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

  • LORD JOHN WAKEHAM (sworn).

  • Please take a seat and make yourself comfortable. First of all, state your full name to the Inquiry, please.

  • You provided two statements to the Inquiry, the first dated 9 February 2012, behind tab 7, and a second witness statement dated April 2012, behind tab 1. You've also provided a letter to the Inquiry dated 7 January 2012.

  • I think the letter was then incorporated into the first statement so that it formed part of the record.

    Lord Wakeham, thank you very much indeed for the obvious interest that you've taken in the work of the Inquiry and the equally obvious amount of work that you've put in to providing evidence to help me.

  • You've provided, therefore, two statements to the Inquiry. We'll take the letter as incorporated. Is that your formal evidence to the Inquiry?

  • I'm going to start with your career history. Your most recent witness statement is behind tab 1. It's probably helpful if we turn it up because your career history is summarised at paragraphs 1 to 5 of that statement. I'll summarise it, if I can. You were Conservative MP for Maldon and Essex, later Maldon and Colchester south from 1974 to 1992.

    In 1992, you left the House of Commons and you were created a life peer. Whilst you an MP, you were a minister continuously from 1979 until 1994. Your other appointments are detailed in paragraph 2 of your statement. I need not rehearse them all. I'll come back to consider with you some of the particular roles that you held.

    After you left the House of Commons, you were appointed as chairman of the Press Complaints Commission and you held that position from 1995 until 2001.

    Have I accurately summarised --

  • Yes. The only thing I would say is that I've always thought of myself as a chartered accountant who decided to go into politics and spent rather longer in politics than I intended and then I went back to being a chartered accountant after 30 years. So I really consider myself as a businessman who found myself in politics.

  • Thank you very much.

    I'm going to take some of the roles you played during that period and deal with them chronologically, if I can. We're going to first deal with the aftermath of the Calcutt 2 report, so Sir David Calcutt's second report. You deal with this extensively in your statement, but just in case anyone is in anyone doubt as to what that report was about, I'm going to summarise it in this way. We all know that Sir David Calcutt's first report had issued in the abolition of the Press Council and had set up the PCC and that first report recommended that the new PCC be given a period of time, 18 months, to demonstrate that non-statutory regulation could be made to work effectively. That's correct in summary, isn't it?

  • After John Major became Prime Minister, he decided to follow through with that recommendation, that there be a new sort of follow-up report and in July 1992, David Mellor, who was then the Secretary of State for the Department of National Heritage, announced that Sir David Calcutt would be asked to assess the performance of the PCC and the new self-regulatory regime. Calcutt 2 was the resulting report. Have I accurately summarised that?

  • Yeah. I have to say I was busy privatising the electricity industry during that while, and whilst I attended the cabinet, I have only the vaguest recollection of any of these things going on.

  • Calcutt 2 was delivered in January 1993. We don't need to look at it in the bundle yet. Can we agree that you were asked essentially to chair a cabinet subcommittee which looked at the recommendations of Sir David Calcutt's second report?

  • Yes. I think the more correct way of putting it was I was chairman of a cabinet subcommittee that looked at all these sorts of things. It wasn't set up to do this. It was a matter that came up in the normal course of agenda and I probably read about it the night before the meeting that I had to chair, and probably couldn't have remembered who Calcutt was 24 hours before the meeting. I read, read what had happened, heard the debate at the meeting and came to a conclusion.

  • I understand. Just so we can familiarise ourselves with what the Calcutt report was saying, first of all can we start with the background against which Calcutt was reporting. We're all very familiar at this Inquiry, of course, with the excesses which led up to the setting up of this particular Inquiry, but just to remind ourselves of the context in which Sir David Calcutt was reporting. If you look behind tab 3 of the bundle, you will find an extract from "A Press Free and Responsible". It's exhibit B to your witness statement.

    Do you see that? It's an extract from "A Press Free and Responsible" by Professor Richard Shannon.

  • If you turn to the first page, there's an extract from chapter 6.

  • "Calcutt strikes again -- and misses: January--November 1993."

    We can see from the second substantive paragraph on that page that the Calcutt report cited six instances upon which he founded his verdict of the PCC's failure. We'll come on to discuss in a moment the recommendations of Sir David, but cites six instances on which he founded his verdict of the failure and its necessary demise. They include:

    "... the Sport's contempt when it refused to publish an adjudication the People's contempt in the Princess Eugenie case; the PCC's handling of the Morton serialisation affair; and its feebleness [they say] in the Ashdown, Bottomley and Mellor scandals."

    You have rather more familiarity with that period than some others may --

  • It depends whether electricity was intervening.

  • Yes. I read this and I'm sure it's right, but I can't say I can remember a single thing about any of those items.

  • I was going to ask you if there was anything you could add to that, but the answer is no.

    If we were to look at what the Calcutt 2 report actually concluded, it concluded, in essence, that the PCC was not an effective regulator of the press because it was a body set up by the industry and operating a code of practice which was devised by the industry and which was overfavourable to the industry. That's essentially quoting from the summary in the report itself.

    In that context, you may recall that Sir David recommended the establishment of a statutory press tribunal with power to impose fines, requiring the printing of apologies, corrections and replies, and he also recommended that the government take a look again at laws against press intrusion. Indeed, he wanted consideration to be given to a new tort of privacy to address this issue. Do you recall those recommendations --

  • Yes, I've certainly read them, yes.

  • He also recommended, interestingly, that the law on the interception of telecommunications be reviewed in order to identify relevant gaps in legislation. Do you recall that?

  • I don't recall it, but I'm sure it was right.

  • Fine. We can agree overall it was a rather damning assessment of the PCC at that stage?

  • You've explained that you chaired the cabinet subcommittee which was asked to look at Calcutt 2 and its recommendations. Am I right in saying that you were working alongside the National Heritage Select Committee on privacy and media intrusion as well? Do you recall that?

  • I think I went and gave evidence to them, but that was after I was chairman of the PCC, not at that stage. I don't think I did anything at this stage. It was later, because I have a frightful row with Gerald Kaufman, if I remember rightly. He's now a very good friend of mine, but he wasn't at that time.

  • All right. It doesn't matter for these purposes. Can you assist us with the broad conclusions of the cabinet subcommittee?

  • There were two things which I remember from it. The first was that there seemed to be quite a voice around the cabinet table that if we were going to bring in a sorted of statutory system, we had to have a proper definition of the public interest, and the lawyers around in particular felt that this was going to be extremely difficult to deliver. That was the thing that came out.

    I also thought to myself: if we're trying to have a system to protect the public against inaccuracy and one thing and another, the complicated legal system which would inevitably flow from that was not going to help the ordinary guy in the street to get any sort of justice from the newspaper unless he had a lot of money.

  • But the deliberations went on after I left the government and they followed (inaudible), but I did have a conversation with the Prime Minister when I told him that I thought this was probably not a very sensible way to go forward.

  • Your witness statement does indicate that you persuaded John Major to come around to your views. Can you assist us with what his views were when you first spoke to him?

  • Well, it was a pretty short conversation. I think probably I might have exaggerated slightly, persuaded him. But he certainly was in favour. He'd accepted the view that I think at least two of our -- at least twice cabinet colleagues had said that they were mindful to bring in the statutory system and he had gone along withing it, and I said I think this is not going to work, and I got the impression that he was -- but it wasn't a long conversation. It was fairly short.

