The third module, Module 3, was the second module with a twin focus: on the routine reporting of politics and on the question of whether illicit deals were done between politicians and press proprietors.
On the question of whether illicit deals had been done, there is no disguising the fact that the focus was, to a remarkable extent, upon the question of whether illicit deals had been done between Rupert Murdoch and politicians.
The Section 21 notice addressed to Mr Murdoch identified at least 12 cases where the Inquiry wished to investigate the possibilities of illicit deals or improper influence. These ranged in time over nearly 30 years, from the acquisition of the Times and the Sunday Times in 1981 to the development of Conservative Party media policy in 2010, and in subject matter from support for the Iraq War in 2003 to involvement in the education sector.
Every one of the questions raised has been the subject of time-consuming and expensive research, and every one has been answered. In most cases, both by Mr Murdoch and by the politicians alleged to have been on the other side of the deal.
The Inquiry has had the unique power and opportunity to summon before it both press proprietors and prime ministers. It has heard from four prime ministers, going back to 1992; and not only from prime ministers, but from others at the heart of Government. Secretaries of state, press spokesmen and senior civil servants.
What have we learned from this unprecedented parade of witnesses? We have learned that Mr Murdoch is always interested in the political issues of the day, that he has strong views on Europe, which he is not shy of expressing, that he was a supporter of the Iraq War and that he feels passionately about education. And we have learned that these are the things he talks about when he meets politicians and we have learned that he does not trade the support of his papers for personal or commercial benefits.
We have learned that because he has told us so, because wherever available, the contemporaneous documents support his account and because the politicians have told us so as well. For it takes two to tango. If there is to be an illicit deal between a press proprietor and a politician, then both have to cast their integrity to the winds.
One may think politicians from one or all parties to be misguided, wrong-headed or incompetent, or all three, but that is not the question. The question is whether they sold their souls to Mr Murdoch or News International or to some other faction of the press. An answer came to that question, and it was a unanimous and vehement: No.
The witnesses who gave that answer often related it to an awareness of the duties and responsibilities which come with the great offices of state. The point was vividly put by Jack Straw when asked whether the decision to commit British troops to Iraq was determined by the stance of the News International papers. He answered that it was not a factor, that it would have been disgusting if it had been and that it was, and I quote:
"About putting British troops in harm's way, and bluntly, was much, much more serious than that, so no, is the answer".
If one wants to take a more cynical approach, another political old hand, Ken Clarke, pointed out that it would be a very naive politician who believed that the press would stand by him if events turned against him, which makes such pacts a fruitless exercise for a politician.
The starting point for the Inquiry's consideration of these issues and of most of the conspiracy theories over the years was the acquisition of the Times Newspapers from the Thomson companies in 1981. The trigger for the Inquiry's interest in this issue was the assertion by Woodrow Wyatt in his diaries that he had had all the rules bent for Mr Murdoch over the acquisition of those two papers.
That entry in Lord Wyatt's diaries was made 14 years after the events in 1995. When it was published, it prompted Mr Mullin to fix a date with Mr Biffen, who had made the crucial decision, to ask him what had really happened. Mr Biffen went to the trouble of digging his pocketbook out of the attic to check his recollection and reported to Mr Mullin that, so far as he knew, everything had been above board.
When one examines the documentary record, it decisively supports Mr Biffen's recollection. Mr Murdoch is plainly recorded as not opposing a reference to the MMC. It was Mr Biffen who decided not to make a reference, and his reasoning is fully transparent. Thomsons, not Mr Murdoch, had set a deadline which they would not move and the MMC could not report before the deadline. Neither of those immovable objects was of Mr Murdoch's making, but faced with them, Mr Biffen's decision makes perfect sense.
The documentary record compellingly explains what happened and it leaves no room for deals. When one adds the recollections of Mr Biffen and the evidence of Mr Murdoch, the irresistible conclusion is that there was no deal. And that sets the tone for what follows.
The Inquiry asked about a string of policies or decisions adopted by New Labour under Mr Blair and Mr Brown. The issues raised range from Labour Party policy before the 1997 election, through to the rules of Premium League television rights in 2005, with a detour on the way into the question of whether Mr Blair had felt it necessary to take the advice of the publisher of the Sun on how to mend diplomatic fences with the president of France.
