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

  • MR MURDOCH MACLENNAN (sworn).

  • Please make yourself comfortable, Mr MacLennan.

  • And give us your full name, please.

  • Thank you. I hope in the first of the two bundles in front of you you'll find under tab 2 your witness statement dated 15 September 2011; is that right?

  • You have signed and dated it and appended to it is a statement of truth. Is this your formal evidence to the Inquiry, Mr MacLennan?

  • You are the chief executive officer of Telegraph Media Group Limited. Since 2010, you've also been chairman of the Press Association, and you have spent a lifetime working in the newspaper industry; is that correct?

  • You tell us in paragraph 5 that between 2005 and 2007 you were chairman of the Newspaper Publishers Association. Can you tell us about that trade body, please? What are its aims and objects?

  • It's a trade body for the national newspapers in this country and there are a number of other bodies that report into it, although the NPA, or Newspaper Publishers Association has no jurisdiction over those other bodies that cover circulation, readership and so on. It's the collective.

  • Thank you. The Telegraph Media Group Limited, if I can put it in these terms, is the most successful commercially of the traditional broadsheet newspapers. You tell us what your turnover and after profit and taxation was in the year 2010 in paragraph 30. In a nutshell, why is this so, Mr MacLennan? Why is the Telegraph successful?

  • The Telegraph, when we took over the company, was making a profit at that stage. It has the most loyal readership of any of the newspapers I've ever worked on. It's a tight ship. We have a large number of -- in fact, we have more journalists, full-time journalists, on the team now than we had when we took over, and I'd like to think the most talented journalists in the country.

  • You mention tight ship. It's clear from your evidence and the evidence of the next witness that if anything, the ship has tightened financially since 2008; is that correct?

  • That would be fair. But it's also one of the most modern newspaper and multimedia operations on the planet and that's been a process that we've undergone during the last seven years.

  • Of course, one of the initiatives the Telegraph is pursuing, along, of course, with its competitors, is in relation to its digital offering on the Internet, and that presumably is an ongoing priority for your title; is that right?

  • It is, and when we talk about our profitability, we plough our money back into the business to make sure that we stay at the forefront of technological change within our business, because our competitors these days are no longer just other newspapers, but the entire media.

  • Can I ask you a question about the relationship between the owners of the paper and the board on the one hand and then the editors on the other. Do the owners have any influence over what goes into the newspaper?

  • Is that a feature of some surprise? I mean, if one reads historically into the earlier part of the last century, the big proprietors were not merely proprietors; they were much, much more than that.

  • Yes, and they used their power accordingly.

  • My recent experiences, sir, have been, with my present employers and going back to my last employer, Lord Rothermere and his late father, absolutely no involvement with their titles. They take a very professional view of church and state between editorial and the business operation.

  • Do you know the reasons for that?

  • Well, my present chairman is a very private individual, but also, as I said, very professional in the way he deals with the business. He's very interested on a day-to-day basis with the running of the business, how effective or otherwise I am, and leaves the editorial side entirely in the hands of his editors.

  • Thank you. You say in paragraph 9 of your statement that you hold weekly senior management meetings --

  • -- which include both the editors and the senior commercial directors to review the performance of the business and to discuss key strategic issues. You're obviously excluding from that editorial issues but what, in a nutshell, are these key strategic issues?

  • We could be talking about promotions. We could be talking about a major shift in the IT operation, general business issues and major projects, which could also involve the editorial operations, so there's no exclusion to that, but not to discuss content in any shape or form.

  • No. Then you tell us in paragraph 13 -- I'm not going to cover all your evidence, Mr MacLennan, we're going to take the rest as read, if you don't mind:

    "The Telegraph are strong supporters of the code and since March 1998, adherence to the code has been written into all journalists' contracts of employment."

    Is that so?

  • That's correct. But because of the Inquiry and the seriousness and the reasons the Inquiry was called, we've reiterated the main protocols as a healthy reminder to us all.

