Minister accuses peers of attack on press freedom after they back fresh Leveson probe

Posted On: 
10th January 2018

A Cabinet minister has accused peers of trying to "restrict press freedom" after they supported calls for a new Leveson inquiry into the media.

Lord Leveson's original inquiry took place in 2011 and 2012.
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In a defeat for the Government, the House of Lords voted 238 to 209 in favour of an amendment to the Data Protection Bill calling for a probe into the industry's culture, practice and ethics.

Specifically, it would investigate the extent of unlawful or improper conduct within news publishers and other media organisations.

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But new Culture Secretary Matt Hancock, who only took on the job on Monday night following Theresa May's Cabinet reshuffle, took to Twitter to voice his unhappiness at the move.

The amendment was tabled by Baroness Hollins, who said she was made aware of "inaccurate, corrupt and illegal practices" in the press after her daughter Abigail Witchalls was left paralysed after being stabbed in 2005.

Ministers must now either try to overturn the amendment in the Commons or come up with a policy which will satisfy those who backed the amendment.

A Lords source told PoliticsHome: "Matt Hancock has the opportunity to convince colleagues that he's right and the Lords are wrong.

"Or perhaps the Government will deal with the concerns raised in our debates and come up with a new policy that delivers on cross-party commitments and deals with current concerns on fake news."

The original Leveson Inquiry into press behaviour was ordered by David Cameron in the wake of the phone hacking scandal and took place between 2011 and 2012. 

Mr Cameron also promised a second phase of the inquiry examining links between the press and the police, but the plan was subsequently kicked into the long grass.

Shadow Culture Secretary Tom Watson said: "In 2012, all parties made a promise to the victims of phone hacking. At many times since then the Tories have tried to renege on that promise. Tonight’s votes are an important step towards justice.

"Unlike the Tories, Labour has always stood by the victims of hacking and press intrusion with promises in each of our past manifestos to enact all the recommendations of Leveson. These votes send a signal to the Tories: that they must keep their promises."