Tories obey media tycoons over Leveson

Written By: Ian Hernon
Published: March 1, 2018 Last modified: March 1, 2018

The government has controversially announced that it will not implement the second stage of the Leveson Inquiry which followed the phone-hacking scandal.

The Tories have also U-turned over plans to force media organisations to pay legal costs of libel cases whether they won or lost.

Culture Secretary Matt Hancock announced the government would not put Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act into effect and said ministers would seek repeal “at the earliest opportunity”.

The Leveson inquiry, set up by David Cameron when he was PM, was due to examine relations between journalists and the police. Only last month the House of Lords voted to promote the inquiry.

But Hancock said the “world had changed” since Leveson’s 2012 report and the press had cleaned up its act, adding: “We do not believe that this costly and time-consuming public inquiry is the right way forward.”

He told MPs the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) – set up by the UK’s main newspaper groups – had “largely complied with Leveson’s recommendations”.

Labour’s deputy leader and media spokesman Tom Watson said the decision was a “bitter blow to the victims of press intrusion” and claimed that press barons had been “lobbying hard” such an outcome.

Watson also defended privacy campaigner Max Mosley, who is facing questions in the Daily Mail and The Sun about a racist leaflet published in the early 1960s.

“If I thought for one moment he held those views, contained in that leaflet of 57 years ago, I would not have given him the time of day,” he said. “He is a man, though, who in the face of great family tragedy and overwhelming media intimidation, chose to use his limited resources to support the weak against the strong.”

The son of British Fascist leader Oswald Mosley has donated about £500,000 to Watson’s office and his family money has been used to back official media regulator Impress, set up in the wake of Leveson. The Labour Party said it will not accept further donations from him.

Lord Justice Leveson was appointed in 2011 to carry out an inquiry into press standards. Under his original terms of reference, the inquiry first looked at the culture and practices of the press and relations between politicians, press and the police, took place in 2011 and 2012, with a full report in November 2012.

The second part was scheduled to consider the extent of improper conduct and governance failings by individual newspaper groups, how these were investigated by the police and whether police officers received corrupt payments or inducements.

About Ian Hernon

Ian Hernon is Deputy Editor of Tribune