, who says “I will take my chances in court” and who then wins the case will not win the costs, and costs may be awarded against that complainant. Arbitration will involve no cost to complainants, and they will benefit from a top-rate, legally kosher procedure without having to go to court.

Guy Opperman rose—

Ms Harman: If the hon. Gentleman is going to ask me a difficult, complicated question, I can tell him the answer. It is “The Secretary of State will respond on my behalf.” However, he is welcome to ask the question anyway.

Guy Opperman: I am delighted to observe that the Labour party studied the legislation in such detail before presenting it.

I should probably declare that I am a qualified mediator and arbitrator. Under the current system, people involved in arbitration can appeal against the process if they are not happy with it, and the litigation can begin anew. Would that arrangement continue, and how would an individual litigant defamed by a newspaper or any other publication bring an action, given that—contrary to what the right hon. and learned Lady has just said—the costs of arbitration are very high?

Ms Harman: The royal charter requires the regulator to provide for an inexpensively run arbitration service which will impose no costs on complainants. As the hon. Gentleman will know, things can happen further along the chain after arbitration has been agreed to, but the essence of arbitration is that both sides embark on it agreeing that the arbitrator will settle the issue.

I think that this will be a great step forward, because it will deal with the problem of inaccessibility. Most people who are defamed, or whose privacy has been invaded in what is termed a media tort, would never dream of being able to go to court, although many lawyers are prepared to act on the basis of conditional fee arrangements. A free-to-use arbitration service is therefore an important component of the Leveson package contained in the royal charter. It is good news for claimants, but it also means that newspapers will be well and truly incentivised not to remain outside the regulatory body. If they are not in the regulatory body and arbitration

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is therefore not available to those who may complain about them, it is possible that when the case goes to court, costs will be awarded against them even if they win.

Sir Edward Garnier rose—

Ms Harman: That is how we understand that the system will work. May I invite the hon. and learned Member for Harborough (Sir Edward Garnier) to answer his question at the same time as asking it? I suspect that he thinks he knows the answer better than I do. He does not, but he probably thinks he does.

Sir Edward Garnier: What a charming way of allowing an intervention! I should have thought that a fellow member of the former Solicitor-Generals’ club would be a little more polite to me. I shall have to take our dispute to arbitration as soon as possible.

There is no doubt that the proposal presented by the Government, and agreed to by the Opposition, to encourage people to become members of the regulatory body and to make use of an arbitration scheme has its attractions, but I think that the right hon. and learned Lady and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State should be careful not to be seduced into thinking that arbitration equals no expense, no time, and simplicity. The sorts of cases that go to arbitration can be just as complicated as those which go to court and the expense involved in a fully tuned-up arbitration is no less than that of a piece of litigation. So this is a jolly good idea and let us all say how wonderful it is, but let us not seduce ourselves into thinking that arbitration is some magic answer, because there will be plenty of cases where the interlocutory procedures will be far too complicated for speedy mediation or arbitration under the regulatory scheme.

9 pm

Ms Harman: I am well aware that many arbitration cases are incredibly complex—for example, those in the construction industry. However, one thing that the recogniser established under the royal charter is charged to do is to see that the regulator, which is coming forward to seek recognition, has an inexpensive arbitration system. Obviously, it is not automatic that an arbitration system will be inexpensive—it could be very expensive—but the regulator, seeking recognition, has an opportunity to put forward a brand new system that starts off by trying to be as inexpensive as possible; it is free of cost for the complainant but there are the costs of running it. I apologise for my slightly waspish response to the hon. and learned Gentleman’s intervention; I must have been trying to get my defence in first.

That deals with the point about arbitration and costs, and I now wish to deal with the issue of exemplary damages. Obviously, the bar for those is set very high and they are rarely awarded. As hon. Members will know, they occur where the court wants not only to quantify the compensation for the claimant’s suffering and loss—mental, physical and financial—but to teach the defendant a lesson. Sometimes called punitive damages, exemplary damages are awarded to make an example; they are like a public policy intervention that gives a good bonus to the claimant, because the court wants to teach the defendant a lesson and so imposes extra damages.

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New clause 21A sets the bar for exemplary damages very high, as it provides that the “defendant’s conduct” must have

“shown a deliberate or reckless disregard of an outrageous nature for the claimant’s rights”.