  • A letter went out in your name, and it's under tab 3 of this bundle. It bears the unique reference number 06776.

  • Do you have it there?

  • It went out on 14 September from your office, presumably to all employees of the paper; is that right?

  • You point out:

    "Recent events at the News of the World have placed into very sharp focus the issues of ethics and integrity. The newspaper industry is under unprecedented scrutiny."

    The purpose of this letter, and then the next page, was to remind journalists of obligations which they had to comply with contractually in any event. It wasn't to set any new standards; is that so, Mr MacLennan?

  • No, that's correct. Because of the black cloud hanging over the industry with the phone hacking and the News of the World -- I mean, phone hacking is just non-existent, wouldn't even come into discussion at the Telegraph, but it's important from all sorts of other -- it's been a useful exercise, both on the financial side as well as the editorial side of the business, to go over our procedures again.

  • I've been described in many ways. I've never previously been described as a "black cloud". But I'd be very keen at some stage -- and I'm sure Mr Jay is going to cover this, to -- develop with you some of the concerns and some of the responses, but before we get into that, before Mr Jay carries on, your background is in the management side?

  • But do I gather from the other offices that you have held and are holding that it would be wrong to say that you weren't equally interested and have a not insignificant role in relation to the editorial side?

  • Yes, I have both editorial and commercial reporting in to me, sir.

  • But also, as chairman of the Press Association and as the chairman of the Newspaper Publishers Association and the vice president of the World Association of Newspapers, presumably that brings across the range. So you won't mind us asking you questions across the entire range?

  • Yes. You could sound a bit more enthusiastic. All right.

  • A point arises on the annex to this letter. It starts at 06777 but the specific point is on 06778 under the rubric "Obeying the law". Do you see that, Mr MacLennan?

  • You point out clearly that staff must obey the law. That includes not tapping telephones, intercepting email or voicemail messages, et cetera. And then the next paragraph:

    "As stated in the code, there may be extraordinary circumstances where exceptions to this rule (and others) can be justified in the public interest."

    It's not your understanding, is it, that there is a public interest defence to tapping telephones, which under the relevant statute is an absolute offence, and there isn't a defence, for example, of acting in the public interest? Do you follow that?

  • I do. It's completely -- it wouldn't come up for even discussion within the Telegraph operation, so there's -- we have never been involved or engaged in anything of that type, and it's never been a discussion or debating point.

  • Our journalists live by the PCC code.

  • If it isn't a matter even on the radar of the Telegraph, it might be said: well, why mention it in the context of this advice that you're giving your journalists?

  • I think it comes back to what's happened at the News of the World. To make it very clear to everyone what we stand for. I mean, our readers, our viewers demand honesty and integrity as a given.

  • That's part of the Telegraph brand; is that what you're telling us?

  • It is indeed, and that's what we seek to protect at all costs.

  • Maybe you weren't responsible for the precise wording of this advice; it just went out under your name. Do I have that right?

  • Yes. It's a healthy reminder, Mr Jay, across the company, because the company handbook is about three inches thick and is used as a sort of reference document. It's available online to all staff. This was just a comprehensive reminder of the main points.

  • I have to say I probably wouldn't have issued it if this whole thing hadn't blown up.

  • In paragraph 16 of your statement, you say where a PCC complaint is upheld or legal action is lost, senior management would receive a report explaining what has happened and assessing how a repetition could be avoided. Have disciplinary proceedings ever been taken against members of staff under such circumstances?

  • No. We haven't had that many complaints, let alone serious complaints, but when we have had a serious libel action that's gone against us, then a number of lessons are drawn from that and that's taken up by the editorial manager with the staff. And I'm also made aware of the changes.

  • Right. So is it more a question then of identifying and acquiring lessons learnt than bringing disciplinary proceedings against members of staff responsible? Have I understood that correctly?

