Disappointment as PM refuses to widen phone hacking inquiry

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By G.A.Ponsonby

The SNP have expressed disappointment after David Cameron refused to widen the scope of the Levenson Inquiry into phone hacking to include 3000 breaches of data uncovered in 2006.

As MPs debated the plummeting public confidence in the media and police yesterday, the SNP had called for the widening of the inquiry to include the whole media, including sound, visual and social media, and other unethical or illegal practices.

SNP Westminster spokesperson on Culture and Media, Pete Wishart MP, expressed disappontment in the Prime Minister’s rejection of Scottish Government calls to include in the investigation the findings of the Information Commissioner’s Operation Motorman report in December 2006, which uncovered over 3000 breaches of data protection laws across a range of newspaper titles.

Mr Wishart said:

“The hacking activities by News of the World were reprehensible, but we cannot assume they were confined to just one newspaper or form of media.  It is disappointing therefore that the Prime Minister has rejected the Scottish Government’s call to include an investigation into the findings of the Information Commissioners 2006 report on Operation Motorman within its terms of reference.

“Lord Levenson’s inquiry should not be limited, but extended to the whole media, including sound, visual and social media and not just confined to phone hacking.

Alluding to the 5 year old report Mr Wishart added: “We know from the Information Commissioner’s report of over 3,000 breaches of data protection laws by a range of titles which were documented – yet neither the previous UK Labour government nor the Tory/Lib Dem coalition did a thing about it, and ignored the tough recommendations.

“Westminster has presided over a systematic failure to regulate the press, just as it totally failed to provide proper regulation of the financial sector.

“A free and vigorous press is a bedrock of our democratic system, but clearly that cannot and must not extend to newspapers acting in violation of the laws of the land, which is what has been allowed to happen for years – despite the Operation Motorman report in 2006.”

Last week the First Minister blasted what he claimed was a failure of the UK government to properly regulate the press.  Mr Salmond said: “We now know that the information commissioner presented evidence in November 2006 covering our major publications – thousands of instances of potential breaches of the law – and yet the Westminster government did absolutely nothing to bring the range of houses into order.”

Shadow Scottish Secretary Ann McKechin subsequently accused Mr Salmond of misjudging the mood of the country.  However Ms McKechin herself has called for the Scottish government to hold its own investigation to ensure that phone hacking has not been happening in Scotland.

Meanwhile former Labour MSP, now MP, Cathie Jamieson has demanded that the Scottish government publish details of meetings its ministers held with News International executives.

Ms Jamieson has urged the SNP administration to “come clean” after the First Minister met with James Murdoch in January.

However when asked on Radio Scotland what she was accusing the SNP of, Ms Jamieson insisted that she did not suspect anything untoward and said: “I actually don’t suggest there has been any wrongdoing whatsoever,” but added that it would simply allow the SNP to put information in the public domain.

When asked if she herself had held meetings or had dealings with News International Ms Jamieson replied: “As the Scottish justice Minister and the Education Minister of Scotland and as an MSP I have at various occasions met News International and indeed other media.”

Ms Jamieson insisted that the issue was not just about News International but was a wider look at all of the issues raised as part of the overall debate.

When asked if the Scottish government should go a long way back and look at all ministerial dealings with journalists Ms Jamieson said: “ … I’m not for a minute suggesting we go back years and years and years, what I am suggesting is the Scottish government as a kind of gesture of goodwill if you like, could simply put information into the public domain about contacts that they’ve had, prior to the run up to the Scottish elections and since then.”

She added: “I don’t think that’s too much to ask when everyone else is now doing the same thing.”

Asked why Labour when in power did nothing about the 3000 cases of breaches of data protection laws in 2006, Ms Jamieson conceded that more should have been done but that “we now need to move on”.