Leveson: Minister offers concession ahead of new press vote


Ministers have made further concessions on press regulation as MPs prepare to vote again on calls for a second-stage of the Leveson inquiry into its ethics.

Culture Secretary Matt Hancock said a review of newspapers’ compliance with data protection rules would be widened in scope and would become permanent.

He told MPs ministers had “gone out of their way” to listen to concerns.

MPs rejected calls for a second Leveson phase, as promised in 2011, last week but the Lords voted in favour of it.

Sir Brian Leveson was appointed by David Cameron in 2011 to chair an inquiry into the conduct of the press in the wake of phone hacking allegations against the News of the World.

The first part of the inquiry, in 2011-2012, examined press ethics, but the second part – with hearings into unlawful or improper conduct by newspapers and how the police investigated allegations were put on hold amid criminal inquiries over phone hacking.

The Conservative government has since said it will not implement this second part of the inquiry but peers voted on Tuesday to reinstate it by amending the Data Protection Bill.

Ahead of the fresh vote by MPs, Mr Hancock said he was preparing a number of further amendments to the bill which he said would “strike a balance”.

“We have gone out of our way to offer concessions at every stage to make sure the system of press regulation is both free and fair,” he said.

Under his proposals, the Information Commissioner will launch a review of newspaper compliance with data protection rules within two months of the bill’s approval, reporting to ministers within 18 months.


The probe, he said, had been widened to examine whether the handling of data not just complies with the law but “good practice for the purposes of journalism”.

The review will continue on a rolling basis over a five year period while there will be a separate report into the effectiveness of the newspaper’s industry proposed dispute resolution procedures every three years.

Mr Hancock said he hoped this would allay public concerns and would be more effective and proportionate than continuing with a statutory inquiry.

Labour’s Tom Watson said the government’s concessions were “far-reaching and highly irregular” and appeared to give greater powers to ministers to interfere with the existing system of self-regulation.

He said victims of phone hacking and press harassment had been “solemnly promised” a two-part inquiry, which he said was necessary to consider fresh evidence of illegality and abusive and improper conduct by national newspapers.

The SNP’s spokesman Brendan O’Hara said the concessions were more about staving off a potential backbench revolt than any point of principle and his party would back the Lords amendment.

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