  • If members of staff have committed a serious breach, then it's a different matter. It's in their contracts of employment. As I said earlier, Mr Jay, they live by the letter of the Editors' Code.

  • Can I ask you about paragraph 19. You say:

    "The senior executive team, in conjunction with the senior editorial team, have also sought to inculcate within the company a culture of accuracy and professionalism."

    We'll hear from the senior editorial team, or rather the current editor, how that is achieved from his perspective, but how are those objectives achieved from your perspective?

  • Within the Telegraph as a business, we would expect -- our readers would expect to have any inaccuracy highlighted and to have it -- as I said here, to put it right in the proper manner as quickly as possible.

  • You give one specific example where there's a dispute of facts. It's rather a general example:

    "Where there is a dispute of fact, I would expect us to carry a letter putting a different point of view."

    Does that happen to your knowledge?

  • It does if we're proven to be wrong.

  • Do you have a corrections page?

  • Maybe I should ask the editor more about what the policy is in relation to that.

  • The editors, Mr Jay, they are responsible for complaints and they deal with them directly, or their senior executives, and they deal with them quickly, so they -- the complaints procedure within the Telegraph editorially is handled at the very top.

  • Thank you. Your statement then goes on to deal with the MPs expenses matter, which I'm going to ask other witnesses about, although you cover the issue of financial authority for the intermediary and the purchase of the disk because the amount was of such a level that your authority was necessary; is that right?

  • So other witnesses will deal with that in more detail. Can I deal with the issue of ethics, which is question 9, paragraph 25 and following. In one sense, you can view this from the standpoint of both commercial expert within the newspaper industry and also having some editorial expertise as well. Paragraph 26:

    "Ethics means that the newspaper abides by the law and the code. The newspaper should own up when something has gone wrong and seek to put it right. It must respect individual privacy in the news and the photographs it publishes."

    I mean, to your experience, do individual privacy issues often arise in relation to the sort of stories that the Telegraph publishes?

  • Why do you think that is?

  • Well, back to our -- the very basics of the Telegraph, as far as our loyal readership is concerned, they expect -- and I hope they get, I know they get -- accuracy on a day in -- on a daily basis. The paper itself is the mission statement of the business.

  • That doesn't quite deal with the issue of privacy, why that doesn't feature much in relation to the Telegraph's stories. You've covered the issue of accuracy but not that of privacy, I think.

  • It's probably a question better asked of the editor, but to my knowledge there are very few occasions when privacy is an issue for us.

  • Well, it was in relation to expenses, but was overridden by the public interest in the story. That's something that we can raise.

  • But did you have any input into the public interest decision or issues which arose in the MPs' expenses case or was that entirely a matter for editors?

  • The final decision to publish was entirely the editors', but I was involved in the background to the whole business. Although I was on holiday when the initial £10,000 was spent on a sample disk, when I came back -- and I supported that -- when I came back, I was making sort of continuous enquiries of our legal department and the editor, absolutely satisfied there were major public issues at stake there -- public money at stake, and serious impropriety and in some cases, a few cases, criminality suggested.

  • Were you at all concerned whether the publication of this story might have an impact on the Telegraph's brand reputation? And if so, was your input sought in relation to that?

  • I live daily with a concern about the brand reputation of our title and protecting our titles and future-proofing our titles. It's always at the forefront of our minds.

  • But did this particular story, for you at least, throw up any issues which bore on the Telegraph's brand reputation or was it for you more: "There's an overwhelming public interest in publishing this story, that is sufficient for me"?

  • I was interested in the accuracy of the material, and when both the editor and the legal director were more than satisfied with that, I supported it completely.

  • I'll ask you some general questions now. First of all, since the announcement of this Inquiry, which, as we know, was in July of last year, has the approach of the Telegraph to risk and/or the publication of types of story changed in any way?

  • On the story, you'd probably better ask that question, I would suggest, Mr Jay, of the editor, but he and his team go through exactly the same procedures. They deal with many stories in the course of the day, but accuracy and honesty are at the forefront of their minds with that.

