Phone Hacking

Oral Answers to Questions — Attorney-General – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 5th July 2011.

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Application for emergency debate (Standing Order No. 24 )

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Shadow Minister (Justice) (Political and Constitutional Reform) 3:33 pm, 5th July 2011

I rise to propose that the House should debate a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration: whether there should be a public inquiry into phone hacking at the News of the World and the related conduct of the Metropolitan Police Service between 2006 and 2011.

There cannot be a single person in the land who is not sickened by the news that a private investigator working for the News of the World hacked the phone of the missing teenager, Milly Dowler, and deleted some of her messages, thereby leading the family to believe that she might still be alive. That is not just a paper out of control; that is not just a paper believing it is above the law. It is a national newspaper playing God with a family’s emotions. Those involved, those whose negligence allowed it to happen, and those who covered it up should be truly ashamed, and the paper cannot pretend that this comes as a massive surprise to it. The News of the World ran a story directly referring to one of the messages. Even more cynically, only last weekend it wrote that people should be rightly disgusted at the “courtroom torture” of Milly Dowler’s family. What about the newspaper torture as well?

This is not just about one incident, as hideous as it is. It is about systematic criminality that has perverted police investigations and seriously damaged the reputation of British journalism and of the Metropolitan police. It is about a pattern of lies and half truths told to Parliament by the News of the World—that there was just one lone reporter; that no senior managers knew anything about all of this. What makes it really important and urgent, however, is that this is about the behaviour of the Metropolitan police, in whom we put our trust. They had all this information in their hands in 2006, and yet they did nothing with it. Why have they lied time and time again to Parliament, saying that a full investigation had been done and that all the victims had been informed when self-evidently they have not been? In the end, the problem and the scandal is that the Metropolitan police, as the Deputy Prime Minister referred to earlier, did not pursue the evidence and it is only because of the current campaign that a full investigation is now going on.

The only way we can get to the full truth and to the heart of the cover-up is by having a public inquiry, led by a judge, in addition to the police investigation. This is urgent. The inquiry should start now while memories are fresh and before people leave the scene or shred the evidence. We should not be spineless. Warm words will make no odds. We must have an inquiry.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission

The hon. Gentleman seeks leave to move a motion relating to a public inquiry into phone hacking at the News of the World and the conduct of the Metropolitan Police Service between 2006 and 2011. I have listened carefully and am satisfied that the matter is proper to be debated under Standing Order No. 24. Does he have the leave of the House?

Several hon. Members:

rose —

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission

The hon. Gentleman—[ Interruption. ] Order. The hon. Gentleman has the leave of the House. Members may resume their seats. He has the leave of the House to move his motion. As required by the Standing Order, I announce—[ Interruption. ] Order. As required by the Standing Order, I announce that the debate will be held tomorrow at the commencement of public business and that it will last for up to three hours. I think that that is clear.