The Culture Secretary was accused of a “coverup of a coverup” after she confirmed the Government may shelve part two of the Leveson Inquiry.
Karen Bradley confirmed the Tories would consult before making a decision on the second part of the inquiry, which had been set to examine phone hacking and police collusion allegations against newspapers.
Labour’s Tom Watson criticised the move, saying “In effect, she is today, announcing a consultation on whether the cover-up should be covered up.”
“We believe they have been discussed and debated enough, they should have been implemented years ago. The victims of press intrusion cannot wait a day longer.”
The consultation will also examine whether publishers not signed up to a new regulator, IMPRESS, should pay legal costs when they are sued, as the Leveson report recommends.
This follows hints of a Tory rebellion on the amendments to the bill. Tory MPs Crispin Blunt and Andrew Murrison spoke out in favour of curbing press freedom as it was announced in the Commons.
The Tories’ Jacob Rees-Mogg called Max Mosley, who funds IMPRESS, a “degenerate libertine”, and said the regulator had too few subscribers for Leveson to come down hard on those not signed up.
Bradley said the cost of the investigations meant it was worth consulting whether they were in the public interest before going ahead.
“Given the extent of these criminal investigations, the implementation of the recommendations from part one of the Leveson Inquiry and the cost to the taxpayer of the investigations in part one, which is £43.7 million and £5.4 million respectively, the Government is considering whether undertaking part two is still in the public interest”, she said.
“We are keen to take stock and seek the views of the public and interested parties, not least those who have been victims of press abuse.
“We will also formally consult Sir Brian Leveson on the question of part two at the appropriate time in his role as inquiry chair.
“I can announce that today we are launching a public consultation inviting comments on both Section 40 and part two of the Leveson Inquiry from organisations that are affected by it and from the public.”