    In terms of the rest of the business, yes, it's brought everything into sharp focus. We carried out a -- that major -- I've mentioned it -- major exercise into our financial systems and have checked back to 2005 to make sure that we could come to this Inquiry with the backing of Slaughter & May and say that we are clear.

  • What is the "policy" of the Telegraph from your perspective in relation to the whole issue of risk management and protecting the reputation of the brand?

  • As I said, that's to the forefront of our minds. We have a number of policies in place to protect our brand, to protect our titles and to protect our business, and also it's very important that we make arrangements to -- in the event of an emergency, to cover that, if we had problems in the place we publish from. But beyond that, it's protecting our brands, future-proofing them going forward.

  • And presumably as well understanding your readers; is that right?

  • That's certainly to the forefront of our minds. We are probably one of the most customer-focused businesses, and we would not -- in fact, it's very difficult to even change or modify something in the paper without getting a very strong reader reaction. It's a very intelligent readership.

  • Yes. I'm sure from what you said it's a very loyal readership, but how do you understand your readers? What processes, if any, do you undertake to lock into their thinking?

  • We have the largest reader subscriber base in the newspaper business in this country. People who buy the Telegraph have often told me they take the Telegraph, they simply hand it down from generation to generation, and they expect the highest standards from us. But I'm very satisfied our editorial team are completely locked into their needs and desires.

  • Can I ask you a separate question now about non-aggression pacts with other newspaper proprietors? There's certainly a perception that such pacts exist, and if they did, you would know about them. Do they exist, Mr MacLennan?

  • I would know about them and they don't exist. And there's a -- I have been criticised in the past for trying to ensure that we are more focused on our business as an industry. Some players within the industry are more obsessed with the media space than our readers are.

  • There was a lunch, I think, which took place when, in fact, you were managing director of Associated -- so this must have been before 2005 -- between you and Mr Richard Desmond, who owns the Northern Shell titles. Did you reach informal agreement with him at that lunch, as others have purported, that it was not in the interests of either newspaper to use them for mudslinging?

  • I've never been in favour of mudslinging. There was no agreement with Mr Desmond, but I did receive at that lunch a series of demands from Mr Desmond to stop the articles that were appearing in his publications. I said I'd take those demands back to the editor but Mr Desmond must have known that those demands would have been thrown out and completely ignored, because before I even got back to the office, a statement had been issued to other newspapers that an agreement was in existence. There was no such agreement and taking back the demands, they were laughed out of court.

  • These were demands which were coming from Mr Desmond, which, as your evidence is, were laughed out of court. But what specifically were the demands that were being made? Can you recall now?

  • No, I can't remember the detail. To stop publishing articles attacking my proprietor.

  • He was the proprietor, though, wasn't he, Mr Desmond?

  • Sorry, I misunderstood.

  • You were supposed to be communicating to the editor demands which he, the editor, then presumably Mr Dacre, would activate, and one of the demands was that he, Mr Dacre, would stop publishing articles which attack Mr Desmond? Is that right?

  • Anyone who knows Mr Dacre would accept that he would have laughed at the suggestion that he stop publishing on the back of -- or because of a threat.

  • Thank you. Was the Daily Telegraph censured by the PCC in May 2011 over the Vince Cable sting story?

  • Yes, it was on a technicality, yes.

  • You haven't been put on notice of this question. If you need more time to consider it, of course you can have it, but can you remember what the nature of the technicality was?

  • Not exactly, but it was on some sort of fishing -- I think that was the word used. Because subterfuge was used. I didn't agree with the ruling, but because the -- I didn't agree at all with the ruling, but if you're in the PCC, you accept the adjudication, which we did, and the editor, as I recall, was invited to print a summary and he in fact printed the entire ruling.

