22 May 2012

Leveson Inquiry - Module 3 - Day 9 - Watson, Johnson and Smith

Useful Links:
Leveson Inquiry Witness Statements HERE 
Leveson Inquiry Witness Lists HERE 

Video Recordings of each day's proceedings HERE

Live Feed From Leveson Inquiry Site HERE

BBC Democracy Live Feed HERE 
Guardian Live Blog HERE

Yesterday's Hearing (Lord Mandelson and Tessa Jowell)  HERE
Links to latest articles, comment and information relevant to the Leveson Inquiry:
Tuesday 22nd May:
@tom_watson: 3:00 pm :-
Tom Watson seen with a "friend".You see what they're doing there?For the avoidance of doubt, she is not Rebekah Brooks:
9:45 a.m. : David Sherborne, for the victims, gives his reply to NI and Trinity Mirror's responses to his applications over Operation Motorman files.
Mr Sherborne replying to NI and Trinity Mirror..
Sherborne: Is a matter of ongoing public concern as to what the true nature of the press practices were.
Sherborne: News International say they could do nothing as they didn’t know the names of the journalists.
Sherborne: Two NI journalists named [in redacted form] in Gilmour's evidence and known to inquiry [].  
Sherborne: Can pass inquiry name of editor in one of the Suns’s departments who obtained several ex-directory numbers.  
Sherborne: Have four names of [Mirror] journalists from Red Book, one of whom was responsible for 250 procurements from Whittamore.
#Leveson‬: But aren’t I in a position to draw inferences if I think it appropriate in relation to the Motorman material in any event?
#Leveson‬: I ask whether what would clearly be a very detailed analysis would be appropriate necessary or indeed proportionate.
Sherborne: One client was victim of hacking 05/06. Alleged in 2009 NoW journalists tried to access voicemail with same number.
Sherborne: Information is not historic if information is still being used. Can be easily checked by referencing Motorman files.

Sherborne wants to find out if Whittamore info is still being used, suggests going through journos' contact books

LJ Leveson says he will reread application and reflect before replying to Mr Sherborne..
 Alan Johnson MP     Witness Statement in full

Guardian Live Blog HERE
Alan Johnson being sworn in...
Mr Barr beginning his questioning of Alan Johnson..
Guardian Live Blog:
Johnson says he does not believe police and journalists should need guidance on how to communicate.
Leveson asks Johnson what he makes of previous evidence about hospitality enjoyed by senior police officers at the expense of journalists.
"That would have surprised me as home secretary at the time," Johnson says.
Alan Johnson being questioned on his time as Home Secretary..
Johnson: Home Sec responsible for appointment of Commissioner + Deputy Commissioner of the Met. Appointed Godwin with London Mayor
Johnson: John Prescott had mentioned hacking to me before I was in the HO. Didn't know about Tessa Jowell.

Johnson: did read the famous 2009 Guardian article when it was published ()
Johnson on Guardian piece: it was only a Guardian story, wasn't in other papers, but I was obv concerned

Johnson: Reaction to Guardian story was concern.On way to first ACPO conference + raised with Sir Paul Stephenson in first meeting.  
Johnson: Dr Evan Harris raised urgent questioned in Parliament, David Hanson (minister for policing and crime) responded for me.

Johnson: it was seeing my predecessor Charles Clarke on media saying HMIC had a role, that's why I asked dept to look into it
Johnson: Predecessor Charles Clarke thought HMIC had a role here. Was then advised to wait to see what other bodies came up with.
Johnson: For Home Sec to intervene in an operational matter on the basis of one newspaper article would have been extraordinary.
Johnson: There was a lot of pressure on the Met to respond quickly. Commissioner was just asking Yates to establish the facts.  
Johnson: Most of the voices from other parts of the media was: this is the obsession of the Guardian.

Johnson: pols like to be seen to be doing things but still don't think calling in HMIC wd have been right
Johnson: was reassured Yates one-day phone hacking project concluded victims & suspected victims wd be contacted
Johnson: message from Met was if Gdn have fresh evidence will they bring it to us

Johnson: I thought, perhaps naively, that John and Tessa and others would be contacted as a result. Thought it was ongoing process.
Johnson: Not aware Baker spoke to HO but was relayed back to me Denis O'Connor (HMIC) is perfectly willing to do this.

