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

  • Good morning, sir. I wonder if I might start by raising a point on the evidence of Mr Thomas who is, we hope, coming tomorrow. It's simply this. We would like to apply under Rule 10.4 to ask Mr Thomas some questions ourselves and I raise that now because I think it will help both Mr Jay and us if we know what the position is in advance rather than when Mr Jay has finished his questions.

  • The reasons for making the application in the case of Mr Thomas are briefly these. First of all, his evidence and the table in his second report, which the Inquiry is well aware of, is obviously of great importance to the Inquiry and therefore to us as well.

    Secondly, there is a practical issue. Mr Thomas has made five statements, with I think 50 exhibits. There is in addition evidence in response, both from Associated Newspapers and from ourselves. It is therefore a formidable task even for Mr Jay to get on top of all of it and to ask not only all the questions that he wants to ask, but also those that we want to ask --

  • I'm sure Mr Jay will approve of the word "even".

  • Yes. And the questions we want to ask as well. Also, of course, putting questions through counsel to the Inquiry works quite well if it's a simple point of clarification or we want to make it clear that something is in dispute, but if there's a line of questions to follow up where it depends a bit on what answer you get, it gets more difficult.

  • Mr Davies, I understand and I think there are different considerations in relation to Mr Thomas as to other witnesses, but how long are you requesting for?

  • I would think 20 to 30 minutes, depending a little bit on how much territory Mr Jay covers.

  • All right. I see the force in the argument.

  • Can I ask for a similar period of time, please?

  • Yes, well, I understand that, Mr Caplan, and the reason I didn't immediately respond to Mr Davies was that I wanted to see how contagious this was going to be. Yes, all right, I understand.

    Does anybody else want to do that?

    All right. In principle, I am minded to agree to make that order. I think that there are differences in relation to certain of the witnesses to others. As regards the time, during the course of the day I'll think about that and return to it at the end of it, but in principle, I accede to both applications.

    Right. Mr Sherborne?

  • Sir, despite my proximity, I haven't caught that contagion. It's a different matter that prompts me to rise to my feet.

  • Sir, it relates to yesterday afternoon and your exchange with Mr Caplan in relation to Associated Newspapers' public statement. You will recall that much emphasis was put on the fact that the line -- I think, sir, you say this:

    "I'm very conscious that the line in the Associated Newspaper article was removed from their online edition and I've not forgotten about it."

    To which Mr Caplan said:

    "Yes."

    It's very unfortunate that in fact the website publication of the article that you were referring to does unfortunately still contain the reference to a "mendacious smear" and I have copies of it. I was somewhat taken aback when it was said yesterday because my understanding was it was still online.

  • But I took it that maybe something had changed. As of 9 o'clock this morning, it still stands in the Mail Online edition of the article, which is a matter you will understand, sir, of extreme concern.

  • Yes. I understood that it had been taken out of the online edition, which I thought removed the immediate need to go further because it represented its own acknowledgment rather along the lines that Mr Caplan had identified that he understood what I was saying when I put to him what I did.

    I think it moves it up the batting order, Mr Sherborne.

  • Sir, you'll appreciate no acknowledgement, no explanation --

  • Mr Sherborne, I understand, I understand.

    Mr Caplan, if I'm wrong, and I was wrong, then I will be the first to recognise that.

  • Sir, the matter is under --

  • Thank you, I have a copy.

    Sir, the matter is under consideration. I have got evidence that is being collated. I don't know when that will be finished, but I assure you that the matter is being --

  • It certainly will not be possible to deal with it with the Information Commissioner coming this week and --

  • Well, yes, but then I'd like some thought to be given as to what should be online.

  • I'll ask that question at the end of the day. Thank you very much.

  • Sir, the first witness today is Mr Alastair Campbell.