← back to all news MPs vote for press freedom Posted on Wednesday 9th May 2018   |   0 comments

MPs voted today against carrying out part two of the Leveson Inquiry while a decision by the Scottish National Party to abstain from voting on Section 40 cost penalty amendments to the Data Protection Bill has resulted in Labour not pressing for a Parliamentary vote.

Former Labour leader Ed Miliband said that carrying out part two of the Leveson Inquiry was a “question of morality” was not quite enough to win the vote on his proposed amendment to the data bill with MPs voting 304 against to 295 in favour.  

On the proposal to hold Leveson Two, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Matt Hancock (pictured) told MPs: “Even on its own terms this amendment does not deliver Leveson Two as envisaged. “It focuses on data protection breaches and not the broad question of the future of the press, so even for those who want to vote for Leveson Two this clause is not your clause.

“I want to divert our attention and our resources to tackling the problems of today and rising to those problems and making sure that we have a press that is free and fair.”

In standing up for press freedom, Hancock said the issue was now one of finding a sustainable business model for the UK press in the face of digital disruption from the likes of Facebook and Google.

He said: “The internet has fundamentally undermined the business model of our printed press. Today’s core challenge is how to ensure a sustainable future for high-quality journalism that can hold the powerful to account and the rise of clickbait and disinformation and fake news is putting our whole democratic discourse at risk.

“This is an urgent problem. It is shaking the foundations of democracies worldwide and liberal democracies like Britain cannot survive without the Fourth Estate and the Fourth Estate is under threat like never before.

“These clauses would exacerbate this threat and undermine the work we are doing through the Cairncross Review [into press sustainability] and elsewhere to support sustainable journalism and the terms of reference of part two [of the Leveson Inquiry] have already been met.

“The culture that allowed phone hacking to become the norm has changed fundamentally and must stay that way.”

Former Culture Secretary John Whittingdale also spoke on behalf of press freedom, telling MPs Section 40 measures to punish newspapers were not being used as intended when first established. He said: “All of us were shocked by the revelation of phone hacking, and we were determined that action should be taken to prevent anything like that happening again but in the ten years that have passed since that time a lot has changed.

Following the debate this afternoon, the News Media Association said: “We are pleased that MPs have today recognised the importance of press freedom to our democracy. Both these amendments, for a sweeping inquiry into all media and the Section 40-style costs sanctions, represented a dangerous threat to press freedom. “The industry can now focus upon the important task of ensuring that the business of producing high quality news media journalism has a sustainable and healthy future.”

In the House of Commons this afternoon, the amendment by Ed Miliband MP for a broad sweeping inquiry into the news media was defeated by nine votes and the amendment by Tom Watson MP, deputy leader of the Labour Party, to bring in Section 40-style costs sanctions was not pressed to a vote.


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