Lords call for Leveson 2

THE HOUSE of Lords inflicted a defeat on the Government recently by passing an amendment to the Data Protection Bill demanding the implementation of the promised "Leveson 2" - part two of the 2011-2012 Leveson Inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the British press.

Matt Hancock; Photo Matt Salusbury

The new Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Matt Hancock, when he was Minister for Skills in 2013.

Leveson 2 - if it ever happens - would investigate "corporate governance and management failures" in Her Majesty's Press. It will look at specific claims about phone-hacking at the News of the World and what went wrong with the original police investigation into phone hacking.

The inquiry was delayed pending the conclusion of criminal prosecutions around phone hacking, and then it was reportedly "quietly shelved" around December 2015. The Conservative Party's 2017 election manifesto pledged that it would not proceed with Leveson 2.

Peers speaking in favour of the amendment expressed the hope that Leveson 2 would look into excesses in intrusion into the private lives - particularly those of bereaved families - by tabloid journalists.

The Lords vote followed a long and heated debate; Baroness Sheila Hollins gave an impassioned speech about her personal experiences of press intrusion and data theft after the death of her daughter.

Government ministers, including the new Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Matthew Hancock, denounced the vote as an attempt to curb press freedom. Reliant as it is on favourable coverage from certain national newspapers, the current Government is not keen for "Leveson 2" to go ahead. The Government is likely to seek to overturn the Lords' amendment to the Bill when it returns to the Commons. Given their miniscule majority, they can expect a fight on their hands. Watch this space.

For our most recent update on the current UK press regulation impasse see here and for an earlier Branch meeting on Leveson see here.