A progressive alliance for decency in the news media defeats the Government in the Lords

In writing my preview of last week’s events in the Lords, I rather glossed over the debate on the Data Protection Bill on Wednesday. That will rather teach me to do more research, as it turned out that there was to be an attempt to set up a new Leveson-style inquiry into the nefarious activities of some of our news outlets…

As the noble Lord Greaves pointed out last week, Wednesday saw the Government defeated on a vote to require them to set up and inquiry into issues arising from data protection breaches committed by or on behalf of news publishers. Amendment 127A, moved in the name of crossbench Peer, Baroness Hollins, read as follows;

Amendment 127A

“(1) The Secretary of State must, within the period of three months beginning on the day on which this Act is passed, establish an inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005 into allegations of data protection breaches committed by, or on behalf of, news publishers.(2) The inquiry’s terms of reference must include, but are not limited to,— ​(a) to inquire, in respect of personal data processing, into the extent of unlawful or improper conduct within news publishers and, as appropriate, other organisations within the media, and by those responsible for holding personal data;(b) to inquire, in respect of personal data processing, into the extent of corporate governance and management failures at news publishers;(c) in the light of these inquiries, to consider the implications for personal data protection in relation to freedom of speech; and(d) to make recommendations on what action, if any, should be taken in the public interest.”

For the Liberal Democrats, Brian Paddick noted that his own personal records had been obtained illegally by a private detective in the employ of a national newspaper, but focussed on the hacking of Milly Dowler’s mobile phone by journalists.

However, it was perhaps Tom McNally who, in two paragraphs, neatly summarised why the amendment was necessary;

The truth is, we are where we are because the press that the noble Lord, Lord Black, speaks for – I make no criticism of that — decided that they would not co-operate. We could have had a working system backed by a royal charter from the beginning. Those of good will on all sides could have made that effective. It was the decision of the noble Lord and his friends not to make it work. Everything we have had since then flows from that determination that they would not make the legislation, which passed through both Houses with massive majorities, work. That is why we are in the position we are in now.

We then have to add to that the fact that, sadly, the Conservatives decided to go back on the pledge that the Prime Minister of the day made to the victims that they would have the full second inquiry. They put it into their manifesto, which, noble Lords may have noticed, did not get the approval that they would then claim as a strength in this House.

And, despite a staunch defence by the likes of Danny Finkelstein (Times) and Guy Black (Telegraph), Lady Hollins was not to be deterred.

In the vote that followed, 118 Labour Peers, 76 Liberal Democrats, 34 Crossbenchers and ten assorted others (including two Conservatives) were triumphant by a margin of twenty-nine over the Government.

We await the Government’s response with interest…

* Mark Valladares is the House of Lords correspondent for Liberal Democrat Voice.

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3 Comments

  • Tony Greaves 15th Jan '18 - 10:39pm

    Yes, a good afternoon’s work. (By the way since I am being pernickety in all this, if you want to address me as “noble”, the phrase is not “the noble Lord Bloggs”, it’s “the noble Lord, Lord Bloggs”. Or whoever! With similar stuff and nonsense for other genders and ranks… eg the noble Baroness, Lady Bloggs. Or the noble Earl, Lord Bloggshire. Personally I prefer “Tony Greaves” though there are times you have to go with the flow. My mother called me Anthony and I never complained.)

  • Richard O'Neill 15th Jan '18 - 11:51pm

    It is depressing that the Media seem to have got away with their misdeeds simply be shouting “freedom of the press” at the top of their voices.

  • suzanne Fletcher 16th Jan '18 - 3:48pm

    Also there was the work done by Sally Hamwee and Brian Paddick on the personal data and possible impact on migrants. you can read it here http://libdemfocus.co.uk/ld4sos/archives/1251

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