In addition, the conduct must have been

“such that the court should punish the defendant for it”.

We know what we are dealing with here—very extreme conduct.

Mr John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): We are being asked to legislate for exemplary damages here in this House, so does that mean that this really is a statutory system and that the right hon. and learned Lady won?

Ms Harman: No, because there is no statute that says, “We are setting up a system and we are passing a law to make all the newspapers be in it.” The newspapers have a choice as to whether or not they enter the system. However, the point is that we are incentivising them to enter it and disincentivising them from staying outside. They could make a judgment that they want to stay outside. They could decide that they do not want to go to arbitration and that they will take their chances with the court. They might decide that they will be so careful that they will never commit a media tort, and even if they did, that they would never get anywhere near the “outrageous” behaviour that would justify exemplary damages and so would not need to worry about that. I hope that they will not take the view. I hope they will think that, even if they are not behaving outrageously, they would want to shelter themselves from the prospect of exemplary damages. I hope that they will go into the system willingly. Exemplary damages will still be available to the courts to award against people who are in the regulator, but it is more or less a presumption that those people will not be in it. That is a major disincentive.

Mel Stride (Central Devon) (Con): There is clearly a very strong disincentive to go into the scheme for those who might qualify, but there is a grey area about which publications should fall within the scope of the scheme. Would it be possible under these arrangements for those publications that might not be sure to establish whether they should or could qualify for the scheme?

Ms Harman: Any publication could apply to be a member of a regulator. It would find out whether it came within the purview of that regulator, as the regulator might reply saying, “Sorry, we don’t regulate you.”

Exemplary damages simply give newspapers another incentive to join the regulator. The court is left with the opportunity to award exemplary damages, only in much narrower circumstances. I hope that all the newspapers—including those that did not agree with the setting up of the Leveson inquiry, with how Lord Leveson took evidence or with his report—will propose regulators and join them now that the report has been published and all parties have agreed that we should have the royal charter and the accompanying bits of statute. I am sure that the Secretary of State, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Prime Minister will want to do everything they can to say to the press, as the Prime Minister said in today’s debate, that it is impossible for the newspapers to hold the powerful to account if they are abusing their own power. A good complaints system, which is respected

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and has public confidence, is a good thing in principle, so it is important that the newspapers step forward and join the regulator.

After Leveson reported, he said that the ball was now in the politicians’ court. He asked us all to work together to agree and we did. Now, the ball is in the press’s court and I hope that they will rise to that challenge.

Mr Bacon: I am listening to the right hon. and learned Lady with interest, although she reminds me of George Orwell’s comment about the sort of people who play with fire without knowing that fire is hot. That comment is directed at those on both Front Benches, including my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, who is a very old friend. They have no idea what they are playing with—no idea. Does the right hon. and learned Lady not understand that one person’s outrageous behaviour is another person’s sensible and moderate behaviour? Does she not understand that after Lord Hutton issued his whitewash report, some of those who criticised it were accused of acting outrageously?

Ms Harman: We are not talking about any old person’s view of deliberate or reckless disregard or conduct of an outrageous nature. We are not talking about my view of what might constitute deliberate or reckless disregard or conduct of an outrageous nature, or even the view of the Secretary of State. We are talking about the judge’s view—not any old person but a judicial personage—

Mr Bacon: Lord Hutton was a judge.

Ms Harman: The hon. Gentleman needs to calm down and relax. We are giving the courts an opportunity to exercise their judgment so that when something is so outrageous that they do not think that the normal quantum of damages assessed on what has been suffered is enough, they can add to it. It is right that that should apply to media torts.

As I have said, Lord Justice Leveson urged us all to work together and we have. The Secretary of State invited us to cross-party talks and I thank Lord Wallace, who was the Liberal Democrat there. It just goes to show that one should not believe what one reads in the newspapers. I had read a lot about the Minister for Government Policy, the right hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr Letwin),in the newspapers and thought he was an absent-minded professor type who was absolutely ditsy. I had read it in the newspapers, so I thought it must be true—[Interruption.] He is now in the Chamber. I discovered that it was not at all like that, and that he was very intelligent and purposeful. He played a key part in reaching this agreement, which is very important indeed.