  • I think the issue was this: that two journalists posed as constituents of Dr Cable, went to see him at his surgery, and he said certain things during the course of that meeting which led to consequences we know about, namely that he was taken off considering the bid by News International, News Corporation, for BSkyB. But the issue is whether the use of subterfuge was justified in those circumstances, I think, was it not?

  • Okay. But the action which followed is that the full ruling of the PCC was published in the Telegraph; have I understood your evidence correctly?

  • Also, the use of subterfuge -- there was a further story recently on the exam boards where you could use the same sort of arguments but there were no complaints. Anyway, we printed the ruling in full.

  • Yes, in the Dr Cable case; is that right?

  • But was that the editor's decision, not yours? Have I understood that right?

  • I don't have any further questions for you, but --

  • Let me have a go.

    Can I go backing to what you've just said about the discussion you had with Mr Desmond. I accept entirely what you say about the likely reaction of Mr Dacre, but it is a concern or may be a concern that whereas the press will look at every organ of the country, whether it be Parliament, the government, local authorities, health service, the army, the judiciary, about which I have no complaint at all, and if they find something legitimately expose it, there doesn't seem to be as much of that in relation to the press, and therefore the perception, if not the reality -- and that's really what I'm asking you about -- is that whether or not there's a formal agreement, there is an understanding that one doesn't really have a go at other titles.

    The fact is, as we know, that Mulcaire/Goodman was 2005/2006. Whittamore was 2002/2003 and these stories weren't picked up and run with as they might have been if they'd been involved in some other organ of the state. You may say that's not fair, or you may think it is fair. I welcome your experienced view on it.

  • I would disagree, sir, and I think there are far too many stories about the press on the press, almost an obsession, to the point where --

  • But where -- readers are not as obsessed as we are about our own business. I often get attacked -- well, I have in the past but I take responsibility for that because I don't, as a habit, give interviews, but I think we tend to write too much about ourselves.

    If we're talking about impropriety, if we're talking about wrongdoing, then I have no doubt that would be exposed in a very healthy way by the media, and journalism -- some people would argue it's a trade or a -- I'd say it's a real profession. It's become quite onerous in many ways, but in terms of reporting on wrongdoing within our industry, that would be done without fear or favour.

  • Well, it's interesting, but if one takes the example of phone hacking -- I've heard a fair amount of evidence, as you may be aware, of people writing in positive terms, in terms of clear fact, that it was well-known to be going on, now rather softened by saying "rumours", but yet it took considerable work on the part of the Guardian before it really became alive again as a story, and even then, as you yourself are aware, the PCC were very, very dismissive of that story, and yet if what I've heard is right, that people were saying, "Well, of course we knew it was all going on", one would have thought that that doesn't really square with a determination to get to the bottom of all wrongdoing in other organs of the press.

  • I think that there has been so much now written about phone hacking and the Guardian provided a very good service to the industry, and it's the worst example, because in spite of what you've said, I -- we, at the Telegraph, were astonished about the business of phone hacking at the News of the World. I was really surprised by it.

    And the PCC -- well, they didn't handle that well because they weren't provided with the facts, and that's why there's going to have to be changes now, because most -- because phone hacking's the worst example. If you think of most complaints, 90-odd per cent of complaints are handled, I think, successfully by the PCC, but within that there has to be room for handling -- or there has to be a method of handling more serious complaints. It's not so much a PCC plus, but for the most serious complaints, there have to be powers of investigation.

  • I think actually the PCC does contain within it a power -- it may not have been exercised. I've just read the terms of the documentation.

  • Well, that's not been clear to me, that they have the power to go in and demand emails and text messages and correspondence.

  • But they should be able to do that, and then there must be some sort of enforcement or -- yeah, it's taken me a while to come around to this, but bringing all this into sharp focus, there has to be a way of imposing sanctions, fines, on the worst offenders, whether that be a business or whether that be an individual.

