Government considers ditching planned 'Leveson 2' inquiry into police and press relationship
The Government is to consult on whether to scrap the second part of the Leveson Inquiry, the Culture Secretary has announced.
The first part of the judge-led inquiry, set up to look at media ethics in the wake of the phone hacking scandal, resulted in major reforms to press regulation.
There was set to be a follow-up investigation into the relationship between newspapers and police, but Karen Bradley signalled today that it was unlikely to go ahead.
Labour’s Tom Watson said it was a “sad day” and suggested the Government had “succumbed to the vested interests of media barons”.
Culture Secretary Ms Bradley cited the costs of another inquiry and the extensive criminal investigations that have taken place since the report was published.
“The Government is considering whether undertaking part two is still in the public interest,” she said.
“We are keen to take stock and seek the views of the public and interested parties, not least those who have been victims of press abuse.”
Whether or not to proceed will be put to a ten-week consultation, alongside the proposal – already passed by Parliament – that newspapers who are not signed up to an approved regulator should face paying the legal costs of unsuccessful libel cases brought against them.
Mr Watson, who played a major part in bringing the phone hacking scandal to light, said Ms Bradley had effectively announced a “consultation on whether the cover-up should be covered up” and that the further delay was “deeply regrettable”.
He demanded to know whether Theresa May had discussed the matter with News Group boss Rupert Murdoch at a recent meeting, and whether the parents of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler – who’s phone was hacked – were consulted.
“Leveson was created so that a minister would not have to worry about what pressure she was put under by newspaper editors,” the Shadow Culture Secretary and Labour deputy leader charged.
“And what she’s doing today is abandoning that principle; she’s taking back the power from an independent judge and, in so doing, she opens up the executive to accusations that they have succumbed to the vested interests of media barons. I’m afraid it’s an age-old story and she is carrying the can.”
There was a provision put in Section 40 of the 2013 Crime and Courts Bill designed to encourage newspapers to sign up to a regulator approved by a recognition panel that was set up by Royal Charter.
It would mean that papers outside a recognised regulator could pay the legal costs of the litigant even when the courts ruled in favour of the press in a libel case.
The matter has come to the fore since the panel recognised its first regulator, IMPRESS.
Ms Bradley said it had hitherto deemed “the time has not yet been right to commence Section 40” but, in light of the IMPRESS recognition, added: “We think the time is right to consider Section 40 further.”
Lord Leveson would be consulted on whether to go ahead with part two of the inquiry “at an appropriate time”, she added.
MPs will consider an amendment to the Investigatory Powers Bill, passed in the House of Lords, this afternoon that would set up the same provision as Section 40.