Leveson to respond to MoS's 'quit threat' report

Lord Justice Leveson, who is heading the investigation into media ethics, will give his public reaction next week to a newspaper report that a minister's intervention nearly made him quit.

The judge was sufficiently concerned about the Mail on Sunday article that he considered convening a special hearing of the inquiry, which is not sitting next week, it has emerged.

That move was dropped following consideration of the cost of an emergency recall to taxpayers and other participants, a spokesman for the inquiry indicated.

But Lord Justice Leveson has written to designated "core participants" to the review, set up in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal, inviting comments and pledging to deal with the issue on Monday.

In the article, the inquiry chairman was said to asked the country's most powerful civil servant to gag Education Secretary Michael Gove.

Gove, a former journalist, told a Parliamentary Press Gallery lunch in February that he saw "dangers" in the inquiry into press cultures, practices and ethics.

The Mail on Sunday reported at the weekend that Lord Justice Leveson had instructed his officials to compile a full report of the comments, and that he phoned Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood within 24 hours.

It quoted a Government source saying Lord Justice Leveson was "spitting tacks with Gove and was ready to resign unless the minister was told to shut up".

In his evidence to the inquiry, Gove warned the judge that inquiry recommendations were often "applied in a way that the cure is worse than the disease".

The pair then clashed when Gove raised concerns about restraints on the "precious liberty" of freedom of speech. In an apparent slapdown, Lord Justice Leveson said: "I do not need to be told about the importance of freedom of speech, I really don't."

Earlier this week he opened the hearings by warning it was "essential" that cross-party political support for his investigation was "not jeopardised".

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