Edward Miliband contributions to the Data Protection Act 2018

Wed 9th May 2018 Data Protection Bill [Lords] (Commons Chamber)
3rd reading: House of Commons
Report stage: House of Commons
17 interactions (1,591 words)

Data Protection Bill [Lords]

(3rd reading: House of Commons)
(Report stage: House of Commons)
Edward Miliband Excerpts
Wednesday 9th May 2018

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Matt Hancock Portrait Matt Hancock - Hansard
9 May 2018, 2:21 p.m.

I would characterise it as a review aligned with new clause 23, which we are bringing in for the whole country, specifically to look at the effects in Northern Ireland. The crucial point is that we will make sure, through the review in new clause 23, that the future of the press is both free and reasonable, that its behaviour is reasonable, and yet that it is not subject to statutory regulation. I want to see a press that is both free and fair.

Edward Miliband Portrait Edward Miliband (Doncaster North) (Lab) - Hansard
9 May 2018, 2:22 p.m.

This is an extraordinary way to make policy. Will the Secretary of State explain to us why there can be a Leveson for Northern Ireland, but not for the rest of the United Kingdom?

Matt Hancock Portrait Matt Hancock - Hansard
9 May 2018, 2:22 p.m.

I have explained that new clause 23, which I hope the right hon. Gentleman supports, will in the future bring in a review of behaviour following the new system that we are putting into place. That is true here, and it is true right across the country.

Break in Debate

Mr John Whittingdale Portrait Mr Whittingdale - Hansard
9 May 2018, 2:57 p.m.

I agree very much with my hon. Friend. Indeed, I would have found it far harder to make the argument that IPSO was basically now compliant with Lord Leveson had it not introduced the scheme that is now in place. That was the biggest difference between the system as designed by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset in the royal charter and IPSO, and that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Damian Collins) said, has rightly been removed.

What we do in this debate is being watched around the world. This country is seen as a bastion of freedom and liberty, and a free press is an absolutely essential component of that. I say to those who are proposing these amendments: do not just listen to the newspaper industry, which is, as I say, united against this—that includes The Guardian, despite the efforts of Labour Front Benchers to somehow exclude them. Listen to the Index on Censorship, Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists—campaigning organisations that are fighting oppression of the press around the world. They say that if this House brings in this kind of measure, it would send a terrible signal to those who believe in a free press. I therefore hope that the amendments will be rejected.

Edward Miliband Portrait Edward Miliband - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 May 2018, 2:58 p.m.

I shall speak in support of new clause 18, which stands in my name and that of the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke) and four Members from four other parties across the House. I have tabled the new clause for one overriding reason: to keep a promise that everyone in this House made to the victims of phone hacking and other unlawful conduct.

I well remember the day when I, David Cameron and Nick Clegg went to meet the victims—the McCanns, the Dowlers and all the others. You know what we said to them? We said, “This time it will be different. This time we won’t flinch. We promise you we’ll see this process through.” Painstakingly, with the victims, we designed a two-part Leveson process—let us be under no illusions about that. The first part was to look at the general issues around the culture and ethics of the press and the relationship with politicians, and the second part, promised back then, was to look, after the criminal trials were over, at, in the words of Sir Brian, who did what to whom and why it happened. Who covered it up? Did the police? Did politicians? Did other public servants?

Leveson was to be a two-part process, and here is what David Cameron said, when part 1 of Leveson was completed in November 2012:

Break in Debate

Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg - Hansard
9 May 2018, 3:02 p.m.

The right hon. Gentleman mentions what David Cameron, Nick Clegg and he did. It seems to have escaped his attention that David Cameron is no longer Prime Minister, that Nick Clegg is no longer Deputy Prime Minister, and that two former MPs and one still-existing MP cannot bind their successors. A new Parliament has the right to consider these matters afresh, and that is what is rightly being done today after countless police investigations and prosecutions, many of which ended in acquittal.

Edward Miliband Portrait Edward Miliband - Hansard
9 May 2018, 3:02 p.m.

I give way to the hon. Gentleman’s constitutional knowledge, but I do not give way to him on morality—and this is a question of morality and of promises we made. Remember the furore about all these events? Remember how people looked at us? Remember how all of us—Labour Governments too—were too close to the press, and how we said we would learn lessons? I take my responsibility too. We should have acted earlier. All Governments should take responsibility. To break this promise would be contemptible.

Anna Soubry Hansard
9 May 2018, 3:03 p.m.

The right hon. Gentleman is making a powerful case, and he is right about morality and the promises made, most importantly, to victims. I am struggling to support him, however, because while those are powerful arguments, I am actually more interested in the outcome. Is there a genuine purpose that can be achieved other than—and it is a strong argument—keeping a promise to victims? It will be a hollow promise if it is nothing more than a talking shop.

