No hidden agenda, insists Leveson

 

Lord Justice Leveson said today that he had no "hidden agenda" to stifle press freedom.

The judge, who is heading the inquiry into media standards, insisted he would not be deterred from fulfilling his terms of reference following reports suggesting he was ready to resign after Education Secretary Michael Gove said his inquiry was having a "chilling" effect.

He acknowledged there were concerns within the media about the impact of the inquiry, but insisted that he was fully committed to press freedom.

"I also understand that, on every day of the inquiry, every exchange I have with a witness will be analysed in order to reveal a hidden agenda. There is none," he said.

"No recommendations have been formulated or written. No conclusions have yet been reached."

Lord Justice Leveson confirmed he had contacted the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, after Mr Gove made his remarks to a Parliamentary Press Gallery lunch last February and David Cameron subsequently appeared to back them up at Prime Minister's Questions.

"From my perspective, the issue was straightforward. Had the Government reached a settled view along the lines that Mr Gove had identified, it would clearly have raised questions about the value of the work that the inquiry was undertaking at substantial cost," he said.

"I recognised that the Prime Minister had said that it was right to set up the inquiry but I wanted to find out whether Mr Gove was speaking for the Government, whether it was thought that the very existence of the inquiry was having a chilling effect on healthy, vibrant journalism, and whether the Government had effectively a settled view on any potential recommendations.

"Put shortly, I was concerned about the perception that the inquiry was being undermined while it was taking place."

Following Mr Cameron's appearance at Prime Minister's Questions, the judge said he had felt it "necessary and appropriate" to raise the issue with Sir Jeremy.

"I received the assurance that no fixed view had been formed and it was wrong to infer from the Prime Minister's observations any concerns or collective view."

Lord Justice Leveson said The Mail on Sunday, which earlier this month carried an account of his conversation with Sir Jeremy, had been entitled to publish its story "with whatever comment they considered appropriate".

"It is absolutely correct that the Press should be able to hold this inquiry in general and me in particular to account," he said.

"Having said that, however, it is at least arguable that what has happened is an example of an approach which seeks to convert any attempt to question the conduct of the Press as an attack on free speech.

"For my part, I will not be deterred from seeking to fulfil the terms the reference that have been set for me."

The judge said that at the heart of the story were two allegations - that he had tried to prevent Mr Gove from exercising his right to free speech and had then "misused" the process of the inquiry to summon the Education Secretary to challenge his behaviour.

He said that if the inquiry had been sitting last Monday - the day after The Mail on Sunday published its report - he would have addressed the issue then.

Instead, he had given "core participants" to the inquiry 48 hours to make any submissions or observations concerning the report.

Despite the "very serious allegations" in the report, Lord Justice Leveson said the paper's publisher, Associated Newspapers, had not responded.

"Given the prominence that they had afforded this story, at the very least I find that equally surprising as their apparent failure to understand why I might have sought submissions or observations from them," he said.

PA

Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
News
i100
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Data Analytics Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading organisation...

Accountant / Assistant Management Accountant

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are looking for an Assistant Management Ac...

Data Scientist

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A data analytics are currently looking t...

Insight Analyst Vacancy - Leading Marketing Agency

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading marketing agency have won a fe...

Day In a Page

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

How has your club fared in summer sales?

Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

The best swim shorts for men

Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup