My Lords, I cannot support the amendments of the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins. I declare an interest: I have given advice to a number of newspapers on press regulation issues.
There are different views on the wisdom or otherwise of Section 40 and of Leveson part 2, but the merits or dangers of press regulation should not be allowed to determine the issue before the House today. It is very simple. There are two reasons. First, the Bill is vital to national security. This House has spent hours in Committee and on Report improving the Bill’s contents in a non-partisan spirit. Whatever views noble Lords may have on Section 40 and on the failure yet to implement it, that is no justification for the passage of this important Bill to be held hostage by those who wish to further the cause of Section 40. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, that this is not about whether the amendments are within scope—plainly they are—the point is whether it is justified to hold up a Bill of this nature, a Bill about security, to advance a point of view on press regulation.
The second reason why I cannot support the amendments of the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, is because whether or not to implement Section 40 is now the subject of a 10-week consultation. I simply cannot understand the objections to the Government having a 10-week consultation. The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, says that it should be 12 weeks; perhaps it should and perhaps it should not, but that is not a substantial point. The noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, and those who agree with her can argue their case about Section 40 and Leveson during the consultation. It is quite indefensible to hold up this vital Bill when the issue about which the noble Baroness is concerned—perhaps rightly—is the subject of active consultation.