Not surprisingly, both Mr Murdoch and Mr Blair answered no to that.
I'm not going to go through each issue, but I must mention the remarkable and convincing unanimity with which the charges were rejected, and not just by the principal actors.
I've already mentioned Mr Straw's reaction to suggestions of News International input into decisions over the Iraq War. Lord Mandelson, a key figure in the party, rejected the idea of any Faustian pact between the Labour Government and Rupert Murdoch. He did not believe that there was ever a deal, express or implied.
Alastair Campbell, at the centre of the New Labour project, said that he didn't think there ever was a deal between Mr Murdoch and Mr Blair. Nothing, he said, was traded with Mr Murdoch on policy.
Lord O'Donnell, a civil servant at the heart of Whitehall from 1989 to 2011, said on this subject that he was not aware of anything. He could give no specific examples of things where he thought something happened that shouldn't have done.
In 2009, of course, the Sun famously switched its support from the Labour Party to the Conservatives, and in 2010, the country acquired the Coalition Government. Lord O'Donnell remained in place, and his evidence straddles both governments.
In a different way, so does Mr Gove, and he was clear that neither as a journalist nor as a politician had he seen, observed or heard any evidence of an express or implied deal between a politician and a press proprietor.
Mr Cameron made it absolutely clear that with his own background in television, he did not need News International to make his party's media policies for him. And Mr Osborne was withering over the suggestion that the Conservative Party somehow conspired to get the BSkyB bid onto Mr Hunt's desk.
As to what happened when the bid did reach Mr Hunt's desk, after a sequence of events which could not possibly have been plotted or foreseen by News Corporation or News International, the Inquiry has received an enormous quantity of documentation. One point that shines through is that nobody ever offered Mr Hunt any sort of deal to wave through the bid and nor did he wave it through.
On the subject of that bid, I must mention that, as the Inquiry knows, Mr Michel has filed a further witness statement in response to the evidence given by Mr Norman Lamb MP.
In that statement, he makes it quite clear that he did not set out to make any threats to Mr Lamb, and that if Mr Lamb thought he was being threatened, that can only have been a misunderstanding which has unfortunately festered until very recently.
We would also point out that although Dr Cable did indeed refer the bid to Ofcom not long after Mr Michel's meeting with Mr Lamb, there is no suggestion that coverage by any News International titles of the Lib Dems thereupon turned nasty.
It is true that Mr Clegg said that he didn't think they had received particularly favourable treatment in the first place, but nobody suggests that it took any turn for the worse.
Returning from that slight detour to the question of deals. After 30 years in which rumours and conspiracy theories have abounded, the Inquiry has, so far as possible, called before it all the main actors and many of the supporting cast.
The Inquiry has heard from Mr Murdoch that he did not ask for deals and it has heard from politicians that they did not promise them, and that the business of government is too important for deals with the press.
Collectively and individually, their evidence has shown a consistent pattern and delivered a compelling answer. There was no deal in 1981, and there have been no deals since.
As with the Module 2 question concerning the motivations of the police, this is a negative answer, but it is a very important negative answer. Speculation and rumour comes cheap and it swirls through the books, the magazines, the papers and especially the Internet. But the evidence has now been heard and not one of the supposed deals has stood up to examination.
That is a statement about the past. What about the future?
You asked yesterday about the culture of the press. We would suggest that the key to the culture of the press is the apparently banal but nonetheless true statement that what drives journalists and papers is the desire to get the news and to publish it first.
News is, of course, information that is new, that is not already well-known. News is also information that is accurate. There is no professional or personal satisfaction to be gained from publishing information that is inaccurate, and doing so also exposes you to the risk of an action for defamation.
The culture is, therefore, one which seeks after truth. A stream of editors and journalists have said that, and there is no reason to disbelieve them.
That instinct can also be seen in a perverted form in the cases where things have gone wrong. The journalists who paid Mr Whittamore were not paying him for inaccurate information but for accurate information. Those who engaged in phone hacking were acting disgracefully, but they were not after fictitious stories, they were after true stories.