Johnson was told Chief Inspector of Constabulary was up for looking into phone hacking

Johnson: Decision on phone hacking review affected by significance of interference in police operations by HO and Met assurances.

From Guardian Live Blog:
Johnson says he decided not to call in HMIC to investigate Scotland Yard because of the significance of an intervention by the home secretary and based on assurances from the Crown Prosecution Service.
Johnson: deciding to call in HMIC shouldn't just be media led, not just because the great, sainted Gdn is saying this shd happen
Johnson: the constant refrain here was it didn't go any wider than Goodman & Mulcaire

Johnson: Met would be offended by a Home Sec calling in independent people to look at their approach - it's an explicit criticism.
Johnson: For Home Sec to receive those assurances from police + to see the outcome of the DPP’s rexamiation, I made sound decision. 
Johnson: The constant refrain here was that [hacking] didn’t go any wider than Goodman and Mulcaire.
Johnson: Following 2010 NYT article exercised right as former Home Sec to go back and inspect papers to refresh mind on what told.
Johnson: Came to conclusion police evasive or dishonest as all the evidence was there and had been there since 2006.
Johnson: I didn't know who was meeting who socially and didn't know Neil Wallis had been employed by the Met.

Johnson, then home sec, describes Scotland Yard as "lethargic" in its response to Guardian's 2009 phone hacking allegations
Johnson: Hayman writing for Times seemed useful, to get senior policeman's perspective. Does depend what terms of hiring were.
Johnson: As long as everyone knows the limits of their associations with the police then it's perfectly healthy.
Johnson: Had to watch what you said when talking to national newspapers. Slightest slip turns into something personal against MP.  
Johnson: I remember Gordon Brown being castigated after 2007 for not having referendum on the EU.
Johnson cites "politician who complains about media is like sailor who complains about sea" Powell quote,Mandelson adapted it yday.  

Johnson: health corrs were v v knowledgeable about their subjects, education similarly; lunches cd be productive
contrasts this with political lobby corrs where you have to watch what you're saying

From Guardian Live Blog:
Johnson recalls his first meeting with Rebekah Brooks:
I shook her hand and said 'hello Rachel'. That didn't go down very well.
Johnson believes there is a "healthy scepticism" among the public about the media and politicians, but says this is not cynicism. He does not know how the inquiry will improve that.
Johnson says the News of the World rang him while he was health secretary to say it was planning to run a front-page story about him having an affair.
Johnson rang the editor, told him he had never been to Essex and that it was "absolute rubbish". He added: "Run the story – it will be a good pension fund when I take you to court."
The News of the World never published the story.
Leveson asks Johnson whether parliament should provide a steer to politicians about excercising their discretion with the media.
Johnson says it is more about the culture.
Why is so much personal spite directed [at politicians]? It's the nastiness, real nastiness you have to face, and that's a cultural thing.
Parliament could set out a structure of regulation for the press....
Johnson: It has to be self-regulation in the sense that we're not doing anything North Korean here. 
Johnson: Parliament could set out structure - HMIC, IPCC - allows self-regulation and a consensus that this is proper way to do it.  

Mr Garnham for the Met queries a section of Alan Johnson's evidence..
Garnham QC (Met) asks Johnson what he was told about "other stuff" Met had immaterial to Goodcaire conviction.
Johnson: None general flavour was they'd used enough evidence to get them in prison.

Alan Johnson's evidence is complete.

Lord Chris Smith   Witness Statement in Full

Guardian Live Blog HERE

Chris Smith, former culture secretary, now on at Leveson. He preceded Tessa Jowell
Chris Smith took charge of culture dept which succeeded "department of fun" once run by David Mellor
Smith: Wakeham was outstandingly skillful at taking the PCC forward enough to take sting out of political debate in 97
Smith: Wakeham ensured any proposal for statutory regulation didn't have any political legs 
Corine Patry-Hoaskins begins her questioning of Lord Smith..
Lord Smith explaining how the Calcutt report affected such as the PCC..

