Therese Coffey (Suffolk Coastal, Conservative)
It is a privilege to speak in today’s debate, and I wholly endorse the motion before the House today. It is fair to say that
the Culture, Media and Sport Committee was absolutely united in saying that Les Hinton, Tom Crone and Colin Myler had misled Parliament. That was evidenced by just one aspect of an external lawyer’s perspective. Julian Pike from Farrer & Co. affirmed that Parliament had been lied to when responding to a question from Paul Farrelly. When asked by the hon. Gentleman, “When did you first know about the evidence given to this House?”, he answered, “At the moment they said it, back in 2009.” Such affirmations from external parties give confidence to members of the Committee on the conclusions reached in our report.
In preparing our report, we were advised not to take on the principle of lawyers, in serving their clients, not having regard to allowing falsehoods to be perpetuated, but instead to accept that lawyers are there to serve their clients. However, we all have to show personal leadership. I wonder at times whether lawyers should take a look in the mirror—individually and, as the legal profession, collectively—and decide to take a certain view on these ethical matters, including whether they wish that position to continue to be part of their ethical code.
I think it is fair to say that the Committee was not entirely united on chapter 8, owing to the fourth point in paragraph 275. However, we all accept the established principle of vicarious liability, and that the company should accept responsibility for what happened in that terrible time.
As I have stated before, News International will have a long time to regret not taking action after our excellent predecessor Committee’s 2009 report—as it now appears to be doing through its internal management and standards committee. I point to paragraph 278. Parliament—our Select Committee—was careful to try not to trample on criminal proceedings, for which we could not have been forgiven. However, we should reflect on the fact that it is thanks to parliamentary privilege that we were able to uncover and bring certain information through to Parliament that the Leveson inquiry would not have been able to bring. It is not acceptable to evade the truth when speaking to parliamentarians. It is not acceptable simply to try to leave people second-guessing, so that they may be misled—often deliberately so. It is imperative that people are prepared to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and we demand nothing less for our constituents.