MPs reject Ed Miliband's bid to set up second part of Leveson Inquiry

Posted On: 
9th May 2018

MPs have rejected a bid to set up the second stage of the Leveson Inquiry into press behaviour.

Ed Miliband Ed Miliband gave an impassioned speech on the need for Leveson 2.
Credit: 
Parliament TV

Former Labour leader Ed Miliband led attempts to force the Government to establish the next phase of the probe, against the wishes of Theresa May.

But MPs voted by 304 to 295 to reject an amendment to the Data Protection Bill he had tabled along with Tory grandee Ken Clarke.

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In a further boost for the newspaper industry, Labour deputy leader Tom Watson did not move a separate amendment which could have seen publishers liable for legal costs even in libel cases which they won.

Mr Watson decided not to put the issue to a vote after the SNP announced they would be abstaining, meaning it had no hope of passing.

The original Leveson Inquiry took place in 2012 following the phone hacking scandal which led to the closure of the News of the World.

Leveson 2 was supposed to take place following the criminal cases which resulted from the controversy, but it was buried by David Cameron's government and rejected completely by Mrs May's.

Mr Miliband told MPs said it must take place in order to "keep a promise" made to the victims of press intrusion, such as Kate and Gerry McCann and the parents of Milly Dowler.

He said: "This is about our honour. This is a matter of honour about the promise we made."

But Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg said: "The freedom of the press is so overwhelmingly precious that we should preserve it even if sometimes the press upset us.

"Leveson 2 didn't go ahead because there was a fear that trials could be made unfair by an inquiry going ahead at the same time. But those trials have now gone ahead and juries have returned verdicts. What verdicts did they return? By and large the journalists were found not guilty.

"Now people want to put those found innocent through it again. Put them on oath, put them in the stocks. Let them be quizzed and questioned and interrogated so that the freedom of the press can be undermined, can be pressurised by those who have sometimes had the sharp lash of the press's tongue against them. It reeks of self-interest."

Speaking after the vote, Mr Watson said the victims of press behaviour had been "betrayed".

He said: "Today was a chance for MPs to finally deliver on promises made to victims of hacking and press intrusion. That chance has been squandered and victims have been betrayed once again.

"No criminal investigation or trial has ever looked at the core questions that Leveson 2 posed: how the relationship between the press, police and politicians allowed the hacking scandal to happen and attempted to cover it up.

"The Government’s capitulation today leaves us ever further from reaching the truth."

Jeremy Corbyn has vowed to set up Leveson 2 if Labour wins the next election.

Speaking in February, he said: "Labour will stand up to the powerful and corrupt - and take the side of the many, not the few."

But at a meeting of her Cabinet yesterday, the Prime Minister accused Labour of trying to undermine the free press.

Her spokesman said: "Almost £50m of public money has already been spent on investigating phone-hacking, and establishing a further public inquiry requiring great time and expense is not a proportionate solution to allegations which have already been the subject of several extensive police investigations."