@IndexLeveson: Smith: when I became secretary of state, no public demand for statutory intervention . Smith: I was a strong believer in self-regulation, and I still am. Smith: in democracy, it's dangerous to go down road of statutory regulation of press, however deleterious behaviour of some may be.  Smith: but decisions themselves should be made by body that's voluntarily put together by press rather than imposed upon them  

@nataliepeck: Smith: Dtrong believer in self-reg and I still am. Having in place a apparatus of state-reg detrimental to free speech. Smith: In any self-reg system there is scope for having some sort of statutory backstop to assist with enforcement of decisions. ‪ Smith: Built into the ASA is robust provision for independence of mind and thought [suggests this as a model for press].  

@lisaocarroll: Smith: Asbof, the equivalent of Presbof, appoints chair of ASA. Requirement that chair has no connection whatsoever with the ad industry
@IndexLeveson: Smith: easier to regulate advertising than press, clear consumer protection ambitions to be met.
Guardian Live Blog:
Patry Hoskins asks Smith about the death of Princess Diana. Smith says he received 1,200 letters from members of the public in the fortnight following Diana's death deploring the actions of the press and paparazzi.
@IndexLeveson: Smith: Overwhelming burden was that actions of paps unacceptable, regulation didn’t work, needed better protection from intrusion

Smith: Tide turned against press following Diana death - As a result, press had become a very hot and public topic of concern
Smith: very important for governments not to make hasty and knee jerk pronouncement on events.

Guardian Live Blog:
Smith says he let Lord Wakeham whip the press into line after the death of Diana because he was a proactive and well-respected PCC chairman. Smith says Wakeham told him privately to keep external pressure on the PCC as a warning that worse (ie statutory regulation) would follow if they did not behave.
Smith: Lord Wakeham was main point of contact with the press. He was keen to take the initiative and acted as strong regulator.
Smith: One interesting dilemma of chairmanship of the PCC is chairman is both a regulator and a champion.

Guardian Live Blog:
The role of the PCC has never been "as properly outlined as it should be", Smith says. Leveson believes that is right, saying he would not necessarily complain about the press to a body who proclaimed itself "a champion of the press". Smith qualifies that, and describes the PCC as "a champion of the free press".
Lord Smith: wdn't be fair to say govt handed responsibility for press reform to PCC chair after Princess Diana's death
Smith: Three ares where further progress needed were sanctions, public interest definition and PCC reactive rather than proactive.
Smith: sanctions still a difficult area. Effective sanctions available to ASA wouldn't translate to revamped press regulation body
Smith: difficulty in this area is balance of power between govt and press is a complex matter
Smith: this is an area where there tends to be more equality of power than w/ role of gov't in other areas of national life. 
Smith: Moments when balance changes in govt's favour; death of Diana one such moment, public demand for change clear.

From Guardian Live Blog:
The balance of power between the government and press is complex, says Smith, and the death of Princess Diana tilted this balance against the press because of the public outrage.
He says:
But that did not last for long ... which makes it very difficult for any government to take strident steps to restrain press activity
Smith suggests that we are living through another "post-Diana" window of opportunity to shake-up press regulation.

#Leveson‬ refers to "calamity of press behaviour" in Diana, followed by Motorman and hacking. Suggests change not v. enduring
Smith contends that conduct of press did improve post-Diana's death
Smith adds that intrusive techniques lessened, there were palpable changes but short-lived

#Leveson‬ asks: how many more times can we do this?
#Leveson‬: don't accept there'd be curtailment on freedom of press to hold those in office to account, or investigative J imperiled by system that prevents type of behaviour I've heard so much about in last few months.  

Smith: Clearly activities which are plainly illegal - for those having robust legal sanctions in place is obviously the way to go.
Smith: There are other intrusive behaviours which are unpleasant and unsavoury and need to be curbed. 

Smith: there's a culture that develops in some parts of the press where it's assumed that ends justify means 

#Leveson‬: Would find it difficult to live with improving things for two years, a lot of people put money and effort into not very much.
Smith: I regret that I didn’t see properly at the time that this wasn’t enough and we should have pushed further.
Smith: Role Lord Wakeham played in relation to press meant if you wanted to find collective view he was the route to channel it.
Smith: The most obvious sanction would be a requirement for equal prominence.