What we see is that the excesses of the press have occurred when the search for a story has overcome the boundaries of privacy. That is in some way as a consequence of the history.
Defamation law is something which journalists have grown up with. Privacy law really began in the United Kingdom with the decision of the House of Lords in the Naomi Campbell case in 2004. It is not, we suggest, a coincidence that the use of Mr Whittamore and phone hacking started before then. The boundaries of privacy have not historically been in the DNA of the press but they have now had eight years to learn, and the lesson is, we think, sinking in, and is well on its way to being thoroughly absorbed.
As Mr Millar explained yesterday, the Editors' Code has moved with the times over that period, and whilst no doubt not perfect, it is overall a good document.
What is needed is a mechanism or an agency to improve compliance with the code, but that mechanism or agency must take its place in an already complex world, with a number of powerful factors in play.
First, it must recognise that the press is already set around with laws. It has been said, a little glibly, that nothing has changed since Sir David Calcutt's second report. It is true that Parliament has not enacted his authoritarian vision for the supervision of the press by a tribunal appointed by ministers, but in every other respect, a great deal has changed.
We have an anti-harassment statute, we have a privacy law, we have a broader Data Protection Act, we are in the throes of recognising that defamation law has become too great a fetter on freedom of speech. We know that phone hacking is against the criminal law. An editor has to navigate his way through these thickets every day and they already represent a formidable body of constraints.
Secondly, a new system must not inhibit the vital functions of comment on and criticism of those in power, together with legitimate investigative reporting, including investigations that, although well-intentioned, do not turn up a scandal in the end.
Thirdly, and by contrast, it must recognise the vital importance of the tabloid press. It is the easy option intellectually and ethically to defend those elements of the press that trade in seriousness and high-mindedness. Indeed, they are rarely criticised. But they are not the press that the vast majority reads.
Of course, even most of the broadsheet press is not as serious-minded as perhaps the Times Literary Supplement or the Economist, but the majority of newspaper readers do not read the Times, the Telegraph or the Guardian, they read the popular and the mid-market press: the Sun, the Mail, the Mirror and the Express.
These papers do not exist on a plain diet of serious stuff. They sell because they mix information with amusement, emotion, cheekiness and popular idiom. Between them, they give the United Kingdom a uniquely vivid and vibrant national press with a daily readership of somewhere between 17.5 and 20 million, depending on exactly how you do the figures.
That popular press must be allowed the scope to continue to entertain and amuse as well as to educate and to inform. It is as well to remember that the right to freedom of expression articulated by Article 10 is a right not only to impart information and ideas but also to receive them.
When the public buy newspapers, they are exercising their Article 10 rights to receive information and ideas, and most of them choose to exercise those rights by buying the popular papers rather than the broadsheets.
Fourthly, it must be acknowledged that the printed press is economically very fragile. I hope the Guardian will forgive me for mentioning their recent results, but they have just announced losses of 44 million following on 31 million last year, and significant redundancies amongst reporters are expected to follow. Trinity Mirror's travails over the last year have been widely chronicled.
Mr Millar explained yesterday that the Telegraph was handsomely profitable at present, but he also made it clear that they did not know what the future would bring, even in the short term.
As for News International, the last year has been a one-off, but the underlying position is that the Times has been unprofitable for many years, the Sunday Times has recently been loss-making and while the Sun is profitable, the situation is no longer as healthy as it once was.
Speaking to you this morning, Mr Sherborne was somewhat contemptuous of commercial motivations, but it is right to have in mind that without a profitable press, there will be no press at all. This is a fragile industry and it cannot support the imposition of expensively, heavy-handed, regulatory structure.
Fifthly, the reason for that fragility must be recognised in the form of competition from the Internet. The news dissemination from this Inquiry itself is an example we have all observed at first hand. The Inquiry's proceedings have been streamed live over the net for all to see. For those not watching, instant updates have come from blogs, from Tweets and from articles on news Internet sites. Significant developments have been reported on the news and discussed on the current affairs programmes of radio and television, and all of that has happened before the next day's papers have hit the doorsteps.