  • You tell us in your witness statement at paragraph 26 that you don't recall during this period meeting proprietors of news organisations or any senior executives at this time and that you were certainly not lobbied in respect of the Calcutt 2 recommendations. Is that correct?

  • That is correct. Around that time, I had quite a few dealings with the press, the lobby correspondents, when I was leader of the Commons. I then went off to privatise electricity and I had a lot of dealings with newspaper people to do with the privatisation of electricity. Then I was leader of the Lords and it would be this time when I was chairing this committee, and I had a bit to do with it but I can't recall ever having a discussion about these items. 48 hours before I did it, I probably didn't even know I would be chairing the committee to do it.

  • During the period until you left government, no contact with proprietors or representatives of the media industry? Given that Calcutt was essentially recommending statutory regulation, one might think it was likely that they would have views --

  • They might, but I didn't have views because I hadn't really -- I really hadn't focused on it at all. I certainly -- I knew Conrad Black because I'd met him at dinner. That was one I knew. I knew David Stevens because he invited me to dinner. I knew the late Lord Rothermere, the other one. I certainly knew him because I found myself in the same queue swearing in in the House of Lords after a new election and introduced myself to him. But I didn't really know them technically well. I certainly didn't, for example, meet Rupert Murdoch until after I went to the Press Complaints Commission.

  • At the end of the day in July 1995, the government published a White Paper dealing with the Calcutt 2 recommendations explaining that the government essentially would not be introducing statutory regulation.

  • I understand that you'd left by this time. Can you give us any insight into why it took so long, from January 1993 when Calcutt reported to July 1995, for the government to come to a formed view on the issue?

  • I suppose the easiest answer is to say if I'd still been around, it might have been quicker, but I have no idea why they did it. I didn't have anything to do with it. I was miles away.

  • It's clear, having looked at the White Paper and looking at all the discussions that took place at that time, that no statutory tribunal or ombudsman system was set up, no power to impose fines, no tort of privacy was ever introduced at this stage. Can you give us an understanding of why you -- I know you left before the end of the process, but why it was that eventually that view was taken, essentially to reject most of the recommendations and to take a different route?

  • Well, I can't tell you what the view of the government was at that time, but I know what my view was, was that I did not think it would be very easy to define the public interest, which was one of the things I've already said. Secondly, I did not think that it would be at all easy to get the legislation through Parliament. Thirdly, I did not think it would protect the people who read the newspapers.

    I'm conscious of the fact that a privacy law, which this would have created, is actually very difficult for the public to deal with unless they are rich, and it's not quite as bad for the newspapers as they like to pretend. I mean, in France, the newspapers like to publish across the headlines how much they've had to pay in privacy costs in order to get the stories for their readers. They trade on it. And I would have seen a privacy law, as we've seen slightly in recent times, acting as a disadvantage for the public and not quite such a big disadvantage for the press.

  • A number of things did happen. The White Paper, for example, encouraged the press to strengthen and improve self-regulation. The PCC did a number of things that you may recall, including appointing a privacy commissioner who was given special powers to investigate urgent complaints about privacy, but the major recommendations of Calcutt were not adopted. In your view, did it go far enough? Is there anything else that could have been done at that time?

  • I mean, I wasn't taking any interest in this whatsoever. When I got to the PCC, I discovered there was a chap who called himself the privacy commissioner, but I didn't have any particular dealings with it. When I got there, I realised this thing had to be sorted out and I sorted it out as best I could.

  • Let's move on then to your appointment as chairman of the PCC. You were appointed on 1 January 1995. I intend no criticism of this, but your appointment to the PCC seems to have been essentially a tap on the shoulder from the chairman of PressBoF. That's set out in your witness statement at paragraph 30. I want to understand whether you think that is an appropriate way of appointing chairmen. You may have heard Lord O'Donnell tell us yesterday that he thought that chairmen should be appointed by an independent open competition. Any views?

  • The first thing I have to say is it was 18 years ago and it wasn't such a revolutionary idea that somebody was asked to do a job 18 years ago. It wouldn't be done like that today for perfectly good reasons. Whether they get a better chairman by the new system or not is another question, and if I may say so, I got better commissioners when I was running the Press Complaints Commission by going to people and saying, "I want you to join" than the Public Appointments Commission have got. I mean, I got the recently retired head -- permanent secretary from the Home Office, who was probably the most senior permanent secretary who never became head of the Civil Service, an absolutely outstanding man, and the minute I got him onside, Whitehall took me seriously. They said, "This isn't a Fred Karno's army; these people are really meaning business."

    And other people I got -- I got a bishop and I got John Smith's widow and so on, and the standards that we got by that method were considerably higher than the public appointment system, but I recognise the public appointments system is the way things are done today.

  • We could spend many hours talking about just that, and the problems of the present system and the advantages of the system which is now, as you say, discredited.

  • I'm not sure it takes us very far.

  • No, no, I mean it only takes us this far, if I may say so, in that when I was appointed the chairman, it wasn't a revolutionary thing to do in this way. It was a perfectly accepted normal thing.

  • I quite understand. I quite understand.

  • I was going to ask about whether the old system was better, but I think given your answer --

  • No, I think that it goes outside what we need to cover.

  • Indeed. Turn to paragraph 31, because there you set out why you think you were approached and what your qualities were.

  • Paragraph 31 of your first statement, behind tab 1.

  • Yes, it's come on the screen here. I can see it here, yes.

  • You say:

    "I think I was approached because I had three broad qualities which the newspaper industry was looking for."

    We'll look at the substance of the qualities in a moment but why do you say you were approached because you had three broad qualities which the newspaper industry were looking for, rather than say the public was looking for? Why is it important that the chairman --

  • I think the newspaper industry did not want statutory control and that they accepted they needed someone to be the chairman with a bit of clout, who could stop statutory control by getting the standards up to an acceptable level, and this was my view of what I thought they probably wanted. I suppose it's a bit self-aggrandisement, really, in a way, but it's all true, what I put down --

  • I think you missed Ms Patry Hoskins' point. It's not that you aren't eminently suited to achieve your goals through the description of the qualities you describe and I'm certainly not going to take issue with a single one. It's the question that it's the newspaper industry who are doing the appointing for the newspaper industry's benefit and with their goals in mind rather than somebody saying, "We just want somebody who is going to be square about this." They're saying, "We really want somebody who is absolutely on side with us."

  • Not necessarily "with us", if I may say so. They wanted somebody on side with the government because they did not want statutory regulation.

  • Yes, but that's "on side with us", ie the newspaper industry.

  • I think -- well, I don't know. I thought that what they wanted was someone who could make self-regulation work in a way that was satisfactory, that nobody wanted to -- nobody really pressed to bring in statutory control.

  • I understand that way of putting it.

  • We aren't going to take issue with any of the qualities that you set out at paragraph 31. I want to understand, however, how important you consider these to be even now. Being trusted by both politicians and the press, and then having some understanding of the way the media operates, and thirdly, being regarded as a strong supporter of press freedom and self-regulation.

    Can I ask you about the third of those first?

