Data Protection Bill [HL] - Commons Amendments

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:30 pm on 14th May 2018.

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Photo of Lord Pannick Lord Pannick Crossbench 4:30 pm, 14th May 2018

My Lords, I declare an interest as one of the few counsel who has acted in privacy cases for both the Daily Mail and Mr Max Mosley. I cannot support the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins. I remind your Lordships of what the Conservative Party manifesto said before the election last year:

“Given the comprehensive nature of the first stage of the Leveson Inquiry and given the lengthy investigations by the police and Crown Prosecution Service into alleged wrongdoing, we will not proceed with the second stage of the Leveson Inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press”.

As your Lordships know, the Commons held a lengthy debate on this subject last Wednesday and voted not to institute a Leveson part 2. Your Lordships’ House has heard the pro and con arguments on many occasions.

I want simply to emphasise two points. Amendment 109 introduces extensive new powers on the Information Commissioner in relation to the press and, as the Minister has already indicated, it requires the commissioner to conduct a review of the press in the short term. Also, over the years, there have been not just police, and other, inquiries: a large number of civil actions—cases against the press—have been brought by phone-hacking victims. Those victims have not gone without remedy; they have received very substantial financial compensation, and rightly so. It is true that some of the claimants were celebrities, but many were not; they were victims of phone hacking because, for example, they were related to television actors or spent the night with a footballer. Reprehensibly, the press hacked their phones. They brought legal actions; the lawyers acted on a conditional fee basis. After the event, insurance ensured that there was no financial risk to the claimant, so it is simply not the case that victims of phone hacking lack, and have lacked, legal remedy. Newspapers have rightly been ordered to pay substantial sums by way of compensation. It is simply unrealistic to think, in the light of the criminal prosecutions and civil liability, that the message has not got across. I respect, of course, the views of the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, and the others who support this amendment, but it really is time for this House to give way to the views of the Commons on this matter.