I beg to move,
That this House
has considered matter of public confidence in the media and the police.
You have heard a lot from me already, Mr Speaker, so I will keep my opening remarks brief.
I want to start by paying tribute to this House and to hon. Members who sit in it. Just a couple of years ago, at the height of the expenses scandal, people said we had lost relevance and that we no longer properly represented the constituents we served. We have got a long way to go before regaining full public trust, but the past two weeks have shown the House, in many ways, at its best.
We have seen the true worth, for instance, of our Select Committees, with the forensic scrutiny of those in positions of power, in the public interest. I particularly want to pay tribute to those chaired by my hon. Friend Mr Whittingdale, Keith Vaz and my right hon. Friend Sir Alan Beith. We have seen vigorous debate, with this House leading the public debate, finishing of course with News Corporation’s withdrawal of its bid to take over BSkyB, and we have seen cross-party support and action to get to the bottom of what happened and learn lessons for the future.
We now have in place a judge-led, independent public inquiry. It will have all the powers necessary, and I want to start the debate by saying that we must be careful not to pre-empt all its deliberations or seek in advance to answer all the questions it must address. There is a good reason for setting up this inquiry, and we must let it do its work. That does not mean that we should not be clear about the big picture of what needs to be done. As I said a moment ago, all this has got to begin and end with the victims; it is they who have suffered the most, and we must do right by them.
In opening this debate, I simply want to set out the four vital questions that we need to answer, which in turn lead to four vital things that we, as a House of Commons, must resolve never to let happen again. The first question is how we can secure a free and vibrant media, completely unafraid to challenge authority but operating within the law. We must never again see this widespread lawbreaking, including the terrible crimes committed against people who have already suffered. We should not assume that those practices extend across all media, some of which have an excellent reputation, but neither should we think that this is isolated in just one institution.
The second issue is how we can secure strong, well-led, independent yet accountable police forces that are able to pursue the powerful without fear or favour. Yes, they must be able to work constructively with the media, but never again should they be at risk of being corrupted by the media.