Edward Miliband Portrait Edward Miliband - Hansard
9 May 2018, 3:04 p.m.

Other people have asked, “Why can’t the police just do it?” That suggests that whenever there is a police inquiry there cannot be a public inquiry. My answer is this: there is no substitute for the breadth of a public inquiry and its ability to see what happened. A lot has emerged even since Leveson 1. At that time, people said the hacking and improper behaviour were just at the News of the World. There have now been revelations at The Sun, allegations about The Sunday Times and a decade of blagging by John Ford—a whole range of allegations that we need to get to the bottom of. Crucially, we need to learn lessons for the future. The useful thing that can come out of this is to prevent there being future victims like the McCanns and the Dowlers. That is why so many victims have written to the Prime Minister, saying it is important to get to the truth—not just for them but to prevent it from ever happening again.

Ian Paisley Portrait Ian Paisley - Hansard
9 May 2018, 3:04 p.m.

The right hon. Gentleman is making a very compelling argument—one that I am not turned off by—but when I read new clause 18 dispassionately, I see that it offers me a consultation process with parties in Northern Ireland and an Assembly that is not functioning. It offers me very little, although it promises me something. In new clause 23, the Government from the Dispatch Box today have offered me an actual inquiry. I ask him, then, to put himself in my shoes: should we take what we have or a promise of what we might get?

Edward Miliband Portrait Edward Miliband - Hansard
9 May 2018, 3:05 p.m.

If the new clause was agreed today, the Secretary of State would within three months have to trigger an inquiry covering Northern Ireland. The point about consultation is precisely to consult with Members of the Assembly, Ministers, if they are in place, and those in Scotland as well. That is simply a point about consultation. I know the hon. Gentleman cares passionately about these issues.

I believe that the case is stronger, not weaker, than it was when a two-part inquiry was envisaged. Sir Brian says we should go ahead. When else do we put a presiding judge in charge of an inquiry and then ignore his advice? Frankly, it is extraordinary. As I said to the right hon. Member for Broxtowe (Anna Soubry), the wrongdoing turned out to be more widespread than we thought. I urge hon. Members, in the time left before the vote, to look at the Kerslake report on what happened in Manchester, because it is a shocking indictment of what a minority—I emphasise that it is a minority besmirching the good name of the whole press—did. I quote from it briefly:

“One mother, who was herself seriously injured as was her daughter, spoke of the press ringing her on her mobile whilst she was recovering in hospital…The child of one family was given condolences on the doorstep before official notification of the death of her mother.”

This is what some of the relatives of the victims said:

“By far the worst thing was the press”,

“They...are a disgrace, they don’t take no for an answer, they have a lack of standards and ethics,”

“The press were not respectful of grief.”

It is all very well people saying, “Everything’s changed”, but to my mind, I’m afraid, that report is proof that not enough has changed, because the same intrusion into the lives of innocent people is carrying on.

Mr Peter Bone Portrait Mr Bone - Hansard
9 May 2018, 3:07 p.m.

I remember David Cameron, as I do the right hon. Gentleman, on this subject. It was one of David Cameron’s best moments. I have not yet heard an argument from the Government to explain why we cannot have Leveson 2. If it is money, that argument is ridiculous. Why does he think the Government do not want Leveson 2?

Edward Miliband Portrait Edward Miliband - Hansard
9 May 2018, 3:07 p.m.

That is a very good point, and I will come to it in a moment, because it is important to answer it.

I want to make another point about the case for carrying on with Leveson 2. I do not believe, I am afraid, that the regulator we have, IPSO, is nearly good enough. It bears too much resemblance to its predecessor, the Press Complaints Commission. Just think about this regulator: it has not imposed a single fine, demanded a single equal-prominence front page correction or launched a single systematic inquiry, as it has the power to do. The Home Affairs Select Committee heard testimony in February on Islamophobia, and I think I am right in saying that under section 12 of the editors code, on discrimination, hate speech and so on, IPSO has received 8,000 complaints and upheld one. The Chair of the Committee and its members seemed rather shocked by that.

I return now to the very pertinent question from the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone). Why might the Government not be going ahead with Leveson 2? Let us look at their issues briefly. They say it is about press freedom. I believe that a free critical press is an essential part of our society, and that includes being critical of politicians, but, as everyone agreed after Milly Dowler, that freedom does not include the ability to barge into the lives of innocent people. The press themselves said that was wrong. On press freedom and Leveson 2, the National Union of Journalists said in March that the decision not to allow Lord Leveson to complete his task was

“bad for politics, bad for journalism and bad for the public.”

