By Matthew Barrett
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A statement by the Prime Minister on the inquiry into the phone-hacking scandal immediately followed a heated Prime Minister's Questions.
Much of the atmosphere of the exchange between Ed Miliband and the Prime Minister at PMQs was gone and the House was more settled.
The Prime Minister started off by condemning "an episode that is frankly disgraceful". Cameron urged that we think of the victims who have been targeted by the press.
Cameron moved on to the current, on-going police investigation, which he said has looked through thousands of names and telephone numbers, contacted 170 people, made 8 arrests and "conducted numerous interviews". Cameron then covered the inquiry the Government is now setting up. He said the inquiry will be composed of two parts: firstly, a full investigation into the wrong-doing of the press and police, including the failures of the current regulations, and secondly a review of the regulations of the press.
Lord Justice Leveson will lead the inquiry and report to the Home Secretary and Culture Secretary, and will have the power to summon witnesses to give evidence under oath and in public. Lord Justice Leveson will be assisted by a panel of experts and investigate why previous warnings about press misconduct were ignored and cross-media ownership. The inquiry will investigate the management of the newspapers involved, the ethics of the media, the failures of the current regulation system, the relationship between newspapers and the police, and the relationship between the media and politicians. Lord Justice Leveson will make recommendations for a new media regulation system, and it will also make recommendations on the relationship between the media and politicians within twelve months.
Cameron moved on to the BSkyB bid, stressing the "shocking" nature of the allegations against News International. Cameron said "serious questions must be asked" about the bid as a result of the allegations. Cameron urged: "the people involved, whether they were directly responsible for the wrongdoing, sanctioned it, covered it up however high or low they go, must not only be brought to justice, they must also have no future role in the running of a media company" in Britain.
On the issue of corrupt police officers, and the relationship between the press and the police, Cameron told the House the Independent Police Complaints Commission will deal with allegations of police corruption. The Commission has assured the Home Secretary that they have the resources and powers to fully investigate allegations. The IPCC will report their initial findings to the Home Secretary by the end of the summer. Sir Paul Stephenson, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, will appoint a senior public figure to advise on the ethics of the police.
Cameron then said part of the problem of the whole scandal was the closeness of the political class and the media, and said he has asked the Cabinet Secretary to record all meetings between media editors/senior executives and Ministers – and publish them quarterly, in order to make this country's Government "one of the most transparent in the world".
Cameron concluded by emphasising he wanted to "bring this ugly chapter to a close and ensure that nothing like it can ever happen again."
Leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband then rose and welcomed the establishment of the inquiry and said the Government "was right to follow our advice", which drew dissent from the Government benches. Miliband suggested the recommendations of the inquiry should be incorporated into the Government's forthcoming Communications Bill. Miliband then said he hoped Cameron would publish details of meetings going back to the general election last year, which again provoked a response from the Government benches.
The Prime Minister said the "terms of reference" of the inquiry will be drawn up immediately. Cameron said Lord Justice Leveson's panel of experts should have a broad range of expertise, including the media but also "wider than that". He confirmed the scope of the inquiry is broad, but said that it should report back in good time, lest it drag on for years. On the issue of media regulation, Cameron said he wanted "independent regulation", rather than self-regulation, and suggested meetings with individual journalists as well as executives could be considered.