• Mandelson: journalists are never politicians’ friends
• Relationship between the two groups ‘has broken down’
• Jowell: Blair gave me ‘absolute assurance’ of no Murdoch deal
• Met NI chief Les Hinton in runup to Communications Act
• ‘Blair’s instincts were more deregulatory than mine’
• Jowell: I had no official oversight role of the PCC
• Relying on PCC without sanctions won’t achieve change
• ‘Invasion of my privacy from hacking was total’
• Would have provided hacking statement if asked by Met
• ‘Deeply shocked by Surtees’s evidence because it is untrue’
The Guardian’s Lisa O’Carroll has just tweeted:
Mandelson’s first 15 minutes blaming media fits in nicely with Oborne’s theory that labour created narrative of a hostile press #leveson
— lisa o’carroll (@lisaocarroll) May 21, 2012
Here is a lunchtime summary of this morning’s evidence:
• Tessa Jowell said her phone was extensively hacked by the News of the World for stories about her family in 2006.
• “The invasion of my privacy was total,” she added.
• She rejected the claim that she declined to give a statement to police over the hacking, adding that she would have provided one if she had been asked.
• Jowell admitted the “uncritical willingness” of the government over the role of the Press Complaints Commission.
• She told the inquiry she could not understand the source of some stories in the Daily Mail, Evening Standard and Sunday Times.
• Tony Blair wanted greater deregulation of media as part of Communications Act.
• The relationship between government and press has ‘broken down’, said Lord Mandelson.
The inquiry has broken for lunch and will resume at 2pm.
The public lose out when the relationship between the press and politicians takes a nosedive, Mandelson says.
The relationship between journalists and politicians “has broken down, largely”, says Mandelson, referring to being appointed director of communications at the Labour party in 1985 to the present day.
“It has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride. Were times when it was calmer and more trusting, other periods when less trust and respect,” he says.
Tony Blair “rescued and made good” Labour’s relations with the press, he adds, but says this was on a rollercoaster driven by “instant demands” and increased scepticism from the press.
“Their trust in what they’re being told is the truth has deteriorated,” Mandelson says.
Mandelson recalls a well-worn phrase of his: “You can be friends with journalists but journalists are never your friends”.
You can be friendly with journalists but journalists are never your friends. I think journalists would probably say the same about politicians. I could recall journalists who became friends but that was rare. The problem arises when journalists who expect exclusivity are disappointed, and politicians are disappointed when they expect favourable treatment. That’s why I talk about the boundaries and when you overstep them.
Mandelson is asked about his relationships with politicians.
In his written statement, he places journalists in two categories: objective and subjective.
Mandelson believes relations between government ministers and journalists are, in essence, a “trade”. Journalists want favourable access to news and ministers want good coverage of policies, he says.
Lord Justice Leveson greets Mandelson with the words, along with his traditional vote of thanks: “I also am fearful of a runaway train hurtling down the track towards me.”
Mandelson replies: “To arrive at a point where you can make recommendations which will command the confidence of the public and the press can live with will be difficult. I don’t think there’s been a more important time to try to do it.”
Lord Mandelson has taken the witness stand.
Robert Jay QC, counsel to the inquiry, is leading the questioning.
Jowell has now completed her evidence.
The counsel for the Metropolitan police is cross-examining Jowell.
Jowell says she is not sure whether she spoke to the same police officer on two occasions.
“My recollection was the purpose of the conversation was to inform me my voice had been hacked,” she adds, denying that she was told the police were looking for representatives from different public groups.
I was shocked as I have told the inquiry and I was quite upset by the information. But I also know, because this is in my character, I asked what I could do to help and what further steps I needed to take. I reported the conversation immediately to the friends I was with … who confirmed my willingness to help.
Jowell is asked how often she met James Murdoch.
“I probably saw James Murdoch maybe twice a year,” she says.
Jowell met Murdoch once about the Communications Act, the BBC charter review and the digital switchover. Separately, she met him in relation to the Olympics and whether Sky would be interested in the east London press and broadcast centre.
