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

Sir, I've been in Parliament for 29 years as of two days ago. I was in opposition until two years ago. I therefore understood and expected that my party would be of less interest to the press than the other two parties who were in government in that period. I was clear from a very early stage that there was a growing unhealthy relationship between politics and the press, and it was -- I sort of always assumed, from my understanding of history from the last century, that there would be strong links, by and large, between the press barons and the Tory party. That was a sort of given from my reading of political history.

I understood how influential tabloids in particular became. I saw the desperate effort, when I was in Parliament, for party leaders to gain favour with the tabloids. I saw Tony Blair fly across the world to have summit meetings with the Murdoch family. I regarded it as increasingly unhealthy. I didn't just do that; my colleagues and I said so. Matthew Taylor, when he was an MP, said so. Lord McNally, when he was in Parliament, said so. We sought to do things about this. We sought to toughen the regulations. I'm not going to bore you with the details, but there are evidence records of how often we tried to restrict the influence between the political parties and the press, and make sure that there wasn't a dominant position held by any individual paper or organisation and there wasn't an abuse of a dominant position.

So there was for us, as liberals, a consistent theme, and the answer to counsel is that it didn't show any signs of abating. As every election draw nearer, the battle to get the most popular titles on your side would grow, and it seemed to me there was a lot of compromising of principles to do that.

Can I add one thing? That's why this Inquiry is really important, because there was a consensus in Parliament last year. Everybody had been persuaded something must be done, in the words of the old cliche. It may be easier to say that across the political divide in the first year of a Parliament than it is when you're a year before a General Election, and the temptation grows again. For politicians I'm talking about, not for anybody else. And therefore the really useful thing would be if we -- following the Inquiry, any prosecutions that happen by the police can come back to this matter in Parliament, because I think there are ways in which we can --

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