    The other problem that we have is to make sure that everyone is inside the tent. That's when it becomes a bit more expansive, because we still have one national newspaper outside, but there's some interest, I've heard, in coming back into the PCC operation. But we have to take account of the major digital companies that are repurposing news, because although they're not involved in investigations, they're repurposing the investigations that we're involved in.

  • And when it comes to individual bloggers, as you've heard, that's much more of a -- that's a more difficult exercise.

  • Individual bloggers, speaking entirely for myself and without committing myself to anything, are not my greatest concern. I do understand the issue that you raise about those who are in the business of recycling news on the Internet, which I have described, I think more than once, as the elephant in the room. But as regards membership, I have difficulty with the idea that it can always be entirely voluntary, because if everybody isn't involved, it just becomes very difficult.

    Don't get me wrong. I am not suggesting a government or a statutory regime. On the other hand, I don't think it's a binary choice between that and self-regulation where it's all entirely voluntary. I don't think you were in the Inquiry when Mr Barber was giving evidence this morning, but we had a discussion about this very topic.

  • Are you talking about -- sorry, sir, are you talking about statute and --

  • No, Mr Barber and I spoke about the binary -- about something between -- he was very much against statutory regulation, which I understand.

  • But on the other hand he recognised that if it was entirely consensual self-regulation, then some possible advantages of a new regime might be lost.

    Let me give you the example that I've discussed with him this morning that he went away to think about. I'm not saying anything that's novel. He expressed concern about the way in which the libel laws operate and the enormous expense which is involved.

  • And I postulated to him the possibility of some arbitral system, which is, if you like, an arbitral arm of whatever comes after the PCC, but made the point to him that unless it had some sort of framework that required people to go through it, then the very wealthy would simply say, "I'm not prepared to go down that route, I'm simply going to institute enormously expensive litigation", and so make it very difficult for whoever to defend it.

    So what I was asking him about, and what I'm very keen to hear your voice about -- if not now, then at some stage, because I'm very conscious that I'm only expressing ideas, and I'm keen to the get the view of the industry -- but there has to be a framework onto which you latch independent regulation, which is absolutely independent of government and also not necessarily run by editors but perhaps by some very senior retired journalists on it. I fear there probably would have to be a lawyer somewhere around there. I know that everybody's concerned about them, but other independent people who not only could continue the complaints work that the PCC have done, although perhaps expanding it to allow complaints from people over than those specifically affected -- there are bits and pieces that one could hook onto -- but additionally had a regulatory mechanism and an arbitral mechanism.

  • A much more complex construction, but one that actually provided all the avenues for those who are concerned about the press to raise them in a comparatively straightforward, quick, comparatively cheap way, and the press to respond in like kind. But I don't see how that could be entirely consensual.

  • That's really worth considering. You take my point, though, that the vast majority of complaints are handled in the normal way. It's these more serious issues that concern us all, and having them thoroughly investigated -- I can tell you that Lord Hunt, you're probably aware, the chairman of the PCC, is carrying out a process of consultation within the industry before he appears in front of you.

  • I'm delighted to hear it, because at the seminars I made clear that I was very keen that the industry have some ideas, provided the industry accept, as I've said many times, that they've not only got to work for the industry but they have to work for me -- and by "me", I really mean the public.

  • Yes. It's worth considering -- I mean, we hosted our own sort of seminar at the start of that consultation process. I don't know how these -- I don't know the outcome yet. It's a bit too early and it's wrong for me to say. It must come back to you as industry recommendations, but we accept there have to be changes. I agree with the editor of the FT about self-regulation, but it's how that's handled. And could this not be handled under civil law?

  • It may be that's the way to do it, but then we would have to create the civil law construction to do it.

  • Otherwise, you can't force anybody to do it. The example that got Mr Barber thinking was -- he expressed concern about the extremely wealthy people who will seek to take the Financial Times on and have so much money that they can overwhelm everybody. Now, that's not happy either.

  • No. That was one of my concerns -- still is a concern, about affordability within the industry defines -- it's another end of the argument with CFAs.