Andrew Sparrow, over on the Politics live blog, has more detail on the reports that Jeremy Hunt is being investigated by the parliamentary commissioner for standards:
According to Sky, John Lyon, the parliamentary commissioner for standards, is going to investigate claims that Jeremy Hunt, the culture secretary, did not properly declare donations from arts and media organisations (including one from BSkyB) from which he benefited.
The complaint was submitted by the Labour MP Steve McCabe. Here’s an extract from the letter he wrote to Lyon earlier this month.
Edward Vaizey recorded a number of sponsorships, worth a total of £27,418.31 from eight creative industry organisations, recording in the Register of Interests that each of these donations was for a “networking event to enable the Conservative frontbench team (Ed Vaizey and Jeremy Hunt) to meet sector leaders from the arts and creative industries”.
Yet although Mr Vaizey says that Mr Hunt was a beneficiary of these donations, Mr Hunt did not declare any of them in his own entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.
As complaints to the parliamentary commissioner to standards go, this one is relatively mild. But the story has received the urgent “Breaking News” treatment because Hunt’s cabinet career prospects are already looking precarious as a result of the revelations about his special adviser Adam Smith giving News Corporation special treatment when it was bidding for Sky. Smith and Fred Michel, the News Corp lobbyist to whom he passed inside information, are both giving evidence to the Leveson inquiry later this week.
Barr asks if politicians thought these parties were important events to attend.
Jowell says government ministers are a “pretty serious lot” and lavish parties are “a great treat”, but that politicians do not attend these occasions to get cosy with celebrities.
These parties work on the basis that all parties know the rules, accept the rules and observe the rules in practice.
Jowell says she has not noted every meeting with Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian, because he is a close personal friend.
She also counts Matthew Freud, the PR supremo married to Elisabeth Murdoch, as a personal friend.
As a minister, Jowell says, she wouldn’t extend any favour to journalists with whom she was personal friends.
Jowell attended Elisabeth Murdoch’s 40th birthday party; she says she had a lovely evening and saw many friends.
Barr asks if politicians got too “cosy” with the media.
Jowell says “cosy” and “close” are not terms she would use, defending the right of politicians to have lunch with journalists within “the rules of the game”.
“It’s perhaps more important that those rules are more transparent and explicit than they have been in the past,” she adds.
She believes private meetings should be recorded more formally, but “nothing substitutes for proper judgment of the individual minister”.
Barr turns to media spin in the New Labour years.
Jowell says: “‘Spin’ is a derogatory term. What we were determined to do from the time Tony Blair became leader of the Labour party in 1994 was to speak as far as possible with a consistent voice, to try to ensure the media understood what it was we were trying to achieve. There was more discipline about what we said, how we said it, who we said it to.”
She adds that the government had too high an expectation of how its story could be conveyed by newspapers.
Jowell is asked whether there were newspaper stories that could have only come from phone hacking.
She says there was. “It was as if my closest friends had simply rung up the newspapers and said this is what she is thinking.”
Jowell says stories also appeared in non-News International titles of which she could not understand the provenance.
Barr asks for the names of the newspapers. Jowell says: “Stuff appeared in the Daily Mail, the Evening Standard, the Sunday Times … I couldn’t understand.”
She says she would be very happy to send inquiry a further note on that.
Jowell says she had “zero expectations” of fair treatment by the British media during her time in cabinet.
But she does not concur with Blair’s “feral beasts” description of the media. She praises the Guardian’s Nick Davies, who exposed the phone hacking scandal, and other unnamed “exceptional” journalists.
Leveson says it is “very disturbing” that anyone in society can have no expectation of fair treatment by the media.
Jowell agrees but adds: “I place alongside that my passionate defence of a free press”.
Jowell did not complain to the PCC about press intrusion and inaccuracies at the time.
Jay asks if she was ever conscious, listening to her phone messages, that they had already been opened.