  • I don't think you could be a chairman of a body that was running a system of self-regulation unless you believed in self-regulation. I think that would be a bit difficult. And I can't imagine you being a very good chairman of a Press Council if you didn't believe in press freedom. I would have thought they were pretty self-evidently things that were required for the job.

  • What about an understanding of the way the media operates? You explain that you'd conducted the parliamentary lobby successfully, you'd obviously managed the government's media presentation as well during the Gulf War. You'd brought television to the House of Commons, and you said you knew what you were doing. Is there any advantage in someone who's actually worked within the media industry being appointed as chairman?

  • I mean, I never worked within the media industry; I dealt with them.

  • Yes. So no requirement -- do you think it's important --

  • Well, I mean, the way these things happen is they look around at the people who are available and they look at the qualities, and I would have thought those were all qualities that helped.

  • And that remain important?

  • Yeah. I'm not saying exclusively you have to be like that, but if you have somebody who's got some of those qualities, it's probably going to help, yes.

  • You tell us in your statement, especially paragraphs 27 and 33, which we don't need to turn up, that essentially the PCC had lost credibility under your predecessor, especially because of press behaviour in relation to several of the Royal Family, for example the Camilla tapes and pictures of Princess Diana and so on and so forth. What I want to do now is explore what you did on taking up the appointment in January 1995.

    If we turn to paragraph 34 of your statement -- it should come up on the screen. It's behind tab 1 if you wanted to look at the paper copy.

  • It's come up: you explain in paragraph 33 that you had a number of challenges when you took up the job and you explain halfway down the paragraph that it seemed to you that the PCC was leaderless and didn't command widespread respect either with the public or with the industry. You needed to make it more independent, you needed to ensure it had very good complaints-handling processes and above all, you needed to give it clout and to restore its credibility, and you explain the changes that you made.

    Some of these we've touched on already --

  • -- but let's start with the first of these. You reformed the appointments system to ensure that appointments were made by a body with a lay majority. How important was that, in your view?

  • Well, I suppose this is the flipside of me being appointed as the chairman. I mean, things were changing and here it seemed to me that it was important to try and get the Press Complaints Commission more highly respected and therefore to get the right people and have the right people appointing them seemed to me to be a move in the right direction.

  • Then something we've touched on already:

    "Secondly, I encouraged individuals of stature to put themselves forward for service on the Commission."

    Does that mean you essentially went and spoke to them, or tapped them on the shoulder and said, "Look, I think you'd be good"?

  • I can't remember exactly how it was done, but I wouldn't have -- if somebody said that's what I did, I wouldn't deny it, but I can't really remember.

  • You were anxious to obtain the most high-powered, high-profile people you could, and that was how it was done in those days. Whatever the position is, that's how it was done.

  • Yes, that's roughly right, yes.

  • Thirdly, over the page or further down the screen, you streamlined the complaints handling system, which was too slow, and you explain that complaints handling time tumbled.

    Fourthly, you were active in encouraging high-profile complaints:

    "There was no one I was not prepared to ring up and talk to."

    Can you give us an example of that?

  • Yes, I can give you an example. Let me think which is a good one. There was a picture of a member of the Royal Family who was before she was a member of the Royal Family topless in one of the Sunday papers, and I rang the palace and I said, "You have to complain about this, this is outrageous and we want a complaint", and there was an almighty dither, nothing was happening, and so I rang them again and I said, "Look, it's Prime Minister's questions today, the Prime Minister is bound to be asked, and what I want the Prime Minister to be able to say is: 'This is a matter before the Press Complaints Commission.'"

    And I still didn't get an answer, so then I rang again and I said, "I am going to issue a statement at 1 o'clock today to say I am expecting a complaint from the palace", and that got the complaint, and then I dealt with it and within 48 hours the editor of the paper had apologised profusely and so on for a serious error of judgment and the matter was dealt with. It would not have been dealt with if I hadn't waded in to do it, and that's the sort of thing I did. That's a high-profile one, but I did it with various other people.

  • It's to create a profile for the PCC?

  • Well, it's to get the thing dealt with and not allow the sort of continuous story about how feeble they were and how difficult they were. Occasionally I had to work it the other way. I mean, I had the chief executive of a major company in this country who had divorced his wife, married somebody else, then divorced the second wife and gone back and married the first wife, and he couldn't understand why the newspapers wanted to report it, and I just had to tell him that: "I'm afraid this is something that newspapers in a free society will report. It's no good you complaining to me, because that's life."

  • You then go on to tell us that you were active in getting on the phone to editors to talk to them about stories they might be about to write where you'd been alerted to a possible breach of the code. This is the origin, you say, of the PCC's pre-publication service, was series effective. Then you say that sixthly and most importantly, you improved the PCC's sanctions. You insisted that the code of practice be included in editors' contracts of employment, then you give you us an example about Piers Morgan. Did you want to talk us through that example?

  • I wonder if I could just talk about the first one?

  • The first case I remember where I rang editors up was that they were running -- they wanted to run -- and I'd heard about this -- a scurrilous story about my predecessor, and I rang up the two editors that I heard were looking at this story and I said to them, "Well, whether you publish the story or not is a matter for you, I'm not a censor, but," I said, "I just wonder whether it's a wise thing for you to do. Here you have been criticised by this chap, he's now retired, and for you to now lash out at him with a story, even if it's true, is not a very nice thing to do", and in both cases both editors took my advice and didn't publish the story and I think that was worth doing. So that was all right.

    Now, what was the next --

  • I'm sorry, I'm going to pick up that story for a moment. That required you to learn through your sources what they were doing.

  • It might be that that's an extremely valuable tool that's available to you, but of course unless you know about it, you can't do it, and therefore it may be that that's an idiosyncratic example because you found out.

  • Equally, in relation to your palace story, one may say that there may be all sorts of reasons why the palace don't feel it's right to get involved, but still that doesn't make the story any the better and therefore query whether it's not something, if you're the guardian of the code, if you like, you shouldn't be able to do without forcing a complaint, without making the palace do something.

  • Yes. I think my initial reaction is to that when I got there, the Press Council had fallen into considerable disrepute with the press for one reason -- one of the reasons was that a whole lot of people were making a lot of complaints and many of them are pretty frivolous and one thing and another, and they did say the Press Complaints Commission is there to deal with people's complaints who have an interest in the complaint, a proper interest. In other words, if they see something about me, Joe Bloggs can't complain. I can complain. It has to be relative to me. That's what they wanted to do and I was trying to get that system worked.

  • Doubtless we'll come to it, but one of the questions is whether that actually doesn't necessarily and unnecessarily confine the role of whatever body is undertaking this task. Let me give you the example that has been given on a number of occasions by a number of groups who have given evidence to me. Those who complain, for example, about single issues. The transgender community, disabled people, immigrants. There is no specific person who can be identified because they're not named, but there is, they argue, a legitimate complaint that as a group they are being traduced and there is no remedy for those who represent those groups or who have legitimate interest in those groups to enforce or to challenge the approach of the press.

    Now, all that has to be judged against the right of the press to publish what they want, but not to provide any remedy may itself be a problem.

  • Well, certainly, and I'm talking times ago when I was trying to get this thing going successfully.