We were ably assisted by a number of the Culture Secretary’s Conservative colleagues. I do not want to do what my right hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr Bradshaw) did and blight their reputations, but we found it incredibly helpful to be joined at our very long meetings—we had one meeting that lasted seven hours—by the hon. Members for Camborne and Redruth (George Eustice), for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi), for South Swindon (Mr Buckland) and for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith) and the right hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Simon Hughes).

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We tried to work on a cross-party basis because what the press have always done in the past is divide and rule. They have always sought to play one party off against another. We have to win elections, so having the press shining a light on us and saying how great we are is very tempting. It is hard to win the support of the voters. If we have the backing of the press, it seems much easier, especially if they are slagging off our opponents. That is what the press have always relied on—that we have never worked together to put a proper complaints system in place, but have allowed the press to divide us and rule.

Sir Bob Russell: Would the right hon. and learned Lady like to clarify that? Will she make it clear that when she refers to the press, she is referring to elements of the national press, not the local or the provincial press? They have got caught up in this, and they are not responsible.

Ms Harman: The Leader of the Opposition, the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister all acknowledged that successive Governments have not taken action to put in place a proper, sensible, reasonable complaints system, not because of the regional or local press, but because of the power of the national press, particularly the monopolistic power of the national press. We will have to move on to the question of monopolistic ownership, but not now because we are exhausted. However, the regional and local press have nothing to fear from having good standards and having a complaints system. One of the reasons why we worked to narrow the arbitration system was the great fears of the regional and local press. We know that they are facing very tough times so we do not want to do anything to make matters more difficult for them.

I agree with the hon. Member for South Dorset (Richard Drax), who is no longer in his place. He said there was something uncomfortable about dealing with matters behind closed doors. The royal charter is an agreement that is not subject to scrutiny. It does not go before a Committee or to the House of Lords. It drifts by in a flash, then it is up to the Privy Council. However, we cannot have it both ways. We can have Parliament crawling over legislation that applies to the press, which makes the press feel very uncomfortable and makes the Prime Minister apparently feel neuralgic. I do not have the same sensitivities, but apparently the Government do. We can avoid that through the royal charter process, in which case there is no parliamentary scrutiny. We cannot have both, and the choice has been to have a royal charter and a self-regulatory system, without parliamentary scrutiny of it, beyond the discussion that we have had.

In that respect, I shall mention one issue which is not the subject of the amendments but which comes into the question of the charter. I refer to conscience clauses for journalists. Many journalists gave evidence to Leveson and said, “We knew that we were being asked to do things that were in breach of the code and we wanted not to do them, but we feared that we would be sacked if we said, ‘We won’t do this.’” Journalists talked of being asked to do outrageous things but because it is so difficult, and fearing that if they lost their job they would never get another, they never dared speak up.Lord Justice Leveson proposed that the industry and the

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regulatory body should consider encouraging conscience clauses in journalists’ contracts. The relevant new clause has not been selected, so I will not mention it because that would be out of order. However, in schedule 2, on page 13 of the charter, which hon. Members have had scant opportunity to look at, there is what the Foreign Office calls a brush past. Basically, this is mentioned in paragraph 4.

9.15 pm

I hope that we will see people getting cheaper arbitration. I hope that fewer people will need to go to arbitration because of media torts. I hope that the higher levels of accountability will make the newspapers more careful—not to chill freedom of speech, but just to respect the civil law and their own code of conduct. I hope that there will be higher standards so that we do not have masses of apologies all over the front pages, because they will have thought before they write a story : is it accurate, is it fair, is it truthful? That will be better for the readers as well as those who write the story. We are not at the end of the process, but at the beginning. I hope we will continue to work together to protect the freedom of the press, recognising that we can have a free press but also protect those who have suffered horribly from abuse.

I finish on the question of Hacked Off, because people have accused the Labour party of being its political wing. I would say that they should think for a moment about what it must be like to suffer the disappearance of one’s child, as happened to Milly Dowler’s family and the McCanns. Those people had never had any exposure to or relationship with newspapers, but found that they were dealing not only with the most horrific personal tragedy but that their lives were turned upside down by the newspapers. People should think about the absolute sense of grief and the inability of every family member to deal with what was happening.