Guardian Live Blog:
Leveson reiterates his desire for the inquiry not to be a flash in the pan and emphasises the need for a real change in press behaviour. Smith says the press reformed itself in the two years following Lord Wakeham's changes, but then slipped "egregiously".
Smith: Lord Wakeham nearest we have come to an individual capable of commanding the respect of the entire press.

Lord Smith ends with a statement that decisions as to media ownership should not be made by a Secretary of State. (reference to the Jeremy Hunt issue)

Tom Watson MP     Witness Statement in Full

Guardian Live Blog HERE

Mr Jay begins his questioning..
Tom Watson explaining his sources but only naming Neville Thurlbeck.
Watson ws: Would not have been on DCMSSC if my wife had not asked me to stand down as minister bc of unwarranted media intrusion.
Watson: Thurlbeck said he wanted to talk to me about allegations made about him.
Watson: Have been contacted by about a dozen MPs who have experiences of intimidating behaviour of news organisations.
Watson: They generally talked to me about experiences with NI but others raised stories to do with most tabloids.
Watson: They’ve all got a story to tell that involves them feeling intimidated and frightened.

Watson says these MPs' stories involve their fear of being ridiculed over decisions they make
Watson: they feared ridicule or humiliation to do w/ private lives 

#Leveson‬: It might be said that you don't bring an entirely dispassionate eye to the issues with which I am concerned.
Watson: Mosley offered assistance [funding] for MPs to reveal potential blackmail + intimidation by NI.Haven't personally accepted.

Guardian Live Blog:
Leveson asks Watson to ask MPs about their experiences of the press as a whole, rather than just News International.
Watson: have been pushing for public inquiry as early as 2009 but didn’t get response from gov’t ministers on that
Watson: Find it highly unlikely Brown would have used rude language to anyone, especially someone as senior/of an age as Murdoch.
Watson: NYT been in London for 3/4 months + I'd been around hacking inquiry and talked to journalists, wasn't surprised by article.
Watson: Reply from Home Sec to letter on hacking wasn't a surprise. Said should await outcome of police enquiries.
Watson: Didn't receive any reply to letter to James Murdoch on Mosley judgment. Rasied with Rupert Murdoch last year at committee.
Watson: Rupert Murdoch said he had no knowledge,would have thought he would have been briefed on it, was a very serious allegation.
Jay references letters from John Yates and Keir Starmer in early 2011 but does not delve too far. 
Watson: Have absolute confidence in Operation Weeting, is being carried out by a very professional team.
Watson: Unlike newspaper groups, News International behaved like the ultimate floating voter but with menace.  
Watson: No hard evidence that there was a craven understanding between politicians and senior execs at NI butno public confidence.

Watson: but I believe that is general view among public. Reforms needed so public confidence in those relations can be restored
Watson: Ken Clarke prepared to swim against tide, so frequently gets harsh comment in the Sun. Is one of their target MPs.
#Leveson‬ questions if this is different from other papers

Watson: Successive PMs from Thatcher to Cameron must share responsibility for allowing NI execs + others to believe unaccountable.  
Watson: Brooks request to Mandelson (reported by Mandelson) to call off members of DCMS cttee was "totally improper"
Watson says made "chilling comment" saying Rebekah will never forgive you for what you did to Tony

Watson: Pascoe-Watson (former Sun political ed) told me "Rebekah wil never forgive you for what you did to Tony. Chilling comment.
Watson: was critical of BBC converage, had candid conversation with Nick Robinson
Watson: effectively (Thurlbeck) is alleging a conspiracy to blackmail members of the committee
Watson: In 09 committee very unified. Unanimously endorsed report on Matt Driscoll dismissal, only divided on small sec of report.
Watson: James Murdoch apologised after revealed I was followed by PI Derek Webb. Surveillance commissioned by Mazher Mahmood.
Watson: Email trail between Mahmood where he alleges I was having affair, with Mellor and Edmondson commissioned team.