I was never aware of that but my former principal private secretary … did say that she remembered my sitting with her and my press secretary and saying, I think someone’s listening to my phone. You feel as if you are going slightly mad. You adopt a permanent stance as if you are being followed as if someone watching or listening. I was never that systematic, I never thought that voicemail has been listened to and I hadn’t heard it. I didn’t know enough about mobile phone technology to realise that’s what it meant.
Jowell says she did not raise the matter with the News of the World because she believed the perpetrators had been imprisoned.
The press harassment of me didn’t stop, it carried on intermittently. What I wanted was to be in a position to do my job properly and that’s what I devoted my energy to. And to look after my children.
Barr asks whether Jowell was concerned that a private investigator linked with the News of the World was listening to the voicemails of a cabinet minister.
Jowell says as her voice cracks with emotion:
At that time my family had been destroyed.
She goes on:
It was therefore I did my job every day but life was very, very difficult and so I was perfectly satisfied with an explanation that related to what I knew was this obsessive curiosity about my private life and family who suffered greatly as a result of that.
Did it occur to you if your voicemails had been listened to, might have listened to other senior politicians?
No, says Jowell, because saw it as focused on her and her family, “it wasn’t the wider curiosity about the conduct of government or development of policy”.
Jowell adds: “This media frenzy went on for weeks, months, years…. this was six years ago and only in the last 18 months I find myself not looking in cars to see if there is somebody waiting.”
The Daily Telegraph has just tweeted:
BREAKING: Jeremy Hunt investigated over claims he failed to declare pre-coalition meetings with BSKYB and News International – more follows
— Daily Telegraph News (@TelegraphNews) May 21, 2012
Jowell says she did not suspect phone hacking at the News of the World went further than Goodman and Mulcaire.
I have made every effort I have can to establish there was no question of commercial espionage or interfere with my duties as secretary of state.
Barr turns to evidence from DCS Keith Surtees who told the inquiry in February that Jowell was one of several phone hacking victims informed in 2006 and that she declined to sign a statement to be used in a prosecution.
Jowell maintains that she told police she wanted to help their inquiry “but was assured at that stage there was nothing further I needed to do”. Her private secretary followed up on the police call to Jowell with two subsequent messages expressing her willingness to help the inquiry.
There was always people outside my house. People always seemed to know where I was going. As has been revealed, the invasion of my privacy was total.
Jowell says she was told very clearly by police she did not need to provide witness evidence in the prosecution of the News of the World royal correspondent Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire.
I was deeply shocked when I read Keith Surtees’s evidence because it is untrue. Had I been asked at that time to provide a witness statement I would have provided it.
In her witness statement, Jowell says that the News of the World targeted her phone for information on her troubled family circumstances at the time.
Jowell says she has given five separate statements to the Met police on hacking.
At the time she was secretary of state, Jowell says she had “quite a lot of informal liaison with Buckingham Palace”.
Jowell is asked about Operation Caryatid, the original police investigation into phone hacking of the royal family in 2006.
The Metropolitan police told Jowell in 2006 that her voicemails had been intercepted in May that year.
I remember being told in May 2006 my phone had been hacked into, my voicemail had been intercepted on 28 or 29 occasions. I have subsequently discovered that it was much more intensive than that.
Asked whether there was any system to check up on the PCC’s performance, Jowell says there wasn’t.
There was probably an annual meeting with the chairman and perhaps the chief executive but it certainly wasn’t in any way an audit or inspection or assessment of their performance.
Simply relying on the PCC to change practice across the media in a fundamental way in the absence of sanction is an impossible way of securing change.
The Guardian editor-in-chief, Alan Rusbridger, has just tweeted:
#Leveson asks Jowell: was anyone overseeing PCC to see it was doing what it said on the tin? Jowell: not my job to do so
— alan rusbridger (@arusbridger) May 21, 2012
Jowell says she is “not an apologist” for the PCC.
Leveson asks whether anyone sat down to ask whether PCC was doing “the job it said on the tin”.
I would have to say, had anybody exercised that function colleagues in government would have expected that to be the secretary of state for culture, media and sport. It was not a core or even peripheral function that I or my predecessors or successors had to discharge.
Leveson asks if there was a “fundamental misunderstanding” about what the PCC did, from 2000 to 2009.