By bringing together the victims of this awful press abuse, Hacked Off enabled them to support each other, to be in a network with other people who had some sense of what they had gone through. It enabled them to move from being just victims to people who were able to speak at the Leveson inquiry, which took the most enormous courage. If the thing that one wants most of all is not to be in the newspapers, stepping forward into the spotlight and giving evidence at such an inquiry was an incredibly brave thing for the Dowlers, the McCanns and the Watsons to have done and, indeed, for people such as J.K. Rowling and Charlotte Church. Hacked Off enabled them to be not just victims, trying to cope with their lives, but agents for change, to improve public policy. As the Leader of the Opposition said, I do not think we would be here today if they had not had that courage and bravery. Hacked Off helped them play that role, so I make no apology for our relationship with Hacked Off, and I pay tribute to the work that it has done.

Sir Edward Garnier: I thank the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, my right hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Maria Miller), and the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman) for introducing this section of the debate. It is clear that Members on both sides of the Chamber have worked extremely hard to bring the matter to a head. As I said in the debate opened earlier by the

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Prime Minister, everyone must be congratulated, but we must not oversell it or exaggerate the claims for the solution that may have been found.

I was interested in looking at some of the new clauses and new schedules to see that the statutory framework that seems to have been set down for the Crime and Courts Bill makes some changes to the law, but only up to a point. If one looks at new clause 21A, provision is made for the award of exemplary damages unless the defendant was a relevant publisher. But that is cancelled because the court can disregard subsection (2), and that is cancelled because under subsection (4) the court is not prevented from making an award of exemplary damages for other reasons. It rather disappears up its own grammar—I was about to use a rather unparliamentary term. We might need at some stage to reconsider the English used in the new clause if it is to be understood by the people we wish it to attract.

The other point we ought to think about—something my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Guy Opperman) and I were discussing only a moment ago—is that we must be careful not to set up two regimes for exemplary damages. There already exists a common law regime for exemplary or punitive damages. Broadly, it is available where a state actor has behaved in an unconstitutional or high-handed fashion, for example when the police or the Prison Service grossly misbehaves in relation to someone in custody. That example is perfectly easy to describe: the court will award punitive and exemplary damages to mark society’s disapproval of the behaviour of that arm of the state.

Guy Opperman: Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that there appears to be, in effect, almost a mirror image of the common law system of exemplary damages? Under the present system, which he rightly describes, for an unlawful arrest involving a police officer verballing an innocent defendant, for example, a judge would give exemplary damages. Surely that would be mirrored in exactly the same way in the provisions proposed in the new clause. All that might be good, but surely those provisions would apply on an ongoing basis in any event. Does he agree that the concern is that the provision on exemplary damages does not necessarily change the common law?

Sir Edward Garnier: I think that I largely agree with my hon. Friend. The first limb relates to unconstitutional state behaviour, which he described and I mentioned, but the second limb relates to situations in which, under the common law, the defendant has calculated that the gain he could make from the civil wrong he commits will lead to greater profit for him than any potential damages he might have to pay as compensation to the wronged person. The court can recognise that by punishing the defendant, and deterring others from doing the same thing, through the separate and additional award of exemplary damages. Those two limbs of the exemplary damages regime are well described in the 1964 case of Rookes v. Barnard, but I will bore the House no further on that.

What we are creating is a regime that will be similar to the common law regime but not exactly the same and that will be limited to “relevant publishers”. We need to think carefully about whether we are setting up two systems that are close, but not quite parallel, for securing

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exemplary damages. While we are legislating to adjust exemplary damages for the perfectly sensible and understandable motive of encouraging newspaper publishers, or those who will become “relevant publishers”, to enter a scheme under a regulator, I wonder whether we ought to bring together everything relating to exemplary damages under one statutory umbrella. I say that not simply because I think that it would be neater, but also because of what is said in subsection (4) of new clause 30, which defines a relevant claim. It states:

‘“Relevant claim” means a civil claim made in respect of any of the following—

(a) libel;

(b) slander;

(c) breach of confidence;

(d) misuse of private information;

(e) malicious falsehood;

(f) harassment.’

Under the common law, libel, slander and malicious falsehood are already susceptible to punitive and exemplary damages, but as we know from Max Mosley’s case against Mirror Group Newspapers—I will not rehearse the facts of the case—the judge, when asked to award exemplary damages to the claimant in respect of the behaviour of the defendant newspaper, said, “Under the common law I do not think that I can extend the ambit of exemplary damages beyond the categories of libel and slander and so forth to a claim involving a breach of confidence or the misuse of private information.”