  • It didn't seem to me that the Press Complaints Commission or the press would tolerate me going from the short of shambles there was to some of these things, but I did start in a number of ways -- for instance, I got the people concerned with the disabled in and I had meetings with editors and the disabled lobby, the people who were concerned with them, in order to try to understand how better we could encourage better standards of reporting of disabled in the press. I did the same thing, if I remember rightly, over science reporting, where there was a danger that people would give alarmist reports, and I tried to get --

  • So nothing you say should be taken as discouraging an approach that allows a remedy or a complaint in those circumstances today? I appreciate that when you were doing it things were different, but today you wouldn't challenge that sort of approach?

  • Well, I wouldn't challenge it, but I wouldn't support it either. I think I would want to look at it very much more carefully, the pros and cons of it, but I certainly found other ways of dealing with those things because I recognised they were important when I was doing it.

  • What comes across clearly from your previous answers and from your statement as well is that part of your plan and that of government was that the PCC's reputation and effectiveness would be enhanced by three things: strong leadership, the introduction of more weighty and high-profile members and the raising of the profile of the organisation by taking on high-profile cases. It's also clear that you were pretty successful in achieving that aim. You say that yourself in your statement in paragraph 35.

    If I give you an example, Jack Straw said this in evidence to the privacy and injunctions committee:

    "I certainly hoped and believed [he said to them] on good evidence that the Press Complaints Commission would be able to take on a more active role [this is back in 1995 when you took over]. I believed that because I had seen Lord Wakeham operate as chairman of the Press Complaints Commission and thought he was doing a first class job. He had the skills and the gravitas to ensure that the PCC did take on this role. Sadly, in my judgment, since he went, the PCC has become a shadow of what it was at the time he was running it and it has not been able to fulfil the expectations that were there."

    He goes on to say to the committee:

    "That is one of the reasons why we now face these serious problems and one of the reasons why this committee has been formed."

    The question I have for you is: how important, in your view, is the personality of a chairman to the success of the PCC and how can that be ensured?

  • Well, I think it is to some degree important, but it's not the only -- it's by a long way not the only consideration. I mean, if you look at the present difficulties we got into, there were other factors it seemed to me, that have arisen, and one of them, of course, was the Human Rights Act, which -- and I made it clear in my speech in the House of Lords. The problem with the Human Rights Act was that it, in effect, brought in a privacy law and the high-profile cases for rich and famous people sought to get their remedies through the courts. That meant that the PCC became a sort of second class, on-the-cheap way of doing it if you weren't important and you didn't have funds, and that reduced the standards of the -- appreciation of the PCC, and that was part of the --

  • We'll come on to look at the Human Rights Act in due course.

  • How important was your ability to ring up proprietors or editors and tell them what to do? How important was that to the effectiveness of the PCC? I appreciate that at the beginning of your tenure, you probably didn't do that on a regular basis.

  • It depends how you judge it. If you say we had something like 3,000 complaints a year and I might have rung up ten times in a year, that would be an exaggeration. It was less than ten. So it wasn't a big deal, but every now and then it was necessary and the newspapers knew that I was pretty keen that they dealt properly with these complaints.

  • Did you ever ring a proprietor in order to deal with a situation where an editor was not necessarily listening to you or complying with what the PCC had recommended?

  • I can't remember. I did certainly ring a -- write to a proprietor where I thought the editor was not doing a satisfactory job and the result was that the proprietor made a public statement, which I think everybody knows about, which was the conduct of this young man is unacceptable.

  • Do you want to tell us about that example?

  • Well, it was -- yes, it was -- it was Piers Morgan was the editor of the News of the World at the time and he allowed and published photographs taken by a photographer over the wall of a nursing home where Lord Spencer's first wife, I suppose it was, was a patient, and these appeared in the paper, which was therefore photographing somebody who was in a hospital and it was outrageous that it should be done. I reckoned that it was very serious and I wanted to get the message over -- it was fairly early on my day -- is that proprietors had a responsibility for their editors in that they were behaving in a reasonable and proper way.

  • What led you to write to Rupert Murdoch on that occasion?

  • Because I thought it was a good example to rub the point home.

  • What was his reaction?

  • He made the statement that he did, that the conduct was unacceptable, and that sent a message around the industry that we weren't to be trifled with.

  • Can I ask you about the aftermath of the death of Princess Diana. We know she died on the night of 31 August 1997, and we also know that in response to the reaction to her death there were various changes to the code of conduct, which I'll come onto in more detail in a moment. I think we can agree that some substantial changes were made and implemented around that time.

    Now, can I ask you to turn to tab 5 in the bundle, please. This is a speech that you gave at Inner Temple on 25 September 1997.

  • I just want to ask you about a few elements of that. This was a speech given almost four weeks after the death of Princess Diana. It's your exhibit D to your statement. There are some important things to note. First of all, look at the bottom of the first page. The reference for the technician is in the MOD folder, 2361.

    Starting with the first page and at the end of the first page, you make two general points. First of all, you outline the fact that Princess Diane has died in the last few weeks. You explain that you've consulted on a review of possible changes, and then, at the bottom of the first page, you say you want to make two general points. The first is this: to make clear that the changes you're proposing today do not in any way detract from the unsung and important success story that self-regulation has been since the Press Complaints Commission was established. You say it's not perfect, never will be, but it has delivered results across a wide range of fronts.

    Now, was that your view at the time? In light of the findings of Calcutt 2, in light of the changes that had to be made, was that genuinely --

  • Oh, very much so, because the bulk of the work of the Press Complaints Commission were dealing with complaints from members of the public, and as a matter of fact, we got as many complaints on the local press as we did from the national press. I mean, 50 per cent of the complaints, roughly in my day, came from the local press, 50 per cent from the national. Of course, there were a lot more local papers. But there were different sorts of complaints, all of which -- I think we had made progress across the board in the sort of things that we didn't approve of and we were dealing with them quickly.

  • If you turn to the second page, page 2 of 7 in the top right hand corner, in the third substantive paragraph that starts "It is time now for the code to change", again, you say this:

    "I underline that this is not because there is anything wrong with the code as it stands or because newspapers do not already operate to high ethical standards. It is to meet the expectations of the public and the sincere demands of editors."

    Was that an indication that you didn't actually think that those changes were necessary?

  • No, I did think they were necessary, but I was trying to make -- bear in mind the changes in the code were not a matter for me; they were a matter for the editors under the arrangements, and I therefore had to move carefully to make sure the editors went along with what I wanted.

  • In the last paragraph on the same page, you explain what you're wanting to do and you explain that you want to look at specific measures in five areas: harassment, children, privacy, public interest and intrusion into grief. You start by discussing the concept of harassment and you say:

    "... which undoubtedly has rightly most concerned the public in the days since the tragic death of Princess Diana. To the problems of the paparazzi, there are no easy solutions."

    If you turn over the page, there's a very long discussion on the issue of paparazzi. Reading that -- I don't expect you to read it all again now. I'm sure you're familiar with the contents of this speech. Reading that, it's clear that the concerns that you are looking at, you're discussing, are in some ways very similar to some of the stories about the paparazzi that we've heard at this Inquiry. So if I give you an example. You explain that you want to help reduce the market for paparazzi pictures in this country, you intend to include an amendment to clause 8 to prohibit the publication of pictures obtained through persistent pursuit or as a result of unlawful behaviour. You say that you're particularly thinking of pictures obtained by freelancers who break traffic laws, commit trespass or stalk their prey and you say this:

    "There will therefore no longer be a market in this country for pictures taken by the sorts of photographers who persistently pursued Princess Diana. Motorbike chases, stalking and hounding are unacceptable."

