Data Protection Bill [HL] - Commons Amendments

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:30 pm on 14th May 2018.

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Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Labour 5:30 pm, 14th May 2018

My Lords, I strongly support the amendment. I declare an interest: I understand that Mr John Ford has alleged that 15 years ago he went through my rubbish on a regular basis at the request of the Sunday Times. I find it impossible to believe that anyone would find my rubbish interesting. That has had no effect whatever on my opinions with regard to this issue, and I supported the continuation of Leveson 2 even before I discovered that Mr John Ford had apparently been going through my rubbish.

I am strongly of the view that this House should send the amendment back to the Commons for further consideration, for the following reasons. First, there is no doubt, despite what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, just said, that there was an unequivocal promise by the House of Commons and this House that there be part 2 of Leveson. I quote the then Prime Minister:

“One of the things that the victims have been most concerned about is that part 2 of the investigation should go ahead … and that is fully our intention”.—[Official Report, Commons, 29/11/12; col. 458.]

That was said by the Prime Minister, Mr David Cameron, after the delivery of part 1. To my mind it is incredibly important that, if you set up a public inquiry, before the public inquiry has been able to reach findings on who was responsible for what happened—probably because of pressure from the people who might be responsible—the second part of that public inquiry is not scrapped. But that is what is happening here. My experience of when the justice system fails is that the victims feel that they have nowhere to go, and that corrodes not just their view of the justice system but a large number of people’s view of it. I particularly have in mind the Hillsborough victims, who were denied justice by a coroner’s system and who felt that the whole justice system let them down.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, says, “Oh, things have changed”. Who is the best judge of that? I suggest it is Sir Brian Leveson, who said that,

“there is still a legitimate expectation on behalf of the public and, in particular, the alleged victims of phone hacking and other unlawful conduct, that there will be a full examination of the circumstances that allowed that behaviour to”,

take place. He said that when he was consulted on the question of whether part 2 should be scrubbed.

Therefore, I regard the promise as important and the reneging of it as something that will corrode justice. It will affect not only the victims but other people, and I utterly reject the complacency of the noble and listed Lord, Lord Cormack, to the effect that we should not press this any further. Yes, we sent the Bill back with a clause which the Commons took out, but the right thing for this House to do is to ask them to think again, particularly when last time there was a majority of nine. If we debate this well and give the reasons, it is worth doing.

Therefore for me, the first point is the promise. The second point is that the problem is still there. The speech given by the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, was appalling, not in its quality but in what it told us. The noble Lord, Lord Pannick, suggested that the solution to this was “civil litigation or criminal proceedings”. Can you imagine the people that the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, described, who have been hounded—his word—by the press, thinking of bringing civil litigation to complain that the first they heard that their loved one had died was when a representative of the press came round? Pull the other one! Get out of the courts and think about what the real world is like.

Then people said that IPSO had made a difference—the IPSO that two weeks ago, in the face of this Bill going through Parliament, in a great rush and with no explanation of why it had not done it before, suddenly introduced a low-cost arbitration scheme. Why did it do it? It did it because Parliament was breathing down its neck. If Leveson 2 is got rid of, let us be under no illusion that that will be the end of that. Things will be just as they have been in the past. I cannot remember which Peer described IPSO as absolutely marvellous. It might have been the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood. No, I am sorry; it was another noble Lord. So far IPSO has not imposed a single fine; it has not demanded a single equal-prominence front page direction; and it has not launched a single systematic inquiry, as it has the power to do. There have been 8,000 complaints about hate crime so far and only one has been upheld. We should not accept the proposition that IPSO has solved the problem.

The fourth reason it is said that we should not have this inquiry is that, as the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, and the noble Baroness, Lady Cavendish of Little Venice, said, it would threaten to chill investigative journalism. However, what is being proposed here is not a specific provision to change the press. It is for a judge of standing to see what should be done next, and I have absolutely no doubt that a new judge would be able to do so, having no doubt heard the evidence from the people the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, was speaking to on the telephone this morning, and just as Sir Brian Leveson managed to do.

Fifthly, people ask, “What about social media?” Exactly: what about social media? Facebook and so on are a real problem, and that is why the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, has included social media in her proposed new subsection (3)(d). Sir Brian Leveson wants to have part 2 of the inquiry and it has been amended to deal with the changes. It would be a disgrace and a betrayal of the victims if we did not go ahead with it. I strongly support the amendment.