There have been 6 exchanges between Edward Miliband and Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
|Tue 15th May 2018||Data Protection Bill [Lords]||11 interactions (925 words)|
|Wed 9th May 2018||Data Protection Bill [Lords]||16 interactions (1,591 words)|
|Wed 7th March 2018||Blagging: Leveson Inquiry||3 interactions (152 words)|
|Tue 23rd January 2018||Sky/Fox Update||3 interactions (251 words)|
|Tue 12th September 2017||Sky/Fox Merger||3 interactions (282 words)|
|Thu 20th July 2017||Fox-Sky Merger||3 interactions (313 words)|
I take that correction. Maybe I was going a bit over the top. None the less, that is itself a measure of how far some of our media are sometimes bound to go.
I do not agree that we should go further, although I recognise that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has tabled further amendments. In recognising those, it is also important to recognise that I think that this issue is settled. I shall simply end by saying that freedom is not always perfect and that those who fight for it often need to be held to account because they go too far and abuse that privilege. That notwithstanding, I believe that we are beginning to meet the challenge. It will not be perfect, but I would prefer the mistakes to be made by a free press, knowing full well that they regulate and chase authority, and if for one moment they look over their shoulder and believe that this House has caught them and put them in a statutory bind, that would be worse for our own freedoms.
I am listening carefully to what the right hon. Gentleman is saying, and I put this point to him. Does he not agree that such a case as he extols is not the sort of case that should now prove or test the IPSO process? In other words, if the media are as they say they are, such a case will, when evidence is brought, immediately bring opprobrium and retribution down on the heads of those journalists and possibly result in their being banned as journalists. I think that the right hon. Gentleman should test it in that way, rather than looking for another inquiry, which might come up with nothing more.
But does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the media landscape has been transformed out of all recognition in recent years by social media and the internet, and that further investigation into this history will not illuminate the modern system at all or help us to deal with the difficult questions of fairness between the traditional media and the new media?
MailOnline —which, through massive investment, has possibly become the English-speaking world’s most successful website—has opted out of IPSO. What does that say about the Mail group’s commitment to responsibility?
Going back to the example of the bereaved family and the gross intrusion into their privacy and grief, does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the reasons why such families choose not to use the current system is that it runs the risk of things that have been wrongly said about lost loved ones being repeated in the media as part of the process?
I find myself in a difficult position, because I have come into the Chamber still undecided on how I am going to vote. The right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) again makes the case for Leveson 2. The Secretary of State has spoken powerfully and made the case that the additional amendments will create more safeguards. The shadow Minister, the hon. Member for West Bromwich East (Tom Watson), has spoken with great passion, and I agree with a lot of what he said.
My problem is this. We had this debate last week, and, with heavy heart, I voted against my party because I thought that Leveson 2 was right. I still think Leveson 2 is right—it is not about additional regulations, but about finding out what happened in the past and perhaps guidance for the future. Where I struggle is with the wonderful publication called, “Forward Together, Our Plan for a Stronger Britain and a Prosperous Future”, which, in case my colleagues do not know, was our manifesto for the last general election. I am reading it for the first time today. On page 80, it states clearly that
“we will not proceed with the second stage of the Leveson Inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press.”
That is unfortunately in the manifesto.
I have a dilemma. What has changed since last week? The Lords have removed “local press” and the Minister has taken some of the concerns on board. The House thought about the matter and some of my Conservative colleagues voted for Leveson 2. The Bill went to the other place, which virtually sent it straight back, despite the Government manifesto commitment. The question of the Salisbury convention therefore clearly comes into play.
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.
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.
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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.
Break in Debate
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.
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.
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?
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?
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.
Yes, of course. We have a good working relationship with the Information Commissioner. Her powers are being strengthened by the Data Protection Bill, and I am sure that the level to which and the ways in which they are strengthened will be properly scrutinised as the Bill goes through Committee and further stages.
Not only has there already been a Leveson inquiry into those areas, but the culture has clearly changed, and the fact that these practices ended in 2010 underlines the fact that they are historical. What we now have to address is how we ensure that there is high-quality journalism in the years to come, rather than revisiting the time when the right hon. Gentleman was at the height of his powers.
Both those points are covered in the CMA report that was published today. If my right hon. Friend the former Secretary of State wishes to make to the CMA any further comments like those he just made, he has three weeks in which to do so, after which I will consider the final report in full.
It was enjoyable to hear a rendition of the right hon. Gentleman’s greatest hit on Leveson, but on the points relevant to today’s statement and the decision on this deal, I intend fully to exercise my quasi-judicial decision-making role by taking into account all relevant considerations, based on the CMA’s final report. It is in that straightforward and reasonable way that I intend to proceed.
My hon. Friend is right that this process has taken a significant period of time. It was always known that this would be a lengthy process. I remind the House that the proposed merger was set out in December last year, but no official notification of the merger was made to the authorities until February. We have been determined to deal with it as promptly as possible. The small matter of purdah also got in the way earlier in the year, I am afraid to say. I am mindful that I have to act as promptly as is reasonably practicable. I am aware that there are those who are keen to see this matter progress. I want to get the CMA working on it as soon as possible, and that will be the final part of the official process set out in the Enterprise Act, although there are always opportunities for discussion at that point.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his question. Together with the right hon. Member for Twickenham (Sir Vince Cable) and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke), he contributed one of the 30 substantive representations that I received. He referred to the “fit and proper” test. One question that he raised in his representation was the level of the threshold. What has become clear from the conversations we have had and our work is that the threshold for referral to the CMA is a different threshold from the “fit and proper” test. The “fit and proper” test is, quite rightly, something for Ofcom.
If the right hon. Gentleman looks at my statement, he will see the reasons I have set out for referral to the CMA. As and when the “minded to” decision becomes a final decision, I will set out those reasons in full.
Of course I will join you, Mr Speaker, in congratulating Roger Federer. I was lucky enough to see him play on Friday, and I know you were there as well. I should also congratulate Lewis Hamilton. I was, unfortunately, not able to be at the Wimbledon final because I was at the grand prix, where I was able to congratulate Mr Hamilton personally on his great success. Four British grands prix in a row is a fantastic achievement. I am sure the whole House will join me in celebrating what is turning into the most incredible summer of sport for Britain and British athletes—and Roger Federer. I think he is almost an honorary Brit at this stage.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Mims Davies); I think Wimbledon is one of the places that have equal pay for men and women. I want to see gender disparity removed from all employers, and I was as surprised as she was by yesterday’s annual report.
I should wish you a happy summer, Mr Speaker, as it appears that that is the order of the day. [Interruption.] And Roger, of course.
I have been as transparent as possible. As I said in my statement, I may make a decision over the course of the summer recess, but it may take longer. I am taking the time to consider all representations, including the right hon. Gentleman’s, those of the right hon. Member for Twickenham (Sir Vince Cable) and those of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke), who is not in his place. I will look at the evidence and make a decision on that basis.