Leveson battles to stay out of debate on press regulation

 

Lord Justice Leveson faces a battle to stay out of the heated political debate into press regulation after frustrating a House of Lords committee by refusing to reveal his thoughts on how his inquiry recommendations have been handled.

MPs have vowed to subject the judge, who headed the landmark review into press ethics and practices, to more intense questioning during his second Parliamentary appearance in two days.

John Whittingdale, the chair of the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, admitted he intended to give Lord Justice Leveson “a pretty hard time” and will today demand he give his opinion on the merits and demerits of the Royal Charter proposals.

Despite the hard-line intent, MPs are likely to be disappointed. The appeal court judge, recently made head of the Queen’s Bench Division of the judiciary, insisted that he had “said all I can” on the subject in his “bulky” report, and that he would not become involved in post-report discussions.

He told the Lords Committee on the Inquiries Act headed by Lord Shutt that it would be wrong for a serving judge “to step into the political domain” and “absolutely inappropriate” for him to build on the conclusions of his report published last November. He also appeared to suggest that the second stage of his inquiry, which he called the “who-did-what-to-whom” part, might never happen.

The second part of the inquiry – which was ordered by David Cameron following the escalating scandal of phone hacking at Rupert Murdoch’s News International – was supposed to take place after all the criminal prosecutions allied to alleged wrongdoing at the now-defunct News of the World had concluded.

Fear of prejudicing these legal proceedings meant that phone hacking, as Lord Justice Leveson told the Lords, was effectively an “elephant in the room” at the inquiry.

Although lawyers for victims of press excess have demanded Part II still needed to take place, Lord Justice Leveson himself appeared to cast doubt on whether his inquiry will ever meet again. “I don’t know when anyone will ever consider that [Part II], certainly not at the moment. But that is not for me to say,” he said.

The current debate has become centered on the merits of two opposing Royal Charters establishing a new press regulator. These have been examined by the Privy Council over the past four months, and it had been expected to advise the Queen this week to put a seal on the option backed by Parliament in March this year.

However, the Privy Council’s final decision has been postponed until the end of this month to allow further negotiations to take place – despite  an industry-backed system of regulatory reform being rejected, leaving only one option on the table.

Although a form of “statutory underpinning” was regularly referred to throughout the Leveson Inquiry’s public evidence hearings in 2011 and 2012, the final report itself advocated no defined system of regulatory control.

This is likely to allow Lord Justice Leveson simply to tell Mr Whittingdale and his colleagues, politely, as he did the Lords, that he had “done my best” and “it is for others to decide how to take this forward.”

Mr Whittingdale said ahead of today’s proceedings that it would be “helpful” to learn what Lord Justice Leveson thought of the opposing charters and whether or not they were compliant with the report’s conclusions.

The committee are also unlikely to draw Lord Justice Leveson into the role of deal-maker to end the impasse between the press industry and the politicians.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Recruitment Genius: B2B Media Sales Professional - Work From Home

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Enjoying rapid growth we contin...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Media Sales Professional - Work From Home

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Enjoying rapid growth we contin...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Media Sales Professional - Work From Home

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Enjoying rapid growth we contin...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Media Sales Professional - Work From Home

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Enjoying rapid growth we contin...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test