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Government defeated in House of Lords as peers vote for second phase of Leveson Inquiry

Government defeated in House of Lords as peers vote for second phase of Leveson Inquiry

Categories: Latest News

Tuesday January 16 2018

Peers in the House of Lords have defeated the Government in a vote to launch the second phase of the Leveson inquiry into the behaviour of the press.

The vote creates an amendment to the Data Protection Bill currently going through Parliament, calling for the Government to investigate “corporate governance and management failures” in the press.

The measure was tabled by Baroness Sheila Hollins of Wimbledon, whose family members have been victims of press intrusion. Lady Hollins said that her eyes were opened to “inaccurate, corrupt and illegal practices” in the press after her daughter Abigail Witchalls was stabbed and left paralysed in 2005.

The inquiry’s terms of reference would include the extent of unlawful or improper conduct by news publishers and other media organisations, along with the extent of corporate governance and management’s failures by news publishers in regards to data protection.

The first phase of the Leveson inquiry, into the culture, standards and ethics of the press, was held in 2011, following revelations of phone-hacking and other forms of harassment by members of the established newspaper press.

The second part of the Leveson inquiry, announced by former Prime Minister David Cameron back in 2011, would look at specific claims about phone-hacking by newspapers and how the police investigated these allegations. The Government has declined to fulfil its pledge on the second phase of the inquiry, in part due to significant opposition from sections of the media.

Liberal Democrat peer Tom McNally said the House of Lords amendments meant the Conservatives “have been halted in their shameless disregard for the private lives of those violated by the press going too far”. However, the vote could potentially be overturned when legislation returns to the House of Commons.

The House also voted by a narrow majority of just 11 votes to enact a measure which will ensure that newspapers not signed up to an independent press regulator are required to pay both their own and their opponents legal costs in relation to data protection breaches.

These measures mirror section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013, which place the burden of legal costs in libel cases on newspapers if they are not attached to a Leveson-compliant regulator, regardless of whether they win or lose a case. While Section 40 was included in legislation back in 2013, the Government has continually delayed tabling a commencement order allowing the legislation to be enacted.


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