I don’t think there was a misunderstanding. Perhaps an uncritical willingness to continue with the regime of self-regulation without ever applying any objective test as to whether it was doing what it said on the tin.
Barr asks whether Jowell should have been more proactive in monitoring media behaviour.
It wouldn’t have been appropriate to have such capability because we have a very clear system of self regulation by the media. My department … had in as much as any department, any relationship with the PCC it would have been my department. The PCC is independently funded and self-regulatory. Had my department at that time established a unit who were concerned with overseeing the behaviour of the press would immediately have been seen as a step towards self regulation.
Barr repeats his question.
Jowell maintains that a more proactive DCMS would have been seen as her department taking steps against self regulation.
“There’s no halfway house in this. Either the media is regulated on statutory basis or it’s self-regulated,” says Jowell, before Leveson intervenes, saying he is not sure about that.
Leveson asks if Jowell believed the PCC was a regulator.
Jowell does not directly answer the question, but says:
As it was put to me, someone had to have lunch with them once or twice a year and as you were the secretary of state it was you. I had no official oversight role of the PCC.
She adds that she believed it was regulating “by common consent” and that it was “overseeing” press behaviour.
Barr suggests the reports should have been high on the radar of Jowell and the DCMS.
Jowell says that her office was not responsible for the Data Protection Act and that ICO’s reports were acted on by two other secretaries of state.
She adds that her relationship with the Press Complaints Commission was an “ambiguous” one because it was semi-independent from the industry, and that she was not aware that the information commissioner sought to meet her about the reports.
The Daily Mail was identified as the paper with the the most transactions followed by the Sunday People, the Daily Mirror and the News of the World. The Guardian’s sister paper The Observer also appeared in the top 10.
The nature of the transactions was not identified in this report and could have included general research and legal searches such as electoral roll checks or searches of births, deaths and marriages records.
What Price Privacy?was the key ICO report into the unlawful trading of confidential information published in 2006.
Jowell says she did not see What Price Privacy? or What Price Privacy Now? – the two reports published by the information commissioner about Operation Motorman – at the time they came out as they were handled by the Department for Constitutional Affairs.
She adds that the extent of private investigator use by newspaper groups was “alarming”.
Jowell describes her phone-hacking claim as follows in her statement:
It is a matter of public record that my mobile phone was extensively hacked by News of the World during 2006. I took a civil action that was settled in December 2011. All details appear in the register of parliamentary interests. I continue to assist with the police enquiry, Operation Weeting, and have already given five witness statements. There is no evidence yet shown to me that the hacking of my phone was undertaken for commercial motives, but rather in pursuance of an obsessive interest in my troubled family circumstances at that time. In any event the Communications Act received royal assent in 2003, some time before it appears that my phone was hacked.
DCS Keith Surtees’s claim to the inquiry in February that Jowell was one of several phone-hacking victims informed in 2006, but she declined to sign a statement to be used in a prosecution. She writes:In her witness statement, Jowell responds to
I have also written to the inquiry clarifying remarks made by lnsp Keith Suttees in his evidence, in which he suggested that I had been unwilling to assist with the prosecution when first informed of the hacking of my phone by the police in August 2006. This is untrue; in fact, as my then principaI private secretary’s statement to the police confirms, my offers of further help were declined.
The inquiry is now taking a short break.
Jowell is asked about an Independent article in which Lord Puttnam alleges he was misled about her department’s meetings with newspaper groups over the act.
“I certainly don’t believe that was the case,” she says, adding that his comments as reported were “rather muddled”.
An amendment was later agreed in a way that would not entirely close the door on News Corporation or other groups buying Channel 5, says Barr.
Barr puts it to Jowell that Puttnam was seeking to “close the door” to Murdoch using a plurality test; the peer was seeking to avoid an Italian-style “videocracy”.
She agrees, adding:
“At this point negotiations were quite tense because of the pressure of time. Positions were becoming hardened.”