    And you explain:

    "Editors who carry pictures obtained by them will be subjected to the severest censure by the PCC."

    We know that the new changes that you recommended came into force. They were made and they came into force in January 1998, so some six months after you gave this speech. There was a ban on information of pictures obtained by persistent pursuit. The new clause 4, as it turned out, made explicit the editor's responsibility not to publish information or pictures in breach of that clause, for example.

    To be honest, those changes exist to this day. Although the code has now been significantly shortened, the preamble to the code makes clear that all the same points. Yet it might be said that it hasn't actually made a difference. I don't know, Lord Wakeham, if you heard the evidence given back in November of last year by celebrities who spoke of harassment, pursuit by photographers, the need to obtain injunctions to prevent harassment. Some examples spring to mind: Ms Miller being chased down the street by ten men with cameras, the owner of Big Pictures picture agency boasting in his autobiography of chasing cars and taking pictures through car windows.

    Why, in our view, have the changes that you implemented quite rightly after the death of Princess Diana not made a difference?

  • I'm not sure it is correct to say they haven't made a difference. I think they did make a difference and I think there was a genuine attempt to -- the crux of what I tried to do was to say the editor is responsible for what appears in his newspaper, and therefore he has to satisfy himself that the photograph was taken properly, et cetera, et cetera. Of course, as I think I say there, a lot of the market is outside our control. It's foreign market. I think it did have -- but, of course, the respect of the PCC has gone down in recent years because they haven't had the high-profile complaints they used to have, and the high-profile complainers say, "We would sooner take the matter to the courts", therefore the PCC doesn't deal with them, the PCC's standing goes down, and it's a combination of both.

    So -- and people don't complain. The system was -- in my day, it wasn't right to do anything about it if a person didn't complain, and there was a good reason for that, as well as the -- quite often, the newspapers would say something -- and this would be more in the story than a picture -- would be only part of the story. So you complain, and they say, "Well, I'll tell you the rest of the story", and the person concerned decided: "I think it's best just to leave things as they are."

  • So the changes were adequate, in your view, but the problems have come because the high-profile complaints don't come in in the way that they used to?

  • I wouldn't summarise it completely like that. That's part of it, but the changes we made at the time we thought were adequate and we would have had to see how they worked out. During my time there, I thought there was an improvement. I'm not clear what has happened since.

  • If we look on the same page where we just were, page 3 of 7, within that speech, halfway down, just after where we were just looking, you say this:

    "To assist in that process, I would like to encourage photo agencies themselves to come within the ambit of the PCC by signing up to the industry's code. Editors taking pictures from agencies who subscribe to the code should be able, to some extent, to rely on the agency to check the manner in which a photograph has been taken."

    Can you recall what happened to that recommendation?

  • I think that did happen, a number of the agencies did, and I remember being in the office of the Press Association and walking around with the head of it and on the wall, by the telephone of the photographic editor, he had stuck on the wall the thing about the PCC, which was to remind him when he was taking a photograph from anybody or buying a photograph from anybody that he had -- that they answered satisfactorily the questions he wanted. But it may have changed since. I don't know, I can't say.

  • Then you deal with another issue, the media scrum. If you look further down the page in this speech, you'll see:

    "I want to go further than dealing with the isolated problems posed by the paparazzi and I want to deal with the media scrum. At heart, the media scrum occurs when many individual journalists are each doing a perfectly legitimate job but together they form an unacceptable scrum around the house or office of someone in a news story. This scrum is deeply intimidating to those at its centre. It is really a form of collective harassment."

    You say tackling it won't be easy, but what you would like, you say, is to see a stipulation in the code that where an intimidating media scrum forms, journalists should only stay at the scene for as long as the public interest requires their presence there. You explain this is what happened at Dunblane and more recently at Balmoral. What happened to that recommendation?

  • You'll have to ask the people who are running the PCC now. It's a long time since I was there.

  • It worked pretty well when I was there, but there were two other things which I think are important to take into account in considering this. One was that it was not unknown for us to send faxes around to all the principal editors, the news editors, if we had a report -- if somebody rang up and said, "There there's a scrum around, what are you going to do about it?" we sent a fax around to the news editors to remind them -- to say -- we didn't accuse them; we said, "If, by any chance, one of your reporters is there, would you be kind enough to remind him of what the code says about these matters?" and surprise, surprise, in many cases, it would disappear.

    But there's a second problem, and the second problem was this: that of course a lot of the scrum these days is television cameras and radio reporters, but television cameras in particular, which of course were outside my remit, and when I had meetings with them to talk about it, they would be very reluctant to do anything about it before the event happened because they said they would be taken to judicial review, and I had to take a chance on whether I was going to be taken to judicial review when I rang up and said, "Please will you get your people off harassing ..." whatever it was, and I was only once taken to judicial review during my time there and I didn't even have to use the -- what is it? The Aga Khan and the Jockey Club case, that didn't arise. The judge just threw the case out, said that we'd behaved properly. But I know I was slightly taking a chance by the pre-event or to try and stop it rather than waiting for the complaints.

  • You then go on to deal at length with changes made to the treatment of children by the press, but we can move over this because by and large the measures were adopted and we don't need to cover them.

    Can I ask you about this. Chris Smith, now Lord Smith -- his comments are in the public domain -- has said that at this time he was actually pushing for further changes to the PCC code, but there appeared to be basically no appetite for this in the industry. Obviously we can ask him about that in due course, but do you recall this? Do you recall calls for further steps to be taken?

  • I certainly -- I'd forgotten about Chris Smith's time until I read the statement in the papers that you kindly gave me, but he wasn't the only one. There were other people, including me, who would have -- who knew about these things. One of the things which was quite important in the debates was whether or not we should institute a system of fining.

  • The first thing would be I don't think I could have persuaded the newspaper industry to have accepted a finding. I certainly don't think it would have been proper for editors to have been on the Press Complaints Commission if they were in a position to fine their competitors for breaching the code, so that was difficult. It was very important in the initial stages of getting the Press Complaints Commission going that the editors played a full part.

    So we had to balance all these things and I'm not saying it's exactly the same today, but it was important to get the editors committed it was their code. They were the ones who were needed to absolutely fully support what we were doing, and I needed to take them along, and they would not have been -- and I don't think I would have been in favour of the editor of one newspaper fining another one, and there was a further question of one fine would have been enough to put the paper out of business. The same fine would have been an extremely cheap price to have got the story, which in French newspaper style they could have put across the top of their banner.

    So I was against fines at that time, and I think Chris Smith -- I think Virginia Bottomley was also quite keen on it at one time, but I persuaded them as best I could that I thought this was an unwise move at the time I was dealing with it.

  • So is it your view then that in the aftermath of the death of Princess Diana the changes made went far enough, that they were sufficient?

  • I think they were right at the time, and we got them through and I think it was a significant improvement and some of them were, of course, changes that I had in mind before Diana died, but you have to pick the moment when the press was in the mood to accept a tougher code.

