11 JUL 2011

Phone Hacking

Over the last couple of days the issues of phone hacking by journalists, the involvement of the Met, and the implications this will have on the media and politicians has been the big topic across the country, as well as in Westminster.

There have been three debates on the issue, and I spoke in all three to put across the point that there has been knowledge of these practices stretching back to 2003, yet nothing was ever done, and that we must now take a strong stance on this to put those past mistakes right.

On 11 July:

Charlie Elphicke: Between 2003 and 2010, successive reports set out that there were serious problems. Can the inquiry cover the relationship between the media and the Government to look at why action was not taken before now?

Jeremy Hunt: Yes.

On 13 July during the Phone Hacking debate:

I said: May I welcome the Prime Minister's reaffirmation that sunlight is the best disinfectant? If we are really going to sort things out on a cross-party basis, surely it is not good enough for this to involve only Government Ministers and special advisers—surely it should involve shadow Ministers and their special advisers as well.

David Cameron: I think that is right. The point about the relationship between politicians and the press, and where that has gone wrong, is, as I said, that we have been courting support rather than confronting problems. That has been the case for Oppositions. I freely admit that as Leader of the Opposition, you spend quite a lot of time trying to persuade newspapers and others to support you, because you want to explain your policies, your vision and what you are doing for the country. That will not stop. We are not all going to go and live in a monastery and never talk to journalists ever again, wonderful though that might seem by moments. We must have a healthy relationship where we can have those meetings and discussions, but at the same time confront the difficulties that we have. That is what the commission will do.

Later on 13 July I also spoke in the Opposition Day Debate on Rupert Murdoch's bid for News International. I asked separate questions directly to the current Labour leader, and to his immediate predecessor and ex Prime Minister Gordon Brown:

  • The right hon. Gentleman talks about the "recent past". As a new Member, I look and see that this goes back to 2003. We had deeply concerning reports from the Information Commissioner in 2006, so why was action not taken before 2010? Why was this not dealt with?
  • I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. As a parent myself, I share the disgust at the invasion of his privacy, and I agree with him that the police have serious questions to answer. Nevertheless, criminality was disclosed in the Culture, Media and Sport Committee report in 2003 and by the Information Commissioner in 2006. As a new Member, I ask him: why was nothing done?

On 18 July the conversation moved to look at the actions of the Metropolitan Police.

I asked the Home Secretary: The allegations that payments were made improperly to the police were first made in 2003. The House needs to know what action was taken by the Home Office and by successive Ministers over the period since that date. Will the Home Secretary do a review and make a report to Parliament?

Theresa May: I thank my hon. Friend. As I indicated in my response to the shadow Home Secretary, there were indeed a number of times under the last Government when these issues and concerns were raised and no action was taken.

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Charlie Elphicke

It has been an honour and privilege to serve as Member of Parliament for Dover & Deal. I hope to be re-elected to serve our community for another term. 

Many of my appearances in the House of Commons are now on Youtube. Please click the link to watch the footage.

Please email me at charlie@elphicke.com or ring my office on 01304 379669 if you need to get in touch.

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