The Prime Minister acknowledged that the government had not placed media regulation high enough on the political agenda, and that it should respond to recommendations in the future. A public inquiry led by Lord Justice Leveson will now examine relations between the press, politicians and the police.
Speaking in Parliament last week, Jo Swinson MP highlighted how the cosy relationship between News International and successive Governments led to them avoiding taking action on phone hacking.
Commenting, Jo Swinson said:
“The inappropriate relationship between News International and both Labour and Conservative politicians has meant that successive governments have consistently ignored warnings about phone hacking, despite calls to take action from the Culture, Media & Sport Select Committee, the Information Commissioner, and the Liberal Democrats.
“I welcome the long-overdue judicial inquiry. It is important not only that criminal behaviour is punished, but that a better system of independent regulation is put in place to uphold media ethics and avoid a repeat of the appalling activities that have come to light in recent weeks.”
The full text of Jo’s question and the Prime Minister’s answer is below:
Jo Swinson: In the light of Mrs Brooks’ revelations about quite how cosy and close the relationship was between News International and Tony Blair, and Murdoch’s secret back-door meetings at No. 10 under both the last and present Governments, does the Prime Minister agree that this explains why successive Governments have been so reluctant to act in response to the 2003 Culture, Media and Sport Committee recommendations, the 2006 Information Commissioner report, and calls last year from Lib Dem MPs for a judicial inquiry into phone hacking?
The Prime Minister: People should not shout the hon. Lady down, because she is making a very fair point, and frankly, it is a point that does not reflect very well on either Conservative or Labour, which is that there were a lot of warnings about what was going wrong-warnings from the Information Commissioner, warnings from the Select Committee-but we did not put high enough up the agenda the issue of regulating the media. We should not be pointing fingers about this; we should be recognising that we need to work on this to get it right, to respond to those reports and actually put some of their proposals into the law.