  • Can I ask you now about the Human Rights Act. It's in the public domain that you played a significant role in lobbying when the Human Rights Act was being passed. Can we identify, please, what your concern was when the human rights bill was going through Parliament? Can we look at tab 21 of the bundle. I think it's probably easiest, rather than asking you to remember exactly what you said. Tab 21 contains an extract from a debate on the data protection bill, in fact, and if you look at page 2 of 4, the third paragraph from the bottom -- this is you speaking. The paragraph starts "However"; do you see that?

  • I'm sorry, I'm looking at the top bit of my speech.

  • Third paragraph from the bottom:

    "However, I have to say to your Lordships that one thing greatly puzzles me and should give us all cause for concern. The thing that puzzles me is that the data protection bill and the human rights bill which this house has been considering seem to exist almost in different worlds, but the truth is that they present two entirely contradictory sets of policies. The data protection bill does not introduce new powers for the rich and the crooked to gag the press; the human rights bill does the opposite. The data protection bill does not introduce a back door privacy regime; the human rights bill does. The data protection bill safeguards the position of effective self-regulation. The human rights bill may end up undermining it."

    That's obviously what you were saying at the time. Is that an accurate reflection of --

  • That's what I said at the time and I'm sure it was accurate at the time and I think -- I'll try and tell you what I think I meant from that.

    The thing about the Data Protection Act was it was based upon, as I recall, a European directive which gave national governments the power to exempt journalism from the full force of it, because sort of by definition a newspaper that is collecting a story has it on its files, on its computers, and if it hasn't published it, it is because it hasn't got enough information to stand it up, and for that to be exposed at that stage would have been very damaging to the freedom of the press. But we persuaded the government, and Gareth Williams was the person who I dealt with over that. He saw that perfectly well and the exemption was included. So the Data Protection Act had the safeguard that I wanted.

    The Human Rights Act brought in -- although David Irving kept telling me I was wrong -- a privacy law. In effect, Article 8 and Article 10 are a privacy law, which I thought would be damaging to self-regulation. It would be a vehicle for the rich and it would leave the poor with no remedy. You only have to look at recently a footballer who lost a case -- I don't know whether he should have lost the case or did, I'm not interested in that, but the fact is it is reputed that it cost him £500,000 to lose his case under the Data Protection Act. A case of privacy that costs you £500,000 is of limited value to the public, who I was trying to serve.

    So that was that, and I tried various ways of dealing with it --

  • But you would never have been able to help the footballer, Lord Wakeham. You never would. Because that was all about prior disclosure. The only way you could prevent prior disclosure would be to go to court. The Press Complaints Commission couldn't prevent --

  • I'm not saying we should. All I'm saying is the publicity of a man losing and costing him half a million, it makes it very difficult to see how many other people would want to go down similar roads, but maybe they wouldn't get themselves into the muddle he got himself into.

  • Well, they might not therefore want to go to court. Therefore they do need some other mechanism to resolve this dispute, which the PCC doesn't provide.

  • Well, I'm not sure it provided it entirely in my day, but there's no reason why it shouldn't be made to. In fact, in my original letter to you, I tried to set out the way I think we should develop the system.

  • I'm very happy to talk about it.

  • That's one of the reasons why you're here today.

  • That's very kind of you to allow me to explain.

    But what happened on the Human Rights Act, I got the third reading speech in the House of Lords. I said I stand ready to talk to the government if they should think -- and then Jack Straw rang me when he got to the Commons and he said, "I hear you're very unhappy with that", and he was unhappy too, and so we met and we devised -- or he devised section 12, which was an attempt, as I understand it -- what I understood was that section 12 was really to give a newspaper the defence that they had behaved in accordance with the code and therefore that was a proper way to behave and therefore freedom of expression would take the priority. That's what he said.

    I didn't comment on whether it was effective or not, partly because both Jack Straw and David Irving are friends of mine and the last thing I wanted to do was get involved in what appeared to be a discussion between the two of them. I just wanted to get the thing as right as I could.

  • Did you initially seek to get the press a complete exemption from the Human Rights Act?

  • I certainly did, with absolutely no chance whatsoever of getting it through the House of Lords, but I wanted to raise the issue, which was important. I have to tell you that Parliament is in favour of strengthening restraints on the press whenever they find an opportunity, and if there's any legislation flows from the circumstances we're in, I have considerable reservations as to how it would get on in Parliament.

  • But you ended up with section 12, which has been described already.

  • Am I right in saying that you were very much hoping that this section would prevent privacy actions coming to court but instead they would go to the PCC?

  • In your witness statement, you appear to reject the notions that you were campaigning for the press at this point. Some commentators have said that it was simply inappropriate for the chairman of the regulator, who's meant to be, at the end of the day, an impartial mediator and complaints handler, to essentially lobby on behalf the press in respect of government decisions that might affect the press' commercial interests.

    In fact, if you look at Jack Straw's comments to the privacy and injunctions committee, he believed you were in fact representing the press. He describes the press as "the press in the person of Lord Wakeham".

  • Well, I thought -- the bit at the beginning, I wanted to intervene but I didn't.

  • I was never a regulator. I never said I was a regulator. I didn't pretend to be a regulator. My task was to try and raise standards in the press by means of a code and by self-regulation. You have to bear in mind that when I meant there, the press had been governed previously by the Press Council, and there was no -- there wasn't a code. We were the starting of the code. It was pretty crude when we started, and we refined it and we refined it, but at no time was it a regulator's job. It was a job of raising standards in self-regulation.

  • Any views? I mean, did you speak to the press industry when the human rights bill was going through Parliament? Did you speak to representatives of the press industry?

  • I can't remember doing so. I can't absolutely swear that I never spoke to a journalist at any time about it, but I certainly wasn't representing them. My concern was for the public. The Press Complaints Commission, in my view, was the best way of protecting the public and I didn't want to see it destroyed in the way that it more or less has been in the last few years.

  • When you say you never described yourself as a regulator, Lord Wakeham, you made a speech in 1995, so right at the very beginning:

    "I now have but one central aim as chairman of the Press Complaints Commission: to remove the sword of Damocles; that is the threat of statutory controls and privacy legislation suspended other the head of the fourth estate, which has been souring the crucial relationship between politicians and the press over the last ten years, and to put the regulation of the press beyond the bounds of day-to-day political debate."

    Wasn't that accepting for you that you were a regulator?

  • No, no. I was getting rid of it. I didn't want regulation of the press. I wanted self-regulation. I wanted them to regulate themselves. I may not have put it as cleverly as I should have done, but that's what I wanted. I certainly did not see myself as a regulator. I saw my job as to try and raise standards so that nobody would then be wanting to bring in regulation of the press. That was the object of the exercise: to get standards sufficiently high. People would then say, "This is fine, we don't need regulation."

  • So when your successors come along and speak about them being regulators, that's simply not your understanding of the role at all?

  • No. I mean, the dividing line is quite narrow, it's not black and white, but I think that they made a mistake in trying to take on the job of regulating when they should have been putting it back to the press and saying, "What are you doing? This is outrageous. You mustn't do this."

  • But that means then there is nobody who is regulating the press at all.

  • Self-regulation in a free society is what I would want to achieve, and I thought I had done quite well in achieving it during my time, and since then we've got ourselves into difficulties and we have to find a way forward and I made a suggestion as to how I think we should find a way forward, which of course does, in the end, bring the courts in as well because I take the view that the Human Rights Act is now part of our law, it's been incorporated into our law, and we'd best work within that system.