In the Bill we are extending by statute what that judge could not do, but we are extending it only to cases involving “relevant publishers”; we are not extending it to what I will crudely call “irrelevant publishers” or individual defendants who might misbehave in such a way that brings them within the regime of either of the two limbs of exemplary damages. I do not want there to be two separate types of exemplary damages. One statutory system should govern the consideration and awarding of exemplary damages, not one and a half or two systems. I urge the Government to consider this when they are thinking about how to take these matters forward. Perhaps having done so they will think that my concerns are of no importance or account, but I raise them nevertheless, admittedly in the light of having seen the document only during the course of this afternoon.

New clause 27A on the award of costs mirrors the arguments about exemplary damages. I entirely understand that the policy behind exemplary damages and the statutory costs regime as described in this set of manuscript amendments is intended to incentivise relevant publishers to come within the regulatory scheme. That is understood and perfectly sensible. However, we are in danger of misleading ourselves if we think that that is going to lead to easy and early resolution of media disputes. A moment ago I had a brief discussion with the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman) on arbitration and so forth. New clause 27A(2) —I will read it, if I may, because it might be helpful—says:

“If the defendant was a member of an approved regulator at the time when the claim was commenced (or was unable to be a member at that time for reasons beyond the defendant’s control or it would have been unreasonable in the circumstances for the defendant to have been a member at that time), the court must

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not award costs against the defendant unless satisfied that…the issues raised by the claim could have been resolved by using an arbitration scheme of the approved regulator, or…it is just and equitable in all the circumstances of the case to award costs against the defendant.”

That involves a bit of saying, “On the one hand but then on the other.” It is not quite clear which is the desired policy because there is a bifurcation.

On the question of whether

“the issues raised by the claim could have been resolved by using an arbitration scheme of the approved regulator”,

we would of course first have to see what that arbitration scheme looked like. Going back to the days of the now-no-longer-regretted Press Complaints Commission, that organisation, because of how it was set up and staffed and how the panels of adjudicators were composed, was wholly incapable of dealing with hugely complicated factual issues or with matters that required quite a nice calculation, or a nice discussion, of matters of law.

One might think that it would be very sensible that if a series of grossly defamatory allegations were made in a front-page article in a tabloid newspaper, or any other newspaper, that would lead to a dispute resolution process of the sort envisaged under this regime. Of course, it has a spurious attraction: “Let’s mediate, let’s settle, and let’s get it all dealt with quickly and cheaply and with the least possible intervention by lawyers.” As a matter of theory, that is a jolly good idea, but disputes come in different shapes and sizes. One can have the simplest possible dispute that does not require evidence or looking at complicated documents. I give the example of the meaning of words. If an article is defamatory on the face of it, a professor of English does not need to come and give a lecture about what this word means or that word means. The judge, if he is the arbiter, or the arbitration panel, can say, “This, in its natural and ordinary meaning, bears the following defamatory meaning”—end of story. Then the defendant, or the respondent to the arbitration, can say, “Okay, I accept what you say and I apologise—I didn’t mean that.” If meaning is the only question that has to be considered, some form of early, non-court dispute resolution, assuming that the panel is competent, would be a perfectly sensible way to do it.

Let us assume, however, that four contended meanings can be derived from the words under discussion. The defendant newspaper, be it a relevant publisher or otherwise, may say, “We don’t think that the words have those two highest meanings, but we do think that they have the two lower, less serious and less defamatory meanings. In so far as those meanings are to be derived from the words, we say they are true and we intend to justify them. We will also go further by saying that those meanings are not only true as a matter of fact, but that, in so far as they comprise or include comment, they are honest comment.” That will require the proposed system’s mediation procedure to go into all sorts of complicated questions with regard to the disclosure of relevant evidence, documents and so on.

9.30 pm

Guy Opperman: My hon. and learned Friend is making a very good case. Does he agree that the PCC was notoriously fallible when resolving large newspaper disputes, but very effective at resolving disputes involving local media and newspapers, which genuinely respected and

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obeyed its procedures? The danger with the new system, which my hon. and learned Friend is outlining eloquently, is that the local paper will be stuck with the same regulatory process, which is clearly meant to be a sledgehammer, as large national newspapers such as

The Sun

and the

Daily Mirror

. I suspect that that will result in the process being more expensive for the smaller paper—

Mr Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman’s intervention is exceptionally lengthy. I know that he has a distinguished record at the bar. If he were being paid by the word he would be greatly enriched, but I trust that he has made his point to his satisfaction. If not, he can always have another go in a moment.

