Minister and Norfolk MP says timing is not right to implement second part of Leveson press inquiry
- Credit: Archant
Proposals to legally enforce part two of the Leveson Inquiry are currently not appropriate, according to the Government.
Home Office minister Brandon Lewis told MPs that ongoing legal proceedings and a consultation into the issue mean a final decision should not yet be taken.
Labour former minister Chris Bryant accused Mr Lewis of effectively saying 'nudge, nudge, wink, wink, not going to proceed with part two', something the Tory minister denied.
In November, peers backed an amendment to the Policing and Crime Bill which seeks to force the Government to hold part two of the Leveson Inquiry.
Ministers are seeking to disagree with this amendment, arguing the timing is not right to implement such a measure.
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A consultation into whether the second part of the Leveson Inquiry should go ahead closed on Tuesday.
It also allowed people to have their say on proposals which could see newspapers forced to pay their opponents' legal costs linked to libel and privacy actions, even if they win in court.
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Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 has yet to be implemented, much to the frustration of victims of press abuse, and would apply to those newspapers which are not signed up to an officially-recognised regulator.
Allegations of phone hacking at the News of the World led to the Leveson Inquiry, with then prime minister David Cameron initially announcing in 2011 that it would be conducted in two parts.
In 2012, the first reported after examining the culture, practice and ethics of the press.
The second would be expected to investigate law-breaking and improper conduct within media organisations, the original police investigation into phone-hacking and whether police were complicit in misconduct.
Speaking as MPs considered amendments from peers to the Bill, Mr Lewis said: 'It is of course vital that the police at all times uphold the very highest standards of integrity whether in their dealings with the media or, for that matter, anyone else.
'However, given the extent of the criminal investigations into phone hacking and other illegal practices by the press that have taken place since the Leveson Inquiry was established, and given the implementation of the recommendations following part one - including reforms within the police and the press - the Government must consider whether proceeding with part two of the inquiry is appropriate, proportionate and in the public interest.'
Intervening, Mr Bryant said: 'The truth of the matter is the Government promised that there was one inquiry with two parts.
'As far as I can see now, the Government minister at the despatch box is effectively saying 'nudge, nudge, wink, wink, not going to proceed with part two'.
'If that's the case, he should be straightforward and tell us so now.'
Mr Lewis replied: 'That is not what I said at all. I was very, very clear.
'We've been seeking the views of the public and interested parties and we've got to look at what is appropriate, proportionate and in the public interest.' PROPOSALS TO ENFORCE LEVESON INQUIRY PART TWO NOT APPROPRIATE SAYS MINISTER