140,000 respond to Government's Leveson part two and Section 40 consultation

The Government received more than 140,000 individual responses to its consultation on Section 40 and whether part two of the Leveson Inquiry should go ahead, Culture Secretary Karen Bradley has said.

Part one of the Leveson Inquiry examined the culture and ethics of the press while part two would further examine wrongdoing in the press and police.

A ten-week consultation on whether part two of the phone hacking inquiry is still in the public interest came to a close on Tuesday.

The consultation also allowed people to have their say on Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act, which could see newspapers forced to pay their opponents’ legal costs in libel and privacy cases, even if they win in court.

Bradley said in a written parliamentary statement: “The consultation ‘The Leveson Inquiry and its implementation’ closed on 10 January after running for 10 weeks.

“We know there is a significant level of interest in the consultation and we are grateful for all the responses submitted.

“The total number of individual responses to the consultation received is estimated to be over 140,000 and a petition estimated to have over 130,000 signatures has also been received.”

Allegations of phone-hacking at the News of the World led to the Leveson Inquiry, with then prime minister David Cameron initially announcing in 2011 that it would be conducted in two parts.

In 2012, the first part reported after examining the culture, practice and ethics of the press.

The second would be expected to investigate law-breaking and improper conduct within media organisations, the original police investigation into phone-hacking and whether police were complicit in misconduct.

Bradley’s statement comes after MPs rejected a peer-backed proposal to legally enforce part two of the Leveson Inquiry after the Government warned against the move.

Home Office minister Brandon Lewis said on Tuesday that ongoing legal proceedings and the consultation meant a final decision should not yet be taken.

In November, peers supported an amendment to the Policing and Crime Bill which sought to force the Government to hold part two.

But the Commons disagreed with the amendment by 299 votes to 196, a majority of 103.

When only MPs for England and Wales were taken into consideration, the result was 296 votes to 190 – a majority of 106.

Press Gazette was among a number of publications arguing for Section 40 to be repealed while pressure group  Hacked Off claimed more than 5,000 of its supporters had called for the law to be commenced.

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