“Promises were made” to victims of corruption, that Leveson Part Two would take place. Following on from The Suppression of Leveson: Part One.
Most importantly, they were made to the Dowler family and to the other victims of phone hacking. They were made, eye to eye, by the Prime Minister to the victims.
They were made in Parliament as well as in person. But the history of the Leveson Inquiry is of the gradual resiling from those promises until finally, they were broken. An unanswered question is was the intention to break these promises from the start?
PART TWO: Preparing the Ground
On July 13 2011, however, Prime Minister Cameron was clear:
“We have decided that the best way to proceed is with one inquiry, but in two parts.”
Part One of the Leveson Inquiry proceeded on this basis, with the premise that there was to be, after criminal trials had concluded, in Cameron’s words:
“A full investigation into wrongdoing in the press and the police.”
The first indication that this was changing was in January 2015, junior Police Minister Mike Penning said:
“The Government has been clear that a decision on whether to undertake Part 2 of the Leveson Inquiry will not take place until after all criminal investigations and trials related to Part 1 are concluded.”
That new position was confirmed by a statement by spokesman for the new Conservative Government, elected in May 2015 to replace the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition, to the Daily Mail in December 2015:
“Yesterday, a spokesman for No 10 said: ‘We have always been clear that a decision on whether or not to take forward part two of the Leveson Inquiry will not be taken until all criminal trials [are over].”
A News International title followed up quickly the briefing which was happening from Government:
“Senior government and judicial sources told The Times that the second part of the inquiry into press and police corruption would never see the light of day amid limited political appetite for another lengthy and expensive judicial inquiry into Fleet Street and the Met.”
The Government itself now fed the untrue version of history:
“Leveson part 2 will not be able to take place until after those investigations and trials have concluded. However, as soon as they have been completed, we will formally consult Sir Brian Leveson, as he now is, as chair of the inquiry before announcing what is appropriate.”
Finally, in November 2016, under new Prime Minister Theresa May, the Government set up a formal consultation allowing the possibility of not commencing Leveson 2.
The heat of the original debate around press intrusion and the Milly Dowler Affair had long subsided. It was no longer the focus of public attention which had moved on to the Brexit Referendum and its complex aftermath.
Three new political party leaders had, for different reasons, replaced those who had expressed such unanimity in 2011.
However, the first part of the Leveson Inquiry had been successfully concluded. Sir Brian Leveson had conducted the Inquiry in an exemplary way and produced a widely praised report. It was clear that any abandonment of Leveson 2 would have to overcome the substantial hurdle of the views of Sir Brian Leveson on its abandonment. That role fell to the new Culture Secretary, Matt Hancock.
I had followed the Inquiry with interest. In 2015 I had become a member of the Commons’ DCMS Select Committee tasked with scrutinising this area, following up my long standing interest in the issue. I was, therefore, watching out for the Government statement on its response to the Consultation on Leveson 2 which, after a long delay, finally arrived on 1st March 2018.
Not Read Yet? The Suppression of Leveson Part One
Writer & Author
Ian Lucas was Labour MP for Wrexham from 2001 to 2019, and a member of Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee from 2017 to 2019, during its inquiry into disinformation and fake news.