The transcripts of the official inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press. More…

  • Sir, we would support, I think, the length and breadth approach, if I can call it that, or perhaps the macro approach, which you've mentioned just now to Mr Garnham and Mr Caplan.

    There are three points that I wanted to make, and I'm actually going to take them in reverse order in the view of the way the discussion has gone, but I'll just mention them in their original order.

    First of all, it seems to us that the terms, structure and timing of the terms of reference make it clear that the police investigation was to have primacy over part one of the Inquiry. I might add that the point mentioned just now as to the speed with which you're required to report in part one, perhaps in itself suggests that a macro approach is necessary.

  • Yes. You're go to develop these points; aren't you?

  • Secondly, the practical point is simply this, that we've provided a schedule of those who have been arrested so far, so far as we know. I don't want to go throughout it, and perhaps not surprisingly there are versions on the Internet all over the place, but what it demonstrates, just looking at the names and the positions they held, is that it is not really going to --

  • Just a moment. This isn't on the Internet, is it? This is your version.

  • No, no, this is provided by us, but there is a Wikipedia page listing everyone who has been arrested, so far as is public knowledge, under Operation Weeting, for example.

  • All right, that's right, but I do think that we should not -- I mean, the submissions that are made to the Inquiry generally are published.

  • Therefore I think that we should not put into the public domain your schedule. It may be other people can create the schedule, but I don't believe it's appropriate that we should be adding to it.

  • Yes, very well. It is only, I think, taken from public knowledge. There may be other things. We simply don't know.

  • If you tell me you obtained it from Wikipedia, Mr Davis, then it won't matter.

  • We didn't, we didn't.

    Just looking at that indicates how very difficult it would be for an Inquiry to go into the question of who knew what at the News of the World at this stage, because there are just too many people who you would want to ask, who are almost bound not to answer questions, given the criminal -- understandably, in view of the criminal proceedings. There is a practical difficulty in conducting a detailed examination now.

    Thirdly, we would suggest that without carrying out that micro investigation, there is, or there will be, enough material available to the Inquiry to enable it to form a proper view as to the nature and extent of any problem in relations between the press and the public. Therefore, to enable it to make recommendations in part one to address any problem which it identifies.

  • We would say, in that regard, that the Inquiry has been right in the seminars to focus on the interface between the press and the public. That is where any behaviour which is wrong or illegal makes itself felt and it is the concern of the Inquiry to make any necessary recommendations to rebalance the playing field, change the approach in future.

  • Those are the three points I want to make. As I said, I'll take them in their reverse order.

    The last one is really the length and breadth point.

    It might be helpful just to bear in mind the material which will be available anyway and which the Inquiry has or will have. First of all, there are the two reports of the Information Commissioner in 2006, and we believe that those will be supplemented by additional evidence as to Operation Motorman. We don't know what, but we understand that there will be some such evidence.

    Secondly, there are the convictions of Mr Mulcaire and Mr Goodman, and what was said at the sentencing hearing by the prosecution and by the defence.

    I think it is at that point, really, that the journal which you referred to earlier comes into play, and we would certainly have no objection at all to the type of analysis drawn from that which was mentioned earlier.

    Thirdly, there is the evidence which will be given, although we do not know what it will be at the moment, by members of the public who feel they have suffered at the hands of the press. As we understand it, some 18 or 20 members of the public are going to be giving evidence at the beginning of the evidential phase of the Inquiry.

  • Lastly there is the material generated by the civil proceedings. In that regard we have been asked by the Inquiry recently to produce the admissions which News International has made in those proceedings, and we will do that.

    That is no doubt not a complete list, there may be more material which emerges in the course of the evidence which is given. Mr Jay may have witnesses I know nothing of who he intends to call. It is enough, we would suggest, to indicate that the Tribunal will be able to see the length and breadth of the problem as it affects the public and as it arises at the interface between the press and the public. That is the necessary basis for recommendations in part one.

  • Sir, that was, in the order I'm taking them, the first point I wanted to make.

    Then the second one, which is really very short, is just that, as I have said, there are, I think, 14 people we know of, not all of them worked at the News of the World, but most of them did, who have been arrested. They occupy or occupied some key positions at the paper, from reporter up to editor, as is well known. If one was going to find out what had happened and who knew what inside the paper, you would need to ask those people. Even if you have documents, as Mr Jay and indeed the police have pointed out, you need to check with the people who were there at the time that the documents mean what you think they mean.

