PMQs: Cameron says government will hold inquiries into the phone hacking scandal

A comprehensive win for Ed Miliband today, I thought. He came to the Commons with a three point plan concerning the phone hacking scandal:

1. Hold a public inquiry under a senior figure, with the power to call witnesses on oath, to look in general at the culture and practices of the media in this country, to include relationships with the police.

2. Refer the News International BSkyB deal to the Competition Commission.

3. Call for the resignation of the Chief Executive of News International.

Cameron signaled, for the first time, that the government wants to hold inquiries into the whole affair. He refused to budge on the process currently going through for the BSkyB deal, or call for the resignation of the NI Chief Executive.

Miliband called the hiring of Andy Coulson at the heart of Downing Street a “catastrophic error of judgment” by Cameron. He also said that Cameron is out of touch with public opinion in his reaction to the whole phone hacking scandal.

Miliband pressed Cameron to start some parts of the inquiries now, rather than waiting months or years for the police investigation to finish.

The point which particularly stood out was Miliband saying that the country will be horrified to see News International being given control of one of the largest media operations in this country, while the phone hacking scandal is going on.

Cameron did manage to win one point when he quoted Ed Miliband who, only yesterday, said that the phone hacking scandal and the BSkyB deal are separate matters – one of ethics and the other of plurality and competition.

Adrian Sanders (LibDem) later repeated his question of earlier this year, asking for a full public judicial inquiry into the relationship between News International and the Metropolitan Police.

Ben Bradshaw (Lab) later asked again about the BSkyB deal process and elicited a classic phrase from the Prime Minister. Cameron said that if the government went outside the proper process for political reasons their decision would be appealed and overturned. They would, he said, “look pretty for a day, but fairly useless for a week”.

Yesterday at Deputy Prime Minister’s questions, Nick Clegg stopped short of calling for an inquiry. One wonders if the overnight revelations of alleged inappropriate payments to police officers by News International under the alleged aegis of one Andy Coulson, may have made the PM feel a bit under siege and, therefore, more amenable to the idea of inquiries.

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  • “2. Refer the News International BSkyB deal to the Competition Commission.”

    Surely this is meaningless. The hacking issue isn’t competition related and does the Competition Commission have the power to look at wider “conduct of business” related issues. AIUI OFCOM has a fit and proper person test so that might be a better route.

  • “Nick Clegg stopped short of calling for an inquiry” there’s a big surprise…

  • Andrew Suffield 6th Jul '11 - 9:53pm

    I’d hold my breath waiting for those who were referring by rote to “innocent until proven guilty” when it was Huhne or Laws or whoever in trouble to do so here

    There’s a big difference between thinking that it would be inappropriate to sack a person before proving them guilty, and expending effort on defending an immensely wealthy Tory against Labour attacks.

    Murdoch has his own army of lawyers, publicists, and media outlets to defend him against such suggestions. Why should anybody here bother to defend somebody who so very clearly does not need any help? There is not even a remote chance of an injustice of premature punishment here! If anything, it’s likely to be dragged out in the courts for so long that he dies of old age before the matter is concluded.

  • And tonight it just gets worse. The families of War Dead join those of murder victims in having their phones hacked into. I’m sad to say that I am not suprised, 22 years ago this September I was involved in a terrorist incident that left a number of colleagues dead and many more injured. In the days that followed the press used every trick they could to get their “exclusive” coverage. They intruded on our grief, followed and listened to us in pubs to obtain snippets of information and even pretended to be samaritans knocking on the married quarter doors.

    The balance between freedom to report the news and privacy is wrong. People should be allowed privacy whether a family grieving for their loss or an actor enjoying some down time with their family.

    This particular apple is clearly rotten to the core but the PCC is toothless and the PM on the evidence of today is too deep into the Murdoch pocket. Clegg should show some spine and state openly that he feels that supporting Coulson was wrong. And even though others here have pointed out the two issues are not linked he should join the calls for a delay in granting approval for the Sky deal, at least until News Corp can prove they have the structures and procedures n place to avoid this practice spreading to their other media concerns.

    Even Milli-bland has seen there are votes in it……

  • We urgently need a senior member of the LibDems in government to:
    demand a judicial enquiry
    demand Rebekkah Brooks’ resignation
    demand the BskyB deal is halted and referred to OFFCOM
    criticise Cameron for appointing Coulson

    Doing the usual nodding dog impression together with some wringing of the hands is not good enough. Simon Hughes spoke strongly on Newsnight last night but he is outside the government.

  • coldcomfort 7th Jul '11 - 11:57am

    Absolutely agree with Sue Smith. Alec is wrong on the innocent until proved guilty issue. Senior executives either knew what was going on & are thus guilty or didn’t know & are thus incompetent. Either way they should GO.

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