The NUJ says it is not an attack on press freedom!

The Government have also said that the inquiry would go over ground already coved by the police, but as I said, it was always understood that Leveson 2 could only start after the police inquiries had been completed, and that there was no substitute for a broad public inquiry. It is claimed that it misses the big important issues of Facebook and fake news, but those are in the terms of reference as recommended by Sir Brian Leveson. It is said that local papers will be affected, but we have specifically written the terms of reference to exclude local papers, so that there can be no question of their being affected. It is said that this is all backward- looking, but in any other area of public life, would the press really be saying that the truth is time-limited, and that we do not need to get to the truth because it was all a few years ago? Lastly, there is the argument about cost, which I think is a terrible argument. Leveson 1 cost £5 million. That is a substantial sum, but I have to say that, given decades of abuse and broken promises in relation to the press, I think that it is worth spending such a sum to get to the truth.

Now I will answer the question asked by the hon. Member for Wellingborough. I set out the reasons adduced by the press and, indeed, the Government for the cancellation of this inquiry, but let us be absolutely honest: there is one overriding reason for the Government’s decision to abandon it, and that needs to be discussed. It is quite simple. It is fear: fear about the wrath of the press. That is why the Government have made this decision. The press do not want the inquiry to go ahead, and the Government fear attacks on them by the press. That is why the last Labour Government did not take action against the press: they too feared the consequences. But what did we also say after 2011? We said, “Never again will we succumb to fear and make the wrong decisions, which are not in the public interest.”

Fear of the powerful is not a good reason to allow them to trample on the powerless when we have it in our hands to do something about it. It goes against everything that we promised in 2011. It goes against everything that we said to the victims and everything that we told the public. We should remember the words of the current Prime Minister—the current Prime Minister—who said on the steps of Downing Street:

“When we take the big calls, we’ll think not of the powerful, but you.”

I say, “Think of the public, not the powerful, today.” There is still a chance that this time it will be different. We can learn the lessons of failed reform and no change. We can keep our promises to the victims and make change happen, and the way to do that is by voting for new clause 18.

Lord Clarke of Nottingham Portrait Mr Kenneth Clarke - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 May 2018, 3:11 p.m.

I rise to support new clause 18, and I shall try to do so as briefly as possible as we are running out of time. I have also put my name to amendment 14, which I hope the hon. Member for Sunderland Central (Julie Elliott) will press to a Division if she catches your eye, Madam Deputy Speaker. However, new clause 18 and Leveson 2 are my main concern because, as the then Justice Secretary, I was personally involved in setting up the Leveson inquiry.

I have the highest regard for Sir Brian Leveson, and I share his indignation that the House is going back on previous commitments about the completion of that inquiry. Sir Brian is now the president of the Queen’s Bench division. He is the head of criminal justice in this country. He does not think that his inquiry completed its work or inquired into all the matters into which it was supposed to be inquiring. He said in his public letter that he “fundamentally” disagreed with the proposal to cancel the inquiry now and prevent it from going any further. I share his views, and I do not think that the House should lightly set them aside.

It was always clear when the inquiry was established that there would have to be a second part. In his statement when the inquiry was first announced, the then Prime Minister said:

“The second part of the inquiry will examine the extent of unlawful or improper conduct at the News of the World and other newspapers, and the way in which management failures may have allowed it to happen. That part of the inquiry will also look into the original police investigation and the issue of corrupt payments to police officers, and will consider the implications for the relationships between newspapers and the police.”—[Official Report, 13 July 2011; Vol. 531, c. 312.]

Those are the things that we are saying that we perhaps do not want to inquire into any further, for what seem to me—with great respect to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, who made a valiant effort to put forward the case on behalf of the Government— to be quite inadequate reasons.

When the first part of Leveson was completed, the then Government recommitted to holding the second part. I cannot recall anyone in the House objecting to the idea that we were waiting for the inquiry to be completed once the police inquiries were over. On 29 November 2012, the then Prime Minister said:

“When I set up the inquiry, I also said that there would be a second part to investigate wrongdoing in the press and the police, including the conduct of the first police investigation. That second stage cannot go ahead until the current criminal proceedings have concluded, but we remain committed to the inquiry as it was first established.”

That was the commitment of the Government of which I was a member, of which my right hon. Friend was a member, and of which half the present Government were members. No one objected to that in the House. Indeed, I think that my right hon. Friend took pride in rebutting what was eloquently described by the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) as the fear—the craven fear—that most Governments have felt of Her Majesty’s press during much of the time that I have been in Parliament.