  • That brings us neatly onto your proposals for the future of press regulation. I've been working from your letter to Lord Justice Leveson dated 7 January 2012, which is behind tab 8, simply because it's all there conveniently set out. Can we turn to that? It's MOD2429.

  • On the second page of that letter, you say in the third paragraph that based on your experience at the PCC and your own beliefs as a Parliamentarian in freedom of expression, you remain strongly -- I think that should say "opposed to" --

  • -- additional statutory controls.

  • So nothing that you've seen in the intervening years has persuaded you that we should go to statutory regulation; is that correct?

  • "... wrong in principle and wouldn't work in practice. The only answer therefore is to strengthen self-regulation."

    I could paraphrase this for you. Is there anything in particular that you would like to draw Lord Justice Leveson's attention to?

  • Well, yes. I hope it's reasonably there. I've taken the view that the complaints handling of the PCC was pretty good. It was cheap, it was quick. I reduced the timescale down to 35 days from complaint to getting an adjudication, and that was not perfect but it was okay. We set up an appeals procedure as well for those who weren't happy with the results, which I don't think was used very much.

    There were, of course, much more difficult issues that came up from time to time. There were not so many of those as there ought to be, but they were important and they had to be dealt with, and whilst I thought that the complaints could be dealt with by an ombudsman type figure, I think the wider issues -- the McCanns, the Daily Mirror and the question of share tipping and things of that sort -- were bigger issues which you couldn't leave to one man to deal with, and therefore you need something greater for that.

    But I also floated the idea in that letter, from my point of view, that what I thought was reasonably right to try to make section 12 work in the way that I thought it was going to work was that there could be an understanding between the PCC and the courts, whereas when somebody starts a legal proceedings for privacy with the courts, the judge would say, "Have you taken this case to the PCC? If not, why not?" And if there's a good explanation, accept it. If not: "I think it would be better if you went there first", and then come along and see what it was. The PCC could give an adjudication and I would not then stop anyone from taking it to the courts if they wanted to and the courts could decide what they were going to do about it.

    By this means, it seemed to me self-regulation would be a stage one in a process which might end up in the courts if we couldn't find a practical solution.

  • That's absolutely opposed to the present rule, that if you go down the PCC route, you can't go to court.

  • Correct, yes, absolutely. And that was right in my day, that was what we did in my day, and I think we did it for a reasonably good reason, because there was a danger of double jeopardy for the newspapers, that they would be clobbered by the Press Complaints Commission and then they'd go to court. I think that in my day, really, the only cases that this really mattered was defamation cases and it was relatively easy to see if this was a case where you should say to somebody, "Look, this is a case that you might prefer to take to court because this doesn't look like it's in our field."

    What I didn't want to do was to use the PCC as a sort of fishing expedition, have people come along who really all the time were intending to go to court, and get the PCC to deal with it in order to give them the information --

  • But you might have just that effect now.

  • If the court is going to say, "Go along and try the PCC", and the PCC looks and requires answers from newspapers, then that's the dry run, that's the fishing expedition, which then leads to court.

  • Yes, but I was also suggesting that in that case the person concerned would pay the costs of the PCC. If they then decided to take it on, the costs would be part of the costs of the legal proceedings, so the PCC would get their money back from one side or another for providing -- doing the work. That seemed to me to be a reasonable compromise.

  • Either the newspaper or the complainant?

  • Yes, absolutely. Whoever won or lost, yes. But there was therefore the --

  • So that means, does it, that if one takes an indigent person who doesn't have very much money, they think they've got a complaint and they're encouraged to go to the PCC, and then either they feel they're not fairly treated or they feel that they've got actually something quite useful and therefore it ought to be worth some damages, then they take the risk of all the costs of the PCC as well as the risks of the litigation?

  • Absolutely, yes. Absolutely. But 99.9 per cent of the people, having gone to the PCC and had a fair investigation of their complaint, wouldn't take it any further, in my view.

  • But do you visualise that the fair investigation of the complaint could lead to the resolution of factual conflict? At the moment, the PCC, as I understand it -- and you'll tell me if you think I'm wrong -- won't get involved in -- I mean, if there's what I might call a straight swear. The complainant says X, the newspaper says Y. How can the PCC resolve that? It's a conflict of evidence, therefore they don't.

  • It very rarely happened in my time that I can remember. There was something reported in the newspaper and the person concerned would produce the argument and evidence as to why he thought the newspaper had got it wrong. I don't ever -- I can't immediately think of any case where a newspaper challenged the person on that basis. Where they would challenge them is to say this was in the public interest to reveal that -- whatever it was.

  • All right. So would your system therefore also require that absolutely everybody in the PCC who was making this decision was entirely independent both of the press and editors and, of course, the public? Because otherwise your press representatives are going to be judges in their own cause.

  • Yes. I accept that the situations that changed from when I started it. I believed it was vital to have the press in when I was running it because I wanted a commitment from the press to try and make it work. I think there is a case for saying, under the new system, there should be an independent tribunal to deal with these cases, for which there could be an advisory committee of the press who would be able to tell you, because the press on occasions have often been extremely valuable in trying to get at the truth.

    I don't know if I can bore you with one example of really where it happened. We had a case, a Sunday paper, and it had a full-page picture on the front of a woman, as best we could see, dying, and every lay member of the press thought this was a horrible, horrible intrusion into that person's and that family's life. And we got to the end, and one of the editors said, "Well, I quite understand why you feel that way, but before the Commission reaches its conclusion, may I make a suggestion that you do some enquiry as to the circumstances in which that photograph was taken?"

    And the circumstances were that the hospital concerned had invited the press in, this reporter in, to say, "Take any picture of anything you like, because we want some publicity", probably to clobber the government about health service expenditure -- it was a Labour government, so it happens on all sides -- to clobber the government. The picture appeared, therefore taken with the full permission of the hospital. Whether it should have been in is another matter --

  • My immediate reaction is: what about the patient or the patient's family?

  • Well, right. The patient complained to the hospital. The hospital then said, "Oh, well, you must complain to the Press Complaints Commission." They didn't tell anybody that they'd invited them in to do it, and we would not have understood that if it hadn't been for the editor. He said, "That is one of the best newspaper photographs, in my professional judgment, that I've ever seen." It couldn't have been taken without co-operation, in his view, and then we found the full story, which did make a bit of a difference.

  • All that might say is that one should be rather careful to investigate whatever one is saying, and I'm not sure one would need a newspaper editor say that. As a lawyer, I've frequently said, "I think we'd better investigate that." Indeed, I've spent most of the last six months saying just that.

  • Yes, but we had the picture and it was a disgustingly bad picture, and we had a complaint.

  • And we thought that was pretty clear.

  • Can I turn to the thorny issue of industry compliance? You identify this as being the trickiest area in your letter, which we've just been looking at. Second-to-last paragraph of the letter:

    "On the issue of industry compliance, I think this is the trickiest area."

    To some extent, you say, it's always been a problem but in a much less acute manner. Do you have any answers or potential solutions?

