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

  • Module 4 concerns the way forward, and in particular, the future approach to complaints and press standards, along with the availability of remedies. It therefore includes in particular the way in which the existing functions of the Press Complaints Commission, PCC, should be exercised. This will obviously involve a detailed consideration of the proposals advanced by Lord Black of Brentwood in his capacity as chairman of the Press Standards Board of Finance, PressBoF, and Lord Hunt of Wirrell, as present chairman of the PCC. It will additionally consider a large number of other submissions, only in respect of some of which will it be necessary to call oral evidential for the purposes of elaboration.

    I say immediately that I am conscious that an enormous amount of work has been put into considering the way forward by a number of organisations and I am very grateful to everyone involved. The fact that I do not consider it necessary to require any particular suggestion to be discussed orally should not be taken as an indication that I have rejected it or that I believe it to be of less value than ones that are the subject of further evidence. Although I do not undertake to analyse every single idea in my report, I have read all of them and will take them all into account. So that everybody can see what has been suggested and have the chance to think about the ideas as the evidence is called, all have been published on the website for some time.

    As part of this consideration of the future of standards and remedies, I intend to hear evidence about the potential for improvement to the data protection legislation and the responsibilities of the Information Commissioner. I will also be dealing with issues concerning the appropriate approach to competition and plurality of the media. This may also involve touching again upon the economics of the press.

    I have not only sought to hear from those with ideas for the future. I have also asked editors -- all of whom I believe have given evidence -- from a range of newspapers and magazines, along with others who might have an interest, actual or potential -- such as writers of blogs -- for any observations that they wish to offer on the suggestions that have been put forward.

    The evidence in this module will also cover a consideration of the Editors' Code and will involve a number of witnesses from the fields of philosophy and ethics who have been concerned with aspects of the work of the Inquiry, including Professor Baroness Onora O'Neill of Bengarve, who in the Reith Lectures in 2002, has published extensively on media freedom and other aspects of the communication.

    Finally, I have required Deputy Assistant Commissioner Akers to return to provide such update as she can in relation to operations Weeting, Elveden and Tuleta, in each case remaining consistent to my determination not to prejudice ongoing investigations or, as some cases have been initiated, prosecutions. Thus I will not be concerned with precisely who is alleged to have done what to whom, but I will want to be aware of the width and breadth of her enquiries, so as to ensure that I have captured as much of that evidence about the practices of the press as possible. I will also be keen to know whether the co-operation to which reference has previously been made continues to be extended and is evident from anyone else should different press interests have been implicated. In that regard, it is of interest that Virgin Atlantic saw fit to self-report to the Information Commissioner what appears to have been identified breaches from within its organisation of the data protection legislation.

    I ought to deal with one other aspect of the material the Inquiry's received. In response to the invitation that has been posted on the website from the outset, many hundreds of members of the public have offered both evidence and their views, whether by letter or email. I am grateful for the interest that so many people have shown in the work of the Inquiry, and I trust that, as intended, everyone has received an acknowledgment and an assurance that if the Inquiry wishes to take what they have said forward -- and in more than a few cases that has happened -- one of the Inquiry Team will be in touch.

    Pressure of time and the focus of the Inquiry has meant that for most, it has not been possible to go further, but that is not to diminish my thanks to them for their interest. Some evidence will, however, continue to be read into the record and I will also be incorporating into the record all the press cuttings that have dealt with the Inquiry from the outset.

    Reverting the timetable, after the evidence which I have outlined, I will then move on to hear closing submissions. In large part, written submissions have been made to the Inquiry as it has progressed, both of generic nature -- for example, dealing with credibility and aspects of law -- and also related to specific modules. Requests for specific assistance have also been met, and I am presently waiting for submissions as to the identity of "the press" for notice under Rule 13 of the Inquiries Rules 2006 in line with my ruling.

    Equally, I am very happy to receive closing submissions in writing, the deadline for which I now extend to 19 July. Indeed, in the main, written submissions are preferable, but I have recognised that it is only fair to provide all core participants with an opportunity, should they wish to do so, to make oral submissions. Those core participants who have responded to my invitation will be able to address the Inquiry for the time that they have sought, but everybody should understand that I have made it clear that the time available is limited and not open-ended. I ought to make it clear that I do not intend to invite counsel to the Inquiry to make a closing speech.

    Although core participants will have made their final submission, I do not rule out hearing further evidence. First, there remain certain loose ends in the perception of what the evidence reveals. If these are not resolved to my satisfaction, I am likely to require them to be addressed.

    Second, again by way of example, it is likely that in the autumn, I will require Deputy Assistant Commissioner Akers, or her replacement should by then she have retired, to provide a further update on the investigations being conducted by the Metropolitan Police and potentially other police forces in relation to other investigations. It is obviously sensible that the report should be as up to date as it can be. Needless to say, such hearings will be notified in advance, and if any core participant wishes to adduce evidence or make submissions in response, that will also be appropriate. My touchstone of fairness will remain to the end.

    My willingness to hear further evidence also means that if there is any further significant event which it is considered could substantially and significantly affect the Inquiry or its terms of reference, it will remain possible to notify the Inquiry Team, but that step should only be taken in truly exception cases. Save for the circumstances I've outlined, the general collection of evidence has now concluded.

    Yes, Mr Jay.

  • The first witness today is Lord Black, please.