  • Of course, as I said I think this morning, there was a time when the industry had the boot because legal aid wasn't available for libel and it was very expensive to bring and the industry, although you might smile at it now, was seen to be very wealthy and able to afford the sort of litigation and therefore that acted as a chilling effect on bringing actions. Now with CFAs, the boot is, I understand, on the other foot.

  • The question is to find a median way which allows privacy, libel, all these issues to be resolved quickly, efficiently and comparatively cheaply.

  • Now, the civil law might provide a way forward, but once you've used the word that everybody hates, namely "law".

  • I think it's not an attack on the legal profession. It's --

  • It's a concern about government.

  • No, I understand. I'd be very surprised if government regulation ever even entered my mind. I'm not committing myself to anything -- I have to hear everybody's views -- but I have said more than once that freedom of expression and freedom of the press, which are different concepts --

  • -- are, to my mind, a fundamental bedrock of our society. But that's not to say that the there can't be some sort of independent mechanism that deals with complaints, regulation and resolution of disputes that doesn't involve the government, doesn't involve the state, but is in some way set up so that it can operate and can require people to go through that route, however independently staffed it is, which I think is essential.

  • Sounds helpful, very helpful.

    The only -- one point I'd make on that is that once everyone is in, it's important, however -- and you're an expert on civil law -- how that could be -- how they could be contained so that it's so onerous to leave the system that you're practically disqualified.

  • Yes. The answer is that that is extremely difficult if it's purely a matter of contract because there can be arguments about that.

  • I think, though, if the punishment -- the financial punishments are considerable, that would help.

  • The financial constraints on leaving or not joining? You have to get people to come into the club, and one -- I'd be surprised if I agreed with this, that everybody says, "We're all now friends together, we can all do this because of the terrible six months we've had." Reading the history of discussions about the press since the last world war, there have been a number of attempts. Something terrible has happened, there's been a report, everybody says, "Oh, it will be much better next time." That's happened more than once; I hope you would agree with that.

  • I do, but could I add that nothing ever like this has happened to the press. Nothing as comprehensive on the media. Nothing as far-reaching as this has hit us thus far, and I think you'll find there's a general consensus across the industry that things have to change.

  • I think you'd be pleased about that, rather than everything is perfect.

  • Given the effort that I've put into persuading the industry to think about it themselves, I'm very pleased to hear it. I'm not asking you to commit to solutions. Any views you wish to express I'd be interested to receive, now or at any time. That's not a requirement; it's a genuine wish to make sure that whatever I come up with works for the industry and works for the public and the good of the public as well.

    What I do not want -- and I've said this publicly too -- is to produce a report that everybody reads, either likes or rubbishes, and then it just sits on a shelf, because then I've wasted a lot of time and we've all wasted a lot of money.

  • On that point, sir, could we, before the end of this particular section of your Inquiry, then come back to you?

  • You can come back to me, but you don't need to have to be worried about precisely when -- I'm not allowing a free range -- because what I will be doing is moving from this module, which is to do with the public, onto a module to do with the police, and then the politicians, and there will be an opportunity to discuss emerging findings.

  • You may then come back, and you certainly can come back at the time that Lord Hunt is speaking, if not to give evidence, at least in writing. I'm happy to receive views at any time, to try to get the thing as ordered as I can, but ordered in such a way that requires participation without permitting interference, whether it be by the judiciary or the government or the state in any other way --

  • -- but achieves a mechanism that ensures that all those who do provide us with our news are bound by certain standards.

  • And I'm obviously talking about minimum standards, as to which everybody seems to believe that the code is a good piece of work.

  • And that's my immediate reaction. The extent to which it is observed and enforced is something else, but the actual language may not require very much. But I've probably pressed you enough on all this.

  • No, but that's very helpful. Thank you.

  • The next witness is Mr Finbarr Ronayne, which is tab 5.