Victims of press malpractice, including Kate and Gerry McCann, last night accused Prime Minister David Cameron of breaking four promises made in the wake of the hacking scandal.
The first of these is the main “stick” for the press in the Crime and Courts Act 2012 which said that publications which weren’t members of an officially recognised regulator would pay both sides’ costs in libel cases even if they won.
In October last year, Culture Secretary John Whittingdale indicated that this clause of the Act may never be enacted.
This has left nearly all UK newspaper and magazine publishers free to ignore the Royal Charter-backed system of press regulation which was the main consequence of the Leveson Inquiry and report.
The Government also appears to have scrapped the planned second part of the Leveson Inquiry. While part one looked at the culture and practices of the press and the need for a new system of press regulation, part two was set to look at "the extent of unlawful or improper conduct within News International, other media organisations or other organisations" as well as "the extent to which any relevant police force investigated allegations relating to News International, and whether the police received corrupt payments or were otherwise complicit in misconduct".
Gerry McCann said: “Feelings are very strong among those of us to whom the Prime Minister publicly and privately made his pledges. If he does not keep his promises to implement the cross-party agreement in full, allow the Leveson Inquiry to be completed and put the needs of the public before press proprietors, we will have been betrayed by him.”
These are set out by the campaign group Hacked Off below:
Access to justice and the Leveson cost-shifting incentive: Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2012
Mr Cameron publicly endorsed and saw into law Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act, which provides access to justice for victims of illegal press abuse and was recommended by Leveson. Parliament voted for it overwhelmingly.
He said, unequivocally (18th March 2013): “We will use the Crime and Courts Bill to table the minimal legislative clauses needed to put in place those incentives”.
Backtracking on Leveson Part 2
On 29 November 2012, the day the first phase of the Leveson Inquiry delivered its report, David Cameron gave Parliament his word definitively that there would be a Second Part to the inquiry:
"When I set up the inquiry I also said that there would be a second part to investigate wrongdoing in the press and the police, including the conduct of the first police investigation. That second stage cannot go ahead until the current criminal proceedings have concluded, but we remain committed to the inquiry as it was first established."
But in the last 18 months the Government have quietly walked back that promise to give themselves discretion over whether to proceed with Part 2 at all.
Promise to keep victims front and centre of the debate
In July 2011 the Prime Minister said (Hansard 13 July 2011):
"We must at all times keep the real victims at the front and centre of this debate.
"This has to be about the public and the victims.’
"What we must do in the coming days and weeks is think above all of the victims and make doubly sure that we get to the bottom of what happened and prosecute those who are guilty."
"None of us can imagine what they [the victims] have gone through, but I do know that they, like everyone else in this country, want their politicians to bring this ugly chapter to a close and ensure that nothing like it can ever happen again."
But in the six months to last December, Mr Cameron met Murdoch and Murdoch’s editors no fewer than seven times, yet he could find no time to meet victims.
No return to business as usual in the Prime Minister’s cosy relationships with the press
The Prime Minister said:
"The relationship between politicians and the media must change’ – 13 July 2011, House of Commons
"I think the relationship between politics and media needs resetting, and I think there is an opportunity for this Parliament to do that’ – 6 September 2011, Parliamentary Liaison Committee
But as recently as December 2015, David Cameron attended a Christmas party given by Rupert Murdoch at his London home. Also present were George Osborne, John Whittingdale (the Culture Secretary) and other ministers.