The Guardian’s Dan Sabbagh has just tweeted:
Judging by this perf from Jowell at Leveson, expect another deluge of departmental memos from Jeremy Hunt, when the cult sec turns up.
— Dan Sabbagh (@dansabbagh) May 21, 2012
Jowell later met Puttnam about a proposed plurality test for the Communications Act.
Jowell and Hewitt then wrote to Blair asking him to make a concession which would “help avoid defeats across the board” in the House of Lords.
“That is the stuff of policy development and managing parliamentary process,” says Jowell. The concession was agreed in principle by the prime minister.
Barr turns to the “endgame” of the Communications Act, referring to the amendment proposed by Lord Puttnam.
It was proposed that a public interest test should be added as an “overarching longstop” to prevent any takeover that would damage plurality.
Jowell says she “didn’t think it was necessary” because the act already had sufficient safeguards.
Jowell does not accept that the act in relation to Channel 5 was a big development and maintains that it was “proprietor neutral”.
She says that the media would have seen the development in one of two ways: pro-Murdoch or anti-Murdoch. “But the perception is less important than good policy,” she adds.
Barr says that there was media speculation at the time that Murdoch was interested in Channel 5.
Jowell maintains that a whole range of potential owners could have been interested in buying Channel 5 at the time, which is what the act aimed to allow.
Allowing Murdoch to buy Channel 5 was “a politically controversial development,” says Barr.
Jowell responds: “There are those that would have strong views on either side”.
She says she cannot remember whether she spoke to Gordon Brown or other ministers confidentially about sensitive cross-media ownership rules to be proposed by the Communications Act.
We had to see this as intensely politically sensitive, yes. The noise is more politically energising than the substance of the proposals. The important thing was to make sure everyone understood the substance.
Jowell adds that there was a lot of “noise” in the media about the potential for this act to open the door further for Murdoch, but that policy-making was a more rational process.
“I would have had these conversations with these four senior colleagues and taken them through all the proposals. They were more than just lifting the restriction on Channel 5.”
The Guardian’s Dan Sabbagh has just tweeted:
V int point, Blair challenged Jowell on whether Murdochs could buy ITV as Comms Bill was being drafted.
— Dan Sabbagh (@dansabbagh) May 21, 2012
News Corporation had lobbied for the removal of 20% ownership bar, Barr says. It was ultimately removed in relation to Channel 5, but not ITV.
Barr wants to explore how this came about.
Neither Rupert Murdoch nor Les Hinton expressed a precise interest in Channel 5, Jowell explains, but warned cross-media ownership rules relaxed across the networks.
It was a decision reached in the course of the discussion with the prime minister. As I had made clear at the outset I was the secretary of state responsible for taking the decisions but you will see … that what I was concerned to ensure was if we lifted the 20% restriction and opened up the possibility of a new owner who already had substantial newspapers interests, that we could not get to the point … where supposing it had been Rupert Murdoch and I want to make it absolutely clear neither he nor Les Hinton had expressed to my recollection a precise interest in Channel 5, they were interested in getting rid of all the cross ownership rules. But the safeguards I wanted to ensure was if C5 exploded from being a tiny terrestrial company Ofcom would be in a position to ensure they took a nominated news provider and they would be in a position to exercise the content control that ITV was accountable to.
Barr asks if Blair’s more deregulatory view affected her own position.
“Of course it did because he is the prime minister,” Jowell says. “When you are secretary of state and the prime minister has a slightly different view from the one you are advancing you take that seriously.”
Barr turns to another briefing note, prepared by Jowell and Patricia Hewitt, for Tony Blair in March 2002 on the communications bill. It was followed by a meeting with Blair.
It said that News International and Sky – “not one company but linked in most people’s minds” – could also expand into local press and local radio. However, it would be barred from owning ITV or Channel 5 because owned more than 20% of the national newspaper market.
Jowell says she has no specific recollection of the meeting. “The prime minister’s instincts were more deregulatory than mine, he pushed me further than I would have gone myself in exploring deregulatory options,” she adds.
Barr asks if there was any discussion special adviser level about how this issue might affect the Labour party’s relationship with Murdoch.
