MP JO SWINSON waded into the phone hacking row by blasting the “cosy relationship” she claims existed between News International and successive governments.
During an emergency debate in the House of Commons last week, she asked Prime Minister David Cameron whether this was the reason why there had been a “reluctance” to deal with concerns about dodgy practices at newspapers owned by Rupert Murdoch.
Speaking the day after the News Corps boss, his son James and former Sun and News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks had appeared before a select committee to answer questions on phone hacking - illegally accessing voice mail - Ms Swinson asked Mr Cameron: “In the light of Mrs Brooks’ revelations about quite how cosy and close the relationship was between News International and Tony Blair, and Murdoch’s secret back-door meetings at No. 10 under both the last and present governments, does the Prime Minister agree that this explains why successive governments have been so reluctant to act in response to the 2003 Culture, Media and Sport Committee recommendations, the 2006 Information Commissioner report, and calls last year from LibDem MPs for a judicial inquiry into phone hacking?”
The Prime Minister responded: “People should not shout the Hon Lady down, because she is making a very fair point, and frankly, it is a point that does not reflect very well on either Conservative or Labour, which is that there were a lot of warnings about what was going wrong—warnings from the Information Commissioner, warnings from the select committee — but we did not put high enough up the agenda the issue of regulating the media.
“We should not be pointing fingers about this; we should be recognising that we need to work on this to get it right, to respond to those reports and actually put some of their proposals into the law.”
A public inquiry led by Lord Justice Leveson will now examine relations between the press, politicians and the police.
Ms Swinson said: “I welcome the long-overdue judicial inquiry.
“It is important not only that criminal behaviour is punished, but that a better system of independent regulation is put in place to uphold media ethics and avoid a repeat of the appalling activities that have come to light in recent weeks.”