In Brief

Leveson 2: second stage of press inquiry cancelled

Labour criticises Culture Secretary Matt Hancock for abandoning planned probe

The Government is shutting down the Leveson Inquiry into media standards without implementing its planned second stage, Culture Secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed.

The inquiry, set up by former prime minister David Cameron in 2011 following the News International phone-hacking scandal, was “due to examine relations between journalists and the police” in phase two, reports the BBC.

But Hancock says that the “world had changed” since Leveson’s initial report, in 2012, and that the press has since “cleaned up its act”.

In 2014, four ex-News of the World journalists, including editor Andy Coulson, were convicted of conspiring to intercept private voicemails.

In October 2016, the then government recognised new Leveson-compliant press regulator Impress. Only a handful of publishers have signed up to Impress, however, with most choosing to remain under the aegis of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso). 

In a Commons statement today, Hancock said: “We do not believe that this costly and time-consuming public inquiry is the right way forward.”

“Britain needs high-quality journalism to thrive in the new digital world,” he added. “We seek a press - a media - that is robust and independently regulated. That reports without fear or favour.”

Hancock also announced that the Government would not put into effect a law that would force media organisations to pay legal costs in libel cases whether they won or lost.

Labour’s shadow culture secretary Tom Watson -  who has “long campaigned for victims of press intrusion”, notes The Guardian - said the decision to abandon Leveson 2 was “a disappointment, a breach of trust and a bitter blow”, adding: “But it is not in any way a surprise.”

Watson said that numerous media outlets had been “lobbying hard” for the cancellation of Leveson 2 and that Hancock would likely get “plaudits” in Friday’s newspapers and “prosper politically” from the move. He also accused newspapers of “helping write” Hancock’s statement.

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