Sir Edward Garnier: What the PCC was good at was dealing with unfairness—the hideous intrusion on private grief, the doorstepper, the camera coming through the letter box, the knock on the door demanding a photograph of the dead child and so on. The PCC dealt with that extremely well, but what it could not deal with was the multi-issue disputes that I have outlined.

It is not just a question of assessing the truth or falsity of words or of whether they are defensible and honest comment. On honest comment and certain forms of qualified privileged defence, the judge or the arbiter has to consider the question of malice and the respondent newspaper’s motive when it published the words complained of. I do not think, even with the best will in the world, that the proposed arbitration system for relevant publishers, under a recognised regulator, good though it will be, will be sufficiently well breeched and resourced to substitute itself for a disinterested judge when dealing with the case.

When it comes to disciplinary measures or the incentivisation of costs to bring people into this scheme, either as claimants or defendants—this goes back to a point that I made in the earlier debate—it will not be possible to deal with many expensive cases cheaply and quickly. They will need to go to a more formal, court-like, if not court, system. They will require proper arbitration with qualified arbiters, the sifting and assessment of evidence, the judging of witnesses and the reading of lots of documents. Those are functions of any form of arbitration dispute and it will not be quick or cheap.

Richard Drax: Is my hon. and learned Friend saying that this proposed policy is a complete waste of time and that the system we have is perfectly workable, so long as it is more accessible to the many people who are not well off and cannot afford a listening?

Sir Edward Garnier: I most certainly am not saying that it is a complete waste of time. I am saying that we should not seduce ourselves into thinking that it will do more than it can. It will be a far better system, all being well, than the PCC. It will have real teeth. It will have the ability to discipline respondent newspapers that are within the scheme by awarding costs and penalties of one sort or another.

The cases in which the new system will award a penalty of £1 million will be so rare as to be unthinkable. I imagine that it will deal with cases rather similar to those that are dealt with under the provisions of the Defamation Act 1996 on summary decisions, for which

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there is a limit of £10,000. I suspect that many of the cases that at the moment go to the High Court under those provisions will, if people are sensible, go into the new scheme. It will look at low-level damages, low-level punitive sanctions and cases that do not involve lots of complicated factual and legal issues.

Just because the new system will not look at many cases and just because the cases will not be hugely complicated does not mean that we should not do it; we should. We need access to some form of arbitration system for the people who have been bullied and disturbed by tabloid newspapers sticking their lenses through people’s letterboxes and so on. However, I urge the House not to think that we have suddenly waved a magic wand and that all future disputes will be resolved between victims or individual claimants and large media organisations through a cheap and speedy system; they will not. We ought to be a little cautious about that.

Mark Reckless: I have been enjoying my hon. and learned Friend’s speech for the past 20 minutes and I believe that the House benefits greatly from his exposition of these concepts. However, I am still unclear whether he supports or opposes what is proposed.

Sir Edward Garnier: I do apologise if I did not make myself clear. I will try to do so again, but perhaps rather more speedily. I support what is in the measures. It is easy to understand that point, I suspect.

Mark Reckless indicated assent.

Sir Edward Garnier: The second point is that, although I support the measures, I suspect that they will be of limited availability and limited use. However, that they will not solve every problem does not mean that we should not deploy them to solve some problems. As I said a moment ago, the sorts of problems that I think they will be used to solve are those that are currently dealt with summarily under the Defamation Act 1996 with a damages limit of £10,000. There is no suggestion of a damages limit here, but I think that it is in that area of dispute that the system will work. It will be broadly in disputes over meaning, unfairness or beastly behaviour by a newspaper that it will work.

The new system will also bring into the exemplary damages regime, to go back to my first set of arguments, causes of action for which punitive damages cannot currently be received under common law, such as breach of confidence and misuse of private information.

There is a lot to be said in favour of what is proposed. I just urge Members not to get excessively excited about what we are achieving. There will come a time when we have to look at the guts of the regulatory system, including at who is to be on the panels that decide the cases and so on. There is therefore a lot more work for the Minister for Government Policy and the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to do, with co-operation, I hope, from the Opposition parties and our coalition partners.