“No, there was no discussion of that,” sha says.
has now been published on the Leveson inquiry website.Jowells’s witness statement
Jowell is asked about her contacts with media groups.
“We invited lobbying from media groups and those representing public interest organisations,” Jowell says, adding that she had more than 150 meetings.
Barr turns to a briefing note from Jowell to Blair about cross-media ownership.
Anyone who owned more than 20% of the national newspaper market would be precluded from taking a significant stake in Channel 5, Barr says, using the third commercial broadcaster as one example.
In another note on media ownership rules, Jowell told Blair: “we will be accused of giving in to Murdoch but, in fact, there will still be major controls on his activity”.
Jowell says she was clear that the government had to retain cross-media ownership rules to prevent “disproportionate control” of the industry.
Although we explored the possibility of further deregulation by getting rid of the 20% rule I disagreed with that, the 20% rule remained,” says Jowell.
“I was very clear we had to retain cross media ownership rules in order to prevent the concentration of disproportionate control.”
News International and other big media groups made clear that competition law alone was sufficient to ensure plurality, Jowell says.
Barr suggests Rupert Murdoch would have been happy with the act’s rules on foreign ownership of terrestrial broadcasters.
Jowell is asked about foreign ownership of terrestrial broadcasters.
She says she was concerned not to jeopardise quality or plurality of the media while opening up the possibility of US, Japanese or Australian investment in the sector.
Jowell says the Department for Culture, Media and Sport also was seeking to consolidate media regulation in one body, Ofcom; deregulate elsewhere; and comply with EU law.
She adds that the DCMS received more than 230 written submissions during its consultation on the Communications Act.
Jowell says she wanted to “deregulate” the media without jeopardising the elements that the public valued most.
She wanted to make sure that her proposals “were not being undermined” by media owners going straight to No 10.
Jowell says this was not a concern specific to the media, but acknowledged the “combustible potential” of the act and wanted to limit the noise around her work.
There was always a temptation … if parties to our policies didn’t like the view that was being expressed by the relevant secretary of state they would try to go round the back door to No 10. I was trying to make sure I was the secretary of state solely responsible for bringing forward changes to media regulation.
Jowell adds that she received a categorical confirmation from the then prime minister, Tony Blair, that “no deal had been reached” with Rupert Murdoch about new ownership rules.
I asked him whether any deal had been done with Rupert Murdoch on the reform of cross-media ownership rules. He gave me an absolute assurance there had been no prior agreement. I had no constraint on the conclusions I might reach … I said, ‘In that case it is best that you don’t see the parties and you let me take this policy and come back to you with proposals and we can reach agreement.’
Barr asks if Blair discussed with her how he wanted to deal with Murdoch.
“No, he didn’t,” says Jowell
Jowell is asked about the Communications Act.
She says it was one of the particularly pressing issues when appointed to the job, including cross-media ownership rules.
Jowell tells the inquiry there are no longer copies of her ministerial diaries and meeting notes, but she has submitted several documents along with her written witness statement.
Tessa Jowell, the former culture secretary, has taken the witness stand.
David Barr, counsel to the inquiry, is leading questioning of Jowell.
Good morning and welcome to the Leveson inquiry live blog.
Lord Mandelson, the long-serving Labour cabinet minister, and the former culture secretary Tessa Jowell will give evidence today.
For more than a decade, Mandelson was at the heart of both the Tony Blair and Gordon Brown governments. He served in the cabinet as Northern Ireland secretary from 1999 to 2001, as the business secretary from 2008 to 2010 and as the European commissioner for trade from 2004 to 2008. The former MP for Hartlepool has twice resigned from government.
Tessa Jowell, the serving shadow minister for the Olympics and a victim of phone hacking by the News of the World, will also testify on Monday.
Jowell was the culture secretary for six years under Blair, from 2001 to 2007. In January 2011, Jowell was told by Scotland Yard she was a phone hacking target in 2006. A year later, Jowell reached an out-of-court settlement with News International, the publisher of the now-defunct Sunday tabloid.
The inquiry begins at 10am.
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