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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

Guru Careers: Senior Account Manager / SAM

£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: A Senior Account Manager / SAM is needed to join the ...

Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Manager (EMEA) - City, London

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Manager...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?