  • Let me say why it's always been a problem in a much less acute -- we always had newspapers who refused to pay their dues to the Press Complaints Commission and didn't want to be part of it, but they were all relatively small and the view I took was: if somebody complained about that newspaper, I didn't write to the person and say, "I'm afraid I can't deal with this. The newspaper hasn't joined the club"; I dealt with it as if they had joined the club because I thought it was in the interests of the Press Complaints Commission that we should deal with it, and that was perfectly easy to do when there were relatively few and they were relatively minor newspapers.

    When you have the -- whatever it's called, Northern & Shell drop out, this is a very much more serious matter, and it didn't happen in my day, and I don't think self-regulation would work unless you have the full commitment of all the major papers, including them. And I think that David Hunt's idea of there being a contract, a legal contract so they have to contribute money to it means that the body gets the -- the PCC gets its funding, which is important, and if the newspapers don't want to co-operate with it, that doesn't stop -- it doesn't stop the PCC dealing with the complaint. It can deal with it. If they don't want to defend themselves, that's their problem.

  • Thank you. I think you wanted to say a word or two about the practicalities of getting legislation through Parliament.

  • Well, yes. It has been drawn to my attention what David Hunt said, and as he, I say, learnt his trade -- he was one of my whips when I was a chief whip. I'm sure he was right in what he said about the difficulties within Parliament. There will be amendments to the bill, if there was a relatively minor bill to regulate the press in some way, which would get itself out of control. It's exactly analogous to what is at present happening will the House of Lords reform. There has been a long time a very simple bill by David Steel which does a great deal of the things which should be done, but the government is frightened to take it on because it knows it will get so many amendments and so on, a minor bill will become a major bill.

  • That wasn't actually what Lord Hunt was saying. What Lord Hunt was saying was that members of the House of Lords and the House of Commons both would combine together to make even more tough --

  • Oh, absolutely. That's exactly -- I understand that completely, and I'm just saying that that's exactly what people would have done with this House of Lords bill that's been around for years.

    So leave that on one side. That's exactly the danger. He's absolutely right. That is what would happen, and that is why, for example, when I argued that the press should be exempt from the Human Rights Act, I didn't press it to a division or anything -- because I knew I'd lose. There's no way I would have got that through, but I wanted to raise the point in order to try and get something going.

    So if that is what I might call a narrow, minor bill, David Hunt is right. If the government was faced with a much bigger and more serious one, I'm also pretty sure what would happen there. First of all, they would be absolutely -- nobody would touch it this side of an election. Absolutely sure of that. The government wouldn't do anything. I'm no member of government, but I don't think they would touch it this side of an election, because the danger would be that whatever the government says, the press would be against it, the opposition of the day -- and this is not a party point because it could be the other way around if the election went the other way. The opposition would say, "The government is absolutely right to tackle the abuses of the press. Unfortunately, they've done it the wrong way." And there would be a massive parliamentary debate which would get out of control very quickly, in my view, and as many years as a business manager in both houses, I would be very reluctant to advise a government to bring in a bill to take statutory control of the press.

  • Oh no, no, no, no. Let me make it clear -- and I've made it extremely clear: there's no question of my suggesting statutory control of the press at all.

  • I think I said from day one -- and frequently, when anybody's suggested to the contrary -- that I am a firm believer in the freedom of the press. I think it's an essential part of our democracy and there isn't a chance of my recommending that, but I am rather concerned that the effect of what you say is to undermine the purpose of this Inquiry entirely, because effectively what you're saying is: "Well, you can think about this and you can look at it and you can write whatever you like, but at the end of the day, unless you simply say, 'Well, the press should be allowed to get on with it', then you're going to create an absolute fire storm and nothing will happen."

  • Can I answer you this way? I thinking that Calcutt 2, which the government turned down, was actually the creation of a much better Press Complaints Commission. I would not have been able to do it if it hadn't have been for the threat of Calcutt 2, to which the government said no, and the serious threat that there could be statutory regulation. That is what I used all the time. All my speeches in the early months, I'd say, "Now, look, I hope you people are listening to me, because if you don't listen to me, statutory control will be the end result of it."

    And I can remember -- I had forgotten but I was reminded the other day -- at least one meeting I turned to these editors who were being a bit difficult about this or that and the other thing, and I said, "If you lot go on like this, I'm going straight to the Prime Minister and saying these people are impossible, and I cannot deal with them any longer."

    It was the threat of statutory intervention, which didn't happen, which made me persuade them to co-operate with me, which they did for the seven years or so I was there. We frequently changed the code in all sorts of different ways, as we found the opportunity to do so, and it was a lot better at the end than the beginning.

    So I think that what you say will be very instrumental in getting a higher standard, even if -- whatever you're likely to say is going to be designed to increase and improve the standards, which have slipped, and I think it will be -- it doesn't necessarily mean a legislation at this stage. It does mean that they will say --

  • So you're encouraging me to suggest a particularly stringent piece of legislation that really does hit the press very hard, so that's a very, very large club for Lord Hunt to wield against the editors? Is that what I should be doing?

  • No, I don't think that's right. I think the existence of the inquiry that you are conducting has, if they have any sense, sent a pretty clear signal to the press, and you will obviously report what you think is the most appropriate dealings. Now, you will report what you think is right. If you report a tough -- I'm not saying you are. If you reported a tough statutory solution, I think we would have parliamentary difficulties of greater or lesser extent, whatever it is --

  • What you're saying is: it wouldn't happen but it might help the press sort themselves out, so we could use it as another example of in nuclear deterrent?

  • Well, yes, but not if you say: "Here's a lot of things I don't intend the government to do, but they would be pretty horrible if I did." I think you have to take a pretty stern line -- at least I would if I were in your position -- about the shortcomings that are there. But it doesn't mean to say that your worst excesses -- I think the most important thing, if I was sitting where you're sitting, which I'm not, is I would be looking at the effect upon ordinary people, on the ordinary people. I think that's very much the most important part of it.

  • I entirely agree with that. But I gain this comfort from what you say, Lord Wakeham. If I make a suggestion which is rejected but causes the press to change, then I've won. If I make a suggestion that's accepted that causes the press to change, I've won. So to that extent, it may be I can't lose.

  • Yes, that's not a bad starting point, from your point of view. I don't disagree with that at all. I think that's very good. And who wants you to be anything other than a winner?

  • Oh, no, no, no, I actually perceive this responsibility quite differently, Lord Wakeham.

  • Well, on that winning note, those are all my questions.

  • Thank you very much. Lord Wakeham, is there anything that you would like to add? You have an enormous experience in this area. I read not just between the lines that you think that things have taken a serious turn for the worse in the more recent years -- and that's not necessarily to criticise all your successors, because these things have clearly gone in cycles. One looks at the attempts to look at this since the war, the number of efforts that have been made in this area. But if there is anything else you'd like to add, I'd be very grateful.

  • No, I think we've sort of -- it sort of came out in a different order than was in my mind to start with, but I'm perfectly -- I think I've got everything out that I've particularly wanted to say.

    No, I wish you luck. Thank you very much.

  • Thank you very much indeed for coming.

  • Sir, the next witness isn't due until 12 o'clock, so I wonder if we could have a slightly longer break.

  • There's no question that we can have a slightly longer break --

  • I was going to say, in fact, the next witness has been put off until 2 o'clock.

  • Thank you very much indeed. That's also important, because at 2 o'clock I intend to say something about recent events, which will be of some help, some significance, and I hope, help.

  • (The luncheon adjournment)