Data protection breaches by national news publishers

Part of Data Protection Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 2:45 pm on 15th May 2018.

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Photo of Tom Watson Tom Watson Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Shadow Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 2:45 pm, 15th May 2018

I am afraid that other Members want to speak, and we have a limited amount of time. I tried to answer the hon. Gentleman’s question as comprehensively as possible.

I think that the Lords have listened to the Democratic Unionist party, and have adjusted the amendment to meet their concerns. Although DUP Members are not in the Chamber today, I know that they will follow the debate closely before we vote. I am not one of those who do not respect their position. They are representing the needs of their constituents, and they do that well. Last week we did not manage to convince them, but I hope the new amendment shows that their concerns have been heard loud and clear. I think that of all the parties in the House, the DUP prides itself on its commitment to the United Kingdom. We ask DUP Members today to give all UK citizens justice by voting for the amendment.

During the Bill’s passage, we have been told that the press has cleaned up its act. Indeed, the Secretary of State has talked about a new culture in the papers since Leveson 1. Let me quote from a letter written by Figen Murray, whose son Martyn Hett was murdered by a terrorist in the Manchester Arena bombing last year. While she was at the Etihad stadium waiting for news—still not knowing whether her son was alive—her youngest daughters stayed safe at home. During that time, there were seven or eight journalists at their door, and journalists calling their phone. Figen Murray says:

“What upset me most about the media intrusion we have had was the fact that my youngest daughter...heard from a journalist on our doorstep that her brother died. You cannot unhear what you hear. She was a child and this was absolutely not fair, fiercely unethical and cruel.”

I ask colleagues to put themselves in that position. You are a teenager, and you find out that your brother has been killed by a terrorist bomb from a journalist who turns up at your door while your parents are out searching for him. It is unimaginable.

Martyn’s mother goes on:

“Whilst a lot of noise is being made that press behaviour has improved since the Leveson Inquiry, I totally disagree. As a family we have had first hand experience that this is not the case.”

In case after case, we have seen not just new evidence of wrongdoing that was never disclosed to part 1 of Leveson, but new wrongdoing, new abuses, and new victims. That is why Leveson 2 must proceed.

Let me say finally that we cannot possibly have time to consider this last-minute, far-reaching, highly irregular manuscript amendment today. It appears, ironically, to give greater powers to this Secretary of State and all subsequent Secretaries of State to interfere with self-regulation of the press. Whatever we disagree about on Leveson, no one wants this; that was the whole point of the royal charter system. So I say to colleagues today—in fact I beg them—that this may be our last chance to deliver on that promise to the victims. The whole House supported a Leveson inquiry in two parts, and Sir Brian Leveson himself says that the inquiry’s work is not done. All I ask today is that colleagues think about the promises we all made; let’s keep our word and keep this amendment in the Bill.