News of the World's 'Fake Sheikh' Had Tom Watson Followed, Emails Show - Guardian Journalists Who Stalked Hacking MP Still Employed by Murdoch - Martin Hickman - Independent 

Watson: I said in the chamber I was frightened and scared, number of MPs said they felt the same
Watson: fmr Labour MP Martin Salter suffered egregious invasion of his privacy after opposed Sarah's Law campaign

Watson says such journalism that targeted MPopponents of Sarah's Law was "vulgar and intimdatory".
Watson: Salter MP still didn't know whether PIs following him had been commissioned by NoW or not.
Watson: Parliament has ducked its responsibility to improve DPA, put forward amendment but told none of three parties would back.
Watson has referred inquiry to the diaries of former MP and minister Chris Mullin 1994-8.

Watson: politicians closed their minds to potential of major scandal [hacking] at one of the key outlets for their message
Watson: Relations between them were too fibrous, so politicians couldn’t divorce objective thinking. Were frightened

Watson: conversations on policy always led to conversation about how it would play out in Sun
but he can't cite evidence, give a "hard fact", to back up suggestion Murdoch is a constant invisible presence in D St

Watson: Can only speak more myself, there was a sense that there was a mystique about the NI stable. Had unique access to No 10.
Watson: News International were the ones that had the connections and everyone was aware of it.

#Leveson‬ asks Watson about other papers. Watson says Daily Mail was constant in their editorial position, so no surprises
Watson: Brown called me to say R Murdoch had called Blair to tell him to call TW off - (tho Brown can't recall, & RM & TB have denied it)
Watson: Gordon Brown called me to say Murdoch phoned Tony Blair to "call me off" - Brown can't recall and Blair/Murdoch deny.
Watson: Not a call a back bench MP forgets too easily, was standing on a hill in the Peak District trying to retain phone signal.
Watson: Would have been in late 2010/early 2011, after the election. Brown no longer PM.
Watson: Another Peak District call (Dec 2010) from someone familiar with NI IT, said may be more evidence than thought.  
Watson denies being paid by Ian Kirby (NoW) for stories + leaking info from CMSC to Guardian but says has give info to NIck Davies.
Watson: Saw Damian McBride about once a month at social events and one or two texts/emails a month - generally on logistics/events.

Watson: rarely texted or emailed Damian McBride, one or two texts or emails a month
Watson: I rarely went to media 'grid' meetings, found them frankly tedious  
Watson: Did not have regular meetings during time in government with McBride and Balls to plan media strategy. 
Jay: did you know of plan to counter influence of @guidofawkes website? Answer: no plan for alternative site
Watson now asked about @PSbook; says has met those who run it once or twice in last year but hasn't provided info
Watson: didn't discuss politics in 06 visit to Brown; gave Brown a babygro, not as suggested Postman Pat DVD
(resolution of the Postman Pat DVD issue prompts laughter - that visit was fixation of TB/GBs debate for long while)

Watson: Could have a privacy commissioner who could also do research and help policy-makers.
Watson: we'll be wrestling with notions of privacy for years to come, there's no body advising on public opinion on this.
Watson: The idea of privacy is changing in the minds of the public. Seems coherent to set them in one place.
Watson suggests commissioners need to be more coherent, would be useful to link bodies into one
Watson: part of reason press have been so intrusive is b/c politicians never give them any info

Watson: Simple task of regulatory body should be to oblige editors to put a matter right when they make a mistake or get it wrong.
Watson: I've not yet met a politician who actually wants the task of regulating the press.
Rhodri Davies for NI answering Tom Watson's allegations..
Tom Watson giving his replies to LJ Leveson..

News Int barrister: Watson placed under surveillance to stand up tip for story, not because of membership of committee
Watson: Former chief reporter alleged a conspiracy to blackmail with the surveillance and James Murdoch wouldn't have apologised.
Watson: On Glenn Mulcaire I merely point out that the company paid nearly a third of a million pounds towards his legal fees.  

Guardian Live Blog:
Here is a short summary of Tom Watson's evidence:
• Watson alleged that ex-News of the World reporter Mazher Mahmood commissioned a private investigator to trail Watson over false affair claims.
• Martin Salter MP suffered "egregious" invasion of privacy at hands of News of the World private investigators, he claimed
• Watson described a "craven understanding" between News Corp executives and successive governments.
• He said the information commissioner should play role in new statutory-based press regulator.
• News International says it did not place any member of the Commons committee on phone hacking under surveillance apart from Watson.
Tom Watson's evidence is complete.