My Lords, we return to the regulation of the press and the outcome of the Leveson inquiry. Yesterday my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport launched a 10-week public consultation relating to Leveson part 2 and the commencement of Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act. The consultation will give everyone with an interest in these matters an opportunity to have their say on this vital issue, which affects each and every one of us in this country. I hope noble Lords will welcome this announcement, which shows the Government’s commitment to addressing the issues and recommendations set out in the Leveson report in the most appropriate way.
Before we consider the ins and outs of press self-regulation, it is important that we all remember the context in which we are having this debate: the Investigatory Powers Bill. The Bill’s passage has been a long one, from its inception after three independent reviews, through pre-legislative scrutiny by three parliamentary committees to the thorough scrutiny subsequently applied by both Houses. The Government have recognised the need for consensus on legislation of this significance. They have listened and substantially changed the Bill in light of the scrutiny it has received. Both Houses have improved the Bill.
There is consensus on the need for the Bill. It is one of the most important pieces of legislation this Government will take forward. The Bill will provide a world-leading framework for the use of investigatory powers by law enforcement and the security and intelligence agencies. It will strengthen the safeguards for the use of those powers and it will create a powerful new body responsible for oversight of those powers.
I remind the House that the Bill replaces provisions in the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 that will sunset at the end of this year. The loss of those powers would pose a significant threat to the ability of law enforcement and the security and intelligence agencies to protect the public. I must therefore be clear: the Bill is important for our national security. The Government believe that there should be no delay in the passage of this important legislation.
Yesterday, the House of Commons considered the amendments put forward by this House which strengthened the safeguards in this important legislation and added clarity. It unanimously accepted them all. However, the Commons decisively rejected the amendments put forward in relation to regulation of the media—the press.