My Lords, standing on one leg will at least ensure my brevity. I declare an interest as deputy chairman of Telegraph Media Group.
I agree entirely with the comments of my noble friend Lord Cormack and the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, about the advisability of sending this amendment back to the House of Commons. Were we to do so, we should remember a few points on the substance of the noble Baroness’s amendment.
First, we should always bear in mind that the amendment would produce yet another inquiry covering the same ground that has been ploughed over not only by the first Leveson inquiry but by three police investigations, at least three Select Committee inquiries, a Joint Committee of this House, the US Department of Justice and, in this country on the question of corporate liability, the DPP. There is little left to uncover.
Secondly since Leveson reported, there has been a genuine, wholesale change in press regulation. We have moved from a voluntary complaints handling service, chaired by my noble friend Lord Wakeham, to a system of tough, legally enforceable regulation with strong powers of sanction. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, that it is those tough legal powers which IPSO possesses that mean there could be no backsliding to the standards of the past.
Thirdly—this an important point we all need to bear in mind—since IPSO introduced a mandatory arbitration scheme in the past few weeks, there are virtually no lawful recommendations of Leveson that have not been introduced. It has produced a sea change in how newspapers are run, managed and deal with complaints, and in how journalists are trained and monitored.
Fourthly, since the first Leveson inquiry, the situation facing the press has changed dramatically. I note the noble Baroness seeks to cut out the local press from this but all publishers, including national ones, are under huge and sustained commercial pressure, which will not abate. It is a struggle for survival on a day-to-day basis, which will be made all the more complicated by having to wind the clock back 10 to 15 years to rake over a world which, frankly, no longer exists.
Fifthly, the biggest threat today to the sustainability of high-quality journalism comes from Google and Facebook, which are not even mentioned in the amendment. If we go down this route, in 20 years’ time people will ask why on earth this Parliament insisted on endlessly rerunning the repeats of an ancient black and white drama rather than looking at how journalism could survive in the global digital environment.
I have always been taught that this House must try to understand that, as an unelected Chamber, it needs at least to try to understand the realities of the outside world and take note of the will of the people. During a consultation on what is, in effect, this amendment, the people spoke in huge numbers and, by an overwhelming majority, rejected it. For all the reasons that I set out today, so should we.