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

I think there is a temptation, of course, not least in the controversy of this bid just to say look, take the politicians out of it altogether. I'd set the hurdle quite high before making that decision. I think there is a general tendency at the moment to increasingly strip politicians of decision-making authority. We do it on monetary policy, we do it on a whole range of issues already.

I think we need to be a little bit careful. The representative democracy is based on the idea that there are people you elect to take difficult decisions who are then held to account for those decisions. Whilst I think there is a very strong case, I've personally now become strongly persuaded of this, of tightening up the definitions which govern a quasi-judicial decision, so, for instance, the plurality test seems to me to be far too amorphous and loosely defined. It was only actually smuggled into the 2003 Communications Act, against the initial objections of the Labour Party and the Labour government of the time, not least because of pressure from the Liberal Democrats and the House of Lords, Lord Puttnam and other cross benchers. So it was a kind of concession, hadn't been properly thought through, and it's now the basis upon which the Secretary of State has to base his or her quasi-judicial decisions.

So I think there is a big case to tighten up the remit given to a Secretary of State, but I nonetheless think at the end of the day it is a good thing in a Parliamentary democracy to have people who are accountable to Parliament who have to explain why that decision was taken and inasmuch as they have any discretion within what I hope will be tighter definitions, why they chose to exercise discretion one way or the other.

I just think this idea that you can make everything bloodless and technocratic, you know, I think that's sometimes a false -- there's a false premise there that somehow if you just remove politicians, then controversy is suddenly drained of the issue altogether because there isn't a politician in sight. I think people need to be a little bit careful of what they hope for because what you could end up with is a process which actually does rely on a certain degree, if highly constrained, degree of judgment, in which that judgment is made by people who are accountable to nobody.

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