Phone Hacking

Part of Business of the House (Today) – in the House of Commons at 4:28 pm on 6th July 2011.

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Photo of Tom Brake Tom Brake Liberal Democrat, Carshalton and Wallington 4:28 pm, 6th July 2011

Any newspaper or other media outlet that interferes by hacking or any other means into people’s phones, e-mails or post, and any newspaper that interferes with police investigations to maximise profits and concoct more salacious headlines, is acting despicably and illegally, and inflicts more pain on victims. Any claim that it is acting in the public interest, or that it is all down to a single rogue operator, will be treated with the derision and scorn that it deserves. That newspaper should expect the full force of the law to bear down on it, and it should feel the heat as consumers and advertisers vote with their feet. I am pleased that that is exactly what is beginning to happen.

It is difficult to believe that those illegal activities, given their scale and the specific nature of the information that was being supplied to a newspaper—which could not, in my view, have been obtained legally—were restricted to one private investigator or one newspaper. It is hard to understand why the original police inquiry was so truncated. For those reasons there is agreement in the House today on the need for a wide inquiry or inquiries headed by a judge. The inquiries should look at which media used those illegal techniques, what can be done to address what is clearly a widespread cultural problem within the industry, and what changes to the law might be required.

We also need to tackle the Met and examine what went wrong with the original inquiry, where it appears that not only was every stone not turned over, but a whole rockery was left in place. Were payments were made? Were investigations hindered as a result of other unacceptable activities? Those are just some of the matters that the judge and the Home Secretary—if that is who sets the terms of reference—will want the inquiry to examine. We will need to establish a clear time scale and the costings for the inquiry.

There are many other aspects that I wanted to touch on, but time is short. We are faced with a scandal of expanding proportions, including hacking, allegations of interference in police investigations, and claims that payments have been made to officers. To restore faith and trust in the police and the media, we must lock up the guilty, establish a statutory inquiry, shine a cleansing light on the culture of the media and, if necessary, of the police, and implement the reforms necessary to ensure that the privacy of victims and citizens is never intruded on again. It is clear from today’s debate that this is the will of the House, and we are committed to making it happen.