Lord Justice Leveson warns Parliament over Hunt
- 15 May 2012
- From the section UK
Parliament should delay publishing papers about the culture secretary's handling of News Corp's BSkyB takeover bid, Lord Justice Leveson says.
He says it should wait until the issues surrounding Jeremy Hunt's links to the firm have been tackled by his inquiry.
Labour later withdrew parliamentary questions calling for Mr Hunt to give evidence to the Commons first amid claims their work was being blocked.
Labour has claimed contacts between Mr Hunt and News Corp were too close.
Mr Hunt has promised to disclose texts and emails between him and his former special adviser Adam Smith, who has resigned, to the inquiry.
The documents have not yet been disclosed to Parliament.
Lord Justice Leveson says he expects to hear evidence from Mr Smith and Fred Michel, News Corp public affairs executive, within the month.
"It is open to the prime minister to take whatever steps he wishes in relation to allegations concerning one of his ministers and equally open to MPs to ask whatever questions they wish in connection with the performance of their duties," he said.
Earlier, the Press Complaints Commission's (PCC) former chairman Lord Wakeham said the body had lost respect as it no longer got high-profile complaints.
He told the Leveson Inquiry into press standards the Human Rights Act meant the rich and famous now sought privacy cases in the courts.
He said he once insisted Buckingham Palace complain about the printing of a topless photograph of a future royal so the PCC could deal with the case.
The peer, in charge from 1995-2002, said the PCC had been "destroyed".
Lord Wakeham, 79, told the inquiry: "The respect of the PCC has gone down in recent years because they haven't had the high profile complaints they used to."
He said the Human Rights Act had effectively introduced a privacy law which had reduced the standing of the PCC as high-profile cases were taken to the courts instead.
The act was a "vehicle for the rich" which left the poor with no remedy, he said.
He said the PCC was the best way of protecting the public and he did not want to see it destroyed in the way it had been in the last few years.
Giving evidence at the Royal Courts of Justice in central London, he recalled personally handling some high-profile complaints.
He said he once called the Royal Family to insist they complain about the publication of topless photographs of a future royal in a Sunday newspaper.
"There was an almighty dither, nothing was happening. I rang them again," he said.
"I wanted them to say this is a matter for the PCC. I said I'm issuing a statement saying I'm expecting a complaint from the Palace."
He said the Royal Family then complained and within 24 hours the editor of the paper had issued an apology.
Lord Wakeham also recalled occasionally calling newspaper proprietors and editors to discuss stories.
He said he once phoned Rupert Murdoch to complain about a photograph in the News of the World taken over the wall of a private hospital showing the then Countess Spencer.
The paper's editor Piers Morgan was then publicly criticised by the tycoon.
"It was outrageous that it should be done. He (Mr Murdoch) made the statement that... it was unacceptable, and that sent a message round that we were not to be trifled with," the peer said.
The Leveson inquiry, set up in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal, is concentrating on the relationship between politicians and the press.
Sky News's political editor Adam Boulton will give evidence later on Tuesday.