News Corporation: Conduct of Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport — Statement
Lord Armstrong of Ilminster (Crossbench)
My Lords, as the Leader of the Opposition has referred to what I said about this matter, I should like to clarify that if I may, and ask the Leader of the House whether he agrees with it. I have said that the Prime Minister is responsible for decisions about ministerial conduct and for deciding whether a Minister has or has not breached the code. If he has, or thinks he has, sufficient evidence to justify a decision not to refer the matter to Sir Alex Allan, or to confirm the Minister in his position, he is entitled to do that. If he has doubt, he can ask Sir Alex Allan for advice. He is not obliged to take that advice, but clearly the advice will be very important.
In this case, as I understand it, the Prime Minister takes the view that the evidence that comes before Lord Justice Leveson will be more pervasive, extensive and comprehensive than anything that Sir Alex Allan could get. Lord Justice Leveson is not being asked to take the decision about the Ministerial Code. As I understand it, it is being suggested that the evidence given to his inquiry, elicited by questions from counsel and by all the other procedures, is likely to be more comprehensive and more reliable, since it will be evidence taken on oath, than anything that Sir Alex could achieve. However, Lord Justice Leveson is quite right in saying that he cannot take the decision or give advice about the Ministerial Code. The only person who can take a decision is the Prime Minister, and if he wants advice, he will have to ask Sir Alex Allan.