I am probably going to the church by way of the moon, but I really do think that much of what has been said today is commendable, but that much of it is too overexcited. Yes, we should celebrate the consensus, but let us not be misled by it.

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Michael Connarty (Linlithgow and East Falkirk) (Lab): It is a genuine pleasure to follow the hon. and learned Member for Harborough (Sir Edward Garnier), who made a considered and reasonable contribution in a mellow way. It is right to say that the royal charter is not a solution to all the problems that occurred in the past, and that it is possibly not a solution for the future if malevolent forces out there wish to break the law and the arrangements in the charter.

I welcome the Leveson-compliant solution—that is the key: it is Leveson-compliant. I did not take part in the earlier debate, although I listened to all the contributions in what one of my constituents phoned to say was a bit of a love-in in the House of Commons, given the amount of self-congratulation across the Chamber. Let us be frank—I am a very frank person as you know, Mr Speaker: my constituents and the general public know that the Government, the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State were cajoled, bullied and harassed into solving the problem with a Leveson-compliant solution. Let us not avoid that. If MPs had not been present in large enough numbers to vote the Government down, there was no possibility that the weak proposal put forward by the Prime Minister would have been amended to what we have now. That must be said so that people know the truth.

I heard the atrocious comments on the radio this morning by the person I now consider to be not the Minister for Culture, Media and Sport, but the Minister for spin, about dragging the Labour party along and defending the press from the terrible things that the Labour party was going to do through statute. In fact, however, what those on the Labour and Liberal Democrat Front Benches, including the Deputy Prime Minister, sought all along was a Leveson-compliant solution, and that is what we have.

I am worried about the Minister’s approach to the amendments in her speech. She was either incentivising publishers and publications to join up to the charter—I thought that was done in a better and more balanced way by the deputy leader of the Opposition—or it sounded to me that she was trying to assure publishers and publications that if they sign up to the arrangement as amended, they will not find it much more demanding of their own self-discipline than under the discredited Press Complaints Commission. People should read her speech in some detail because lots of signals were put out that I believe were wrong.

This is an opportunity for the press to right the wrongs of the past by signing up to self-discipline through this form of charter. If, however, the system is not more demanding or effective than the Press Complaints Commission, the first time the press create another victim of a new abuse, perhaps of a different sort, Parliament will be brought into serious disrepute. That is what the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Prime Minister were trying to avoid by putting together a measure that is Leveson-compliant.

Bob Stewart (Beckenham) (Con): I very much hope that the charter will act as a catalyst for good behaviour, as well as everything else. My children were doorstepped in their school when I was in Bosnia and not a public figure, and my mother had her door pushed in and photographs were taken. I hope that the press will try to

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regulate itself and stop such things so that they never happen and the press never have to come before any regulator.

Michael Connarty: I normally lean on the optimistic side—the sun rises every morning; I am glad I am still alive and my heart is still beating. That is two-up for me and I am happy to go on with the day with a positive view. Recently, however, some of my constituents were in Algeria, one of whom was a captive and in the trucks that were bombed. He managed to run away but he had bombs hanging round his neck as he did so. The press insisted on trying to get to that person’s home. I must pay a compliment to MSP colleagues in my constituency, who both happen to be SNP. We agreed that we would not talk to the press or the media, and that we would not give out the names of the people involved. The press still found a way to the family home and tried to get into the house to interview the young people involved, one of whom was still very traumatised by their experience. The press therefore still have a form of approach to the public whereby they see them as another byline without thinking about the consequences of what they do. The charter might help with that. It might not help, as the hon. and learned Member for Harborough said, but I hope it does.

9.45 pm

At some time, Parliament must look at the question of media ownership. That is for another day, but we still have the problem. Media ownership by people who are citizens and residents of another country is a great problem we have had to face in the past.

I am glad new clause 21A has been tabled, because new clause 21(2) states:

“Exemplary damages may not be awarded against the defendant in respect of the claim if the defendant was a member of an approved regulator at the material time.”

That is a get-out-of-jail-free clause. Thank goodness we now have clause 21A(3)— this may be the point made by the hon. and learned Gentleman and others—which says that