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Mon, 28 September 2020

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Labour outrage as Government scraps second stage of Leveson inquiry into press standards

Labour outrage as Government scraps second stage of Leveson inquiry into press standards
3 min read

Culture Secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed that the Government will not re-open the Leveson inquiry into press standards.


Mr Hancock said that the Government no longer felt “reopening this costly and time-consuming public inquiry is the right way forward.”

The move trailed in the Conservative election manifesto sees part two of the Leveson inquiry abandoned. It was set to examine the level of criminality at specific publications, and to probe the relationship between journalists and police officers. 

The new inquiry had been prompted after the House of Lords voted for an amendment to the Data Protection Bill which sought to explore the media industry's culture, practice and ethics.

Mr Hancock revealed that the Government would also drop plans to force media organisations to pay legal costs in libels cases, even if they won.

The minister said that the decision to formally close the inquiry, first opened seven years ago by then Prime Minister David Cameron, was to be seen in the context of a changing media landscape.

“In a world of the internet and clickbait, our press faces critical challenges that threaten their livelihood and sustainability.”

He argued that much of the terms of reference for part 2 of the inquiry had already been largely met with the establishment of new regulators, and stricter guidance for police officers.

"IPSO has been established and already regulates 95% of national newspapers by circulation. It has taken significant steps to demonstrate its independence as a regulator."

He added: "The College of Policing has published a code of ethics and developed national guidance for police officers on how to engage with the press.

"And reforms in the Policing and Crime Act have strengthened protections for police whistleblowers."

The announcement has prompted a furious response from Labour MPs with deputy Labour leader Tom Watson saying the move “betrayed the victims of phone hacking.”

Corbyn ally Chris Williamson said that the Government had “capitulated to the gutter press” and that media barons would be “popping the champagne corks”.

Using the hashtag #ChangeisComing, he hinted at stronger press regulations under a Labour Government.

 

Labour backbencher Ian Lucas fumed that the statement was the “most shameful” he had heard in his 17 years in parliament.

 

 

The move comes the morning after Theresa May addressed political journalists at the Westminster Correspondents dinner, where she mocked Jeremy Corbyn’s comments about press regulation.

“We know that Jeremy has some concerns about press ownership in Britain, of course that didn’t stop him appearing on the Iranian state television Press TV for years," she said.

 “He’ll take a fee from a broadcaster under the command of the ayatollah, but Lord Rothermere had better just look out come the revolution.”

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