In that state of play, it cannot be either economically or legally fair to lay a burden of regulation upon the printed press which is not laid equally upon the Internet, and that, as we all know, is a very difficult thing to achieve, and not a problem faced by Sir David Calcutt in 1993.
If one wants an example of the competition that the printed press faces, one need only read Paul Staines's recent witness statement to the Inquiry in which he says that more regulation of the press will be good for his business, that is to say the Guido Fawkes blog, but he will ignore all of it.
It is idle to seek a solution that perfectly accommodates the Internet and the other factors I have identified, but we suggest that the best solution is that put forward by Lord Black and Lord Hunt. This has a number of great merits.
First, it is voluntary and has been and is being developed by those who will pay for it and be subject to it.
Secondly, being voluntary, it avoids the definition and funding problems we have identified at paragraphs 33 onwards of our overview submissions lodged last week. Voluntary regimes can be flexible on such matters.
To pick up a point that was discussed yesterday, once statute intervenes to enforce or to encourage participation, then it has to define who has to participate in order not to be penalised. That gives rise to a problem of definition, and if you resolve it in a fashion that leaves out Internet competition, it threatens to impose a competitive disadvantage of those within the definition.
To be blunt, the position is that people may volunteer for something which the Government cannot fairly impose upon them.
Thirdly, any statute can be at risk of amendment and of the misuse of delegated legislative powers. Ofcom advised the Inquiry that this is a credible risk and the material on the point is very well gathered in the written submissions of Associated Newspapers from paragraph 44 onwards, which we very gladly adopt on this point.
Fourthly, it does not require public funds. Even Mr Jay's only "10 million" is hard to justify if there is a self-funded scheme available.
Fifthly, it is flexible. It can respond to changes in the news delivery market and it can be introduced without delay.
Sixthly, it will have teeth comparable to or sharper than most press councils in the EU.
Seventhly, the annual reporting requirement is a good idea, and will serve to raise standards.
For all those reasons, we support the PressBoF proposals and we would add that in supporting that approach, we suggest that Mr Sherborne exaggerated just a little the power of the press when he spoke this morning.
The press can gather information and it can publish it, but it does not have compulsory powers to gather information. It can't give orders, it can't send troops to Afghanistan, it can't issue statutory notices, it can't execute search warrants. It can only speak, and in doing that it is in competition with broadcasters and the Internet.
The power to speak is not an insignificant power, but it's not an overweening one either, and the regulation of that not so strong but very important power should not be, and need not be, too heavy-handed.
Finally, we would add that whatever the regulatory solution may be, lessons have been learned here. Such statements are often met with a lift of the eyebrows, but you heard yesterday from DAC Akers of the co-operation given by the MSC to the Metropolitan Police, of the instances where the MSC has carried out investigations which have not been asked for by the police and that the senior management and corporate approach now is to assist and come clean.
Despite what Mr Sherborne said this morning, it is a culture of clean-up which is now in place.
In that regard, Mr Sherborne also referred to the question of email deletions. All I want to say about that is that under the direction of the MSC, enormous resources have been devoted to reconstituting email databases and appropriate disclosures have been made to the police.
Indeed, I think the Inquiry has heard in the past of -- I forget how many millions of emails which have been surveyed for the purpose, but the number is astonishingly large.
In addition, Mr Rupert Murdoch made available to the Inquiry as an exhibit to his witness statement a detailed explanation of the position in relation to the retention and deletion of emails by News International. That statement was made by Mr Cheesebrough, News International's chief information officer. There are confidentiality limitations which apply to its use, but the Inquiry has it.
One may add to those considerations the sober reflections that the News of the World, a 168-year-old paper, has been felled. The electronic cupboards have been stripped bare. There have been a lot of arrests and a host of civil claims. These are lessons that are too severe to be forgotten, and News International is determined not to have to learn them twice.
That is the ground I wanted to cover and what I wanted to say, and it remains only for the News International team, as those perhaps most constantly present, to thank the Inquiry Team from top to bottom for the courtesy with which the Inquiry has been conducted.