    It is inevitable that those people are not going to be answering questions in full whilst they have been arrested and there is the prospect of criminal prosecutions.

    The effect of that is that we, as their ex-employers, cannot obtain a full account of what happened and nor, we would suggest, will the Inquiry get one. The risk of investigating that sort of territory is that it can only be half a job, and that is extremely dangerous and would not result in satisfactory conclusions.

    We would say that there are great practical difficulties in really digging into that area at all at this stage, and it is better left for the moment for the police and, if there are any, the criminal courts to deal with prosecutions.

    Lastly, there is the question of how that all fits with the terms of reference. It is, we think, worth putting them in their chronological context.

    As you know, sir, the police Inquiry which is carrying on now, Operation Weeting, began in January this year upon the delivery of further information by News International. That Inquiry had been in existence for six months when this tribunal was established, and when the Prime Minister was addressing the House of Commons on 13 July, before the terms of reference were finalised, he noted that eight people had then be arrested, including, as it happens, the government's ex-director of communications, Mr Coulson.

    It was on 13 July that the Prime Minister noted that the police investigation was in very competent hands and fully resourced, and he was anxious to reassure the House of Commons on those points. He said that the Inquiry into wrongdoing, that is this Inquiry, could not take place in full until the criminal proceedings had been concluded, that is why the terms of reference are in two parts, as we know.

    If one looks at the terms of reference, there is, we would suggest, a clear indication of the difference. Part 2, paragraphs 3 and 6, quite clearly requires a detailed Inquiry into what was going on within News International, and as appropriate, other organisations within the media. Paragraph 3 is:

    "To enquire into the extent of unlawful or improper conduct within News International, other newspapers organisations, and as appropriate, other organisations within media."

    Paragraph 6 is:

    "To enquire into the extent of corporate governance and management failures at News International and other newspaper organisations."

    There is no doubt that that is the micro level.

    When one goes back to part one, all one has is a general requirement to enquire into the culture of practices and ethics of the press in general.

  • You've seen Mr Jay's analysis of that.

  • He doesn't submit that that prohibits me, but does actually identify the corners.

  • Yes, absolutely, and the point I'm making there is exactly the one which is raised but not decided, put it that way, by Mr Jay.

  • You're not suggesting, are you, because nobody's actually suggested that this part one shouldn't be touching any of this?

  • No. I think all I would suggest is that the discussion about length and breadth and the macro approach is consistent with the split in the two parts of the terms of reference.

  • If you give me a moment, I think that's all I want to say.

  • I have one other question to ask you.

  • I have no doubt at all that News International have disclosed -- I haven't actually looked at them, but I understand they've disclosed their corporate governance procedures.

  • It is also, I think, in the public domain that News International have been reviewing all that?

  • Would it be unreasonable for me to enquire of News International whether the result of their investigation has itself revealed any shortcomings, whether or not that requires descending -- not requiring descending into people, but into systems and the way in which they operate?

  • My initial reaction to that is I don't think so.

  • It is the case that, as I indicated earlier, our own enquiries have been rather limited by things its police have asked us not to do.

  • In terms of, if I can call it that, at the macro level, whether it is now thought that the governance systems were unsatisfactory and in need of improvement, that -- I would think -- was an acceptable enquiry to make.

  • It's well within the public domain that News International have appointed extremely distinguished leading counsel to conduct that independent examination. The interesting question arises, which won't have to be resolved today, whether I could not ask him -- well, I could, actually, but whether it's appropriate to ask him to provide evidence on that topic.

    You don't need to answer that now.

  • But I do think it's an interesting question.

  • Yes. We will bear that in mind, sir.

  • I don't think -- (Pause)

    I have very up to the minute instructions, as it happens, sir, that the relevant committee has not at the moment reached any conclusions, but I'm sure it's working hard.

  • Yes. It might have six months to do it.

  • I would pay attention to any concern that Lord Grabiner expressed of potential embarrassment before I decide whether to issue a notice.

  • That's why I say you can consider it.

  • We, and I'm sure he, will consider that.

  • Yes. All right, thank you. Thank you. Right, I think it's logically Mr Mukul Chawla now. I think it's rather interesting, your status at this stage. You're not a core participant.

  • Yet your contribution has been as full as anybody else. I have read your submissions. I have concerns about how far this stretches, but in the context of this particular question, it seems to me that it's sensible that I do read them and have regard to them. I don't ask you to elaborate upon them, but if there's anything that you want to say, having heard what's passed this morning, then I would listen to it.