The Prime Minister’s Office has asked government ministers to monitor their comments related to the Leveson Inquiry into standards of the press and phone hacking, after it had emerged that Lo
The Prime Minister’s Office has asked government ministers to monitor their comments related to the Leveson Inquiry into standards of the press and phone hacking, after it had emerged that Lord Justice Leveson sought advice from the cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood.
The move comes after comments by Education Secretary Michael Gove earlier this year, who said the Inquiry was having a ‘chilling effect’ on freedom of speech in the UK. A spokeswoman for Prime Minister David Cameron told The Guardian that greater care would be observed by ministers when commenting on the matter. ‘It is certainly the case that it would be unhelpful for the government to be providing a running commentary on the Leveson Inquiry when the prime minister has set the inquiry up to look at the relationship between politicians and the media,’ the spokeswoman said. ‘We look forward to the outcome of his findings.’
Requests for comment to spokespersons in the offices of Leveson and Gove on the conversation Leveson had with Heywood with regard to Gove’s comments were not returned.
A report from The Guardian suggests Leveson phoned Heywood in late February after Gove’s comments were made. Leveson had expressed concerns that the comments Gove made had been supported by Cameron, in addition to questioning the purpose of the Inquiry. Leveson added concerns that Gove had been speaking on behalf of the entire cabinet.
In February, Gove, a former journalist at The Times, said, in remarks to a press gallery luncheon at Westminster, that there had been ‘a chilling atmosphere towards freedom of expression which emanates from the debate around Leveson’, according to a BBC report. Leveson however did not indicate at any time, according to reports, that he would resign his position.
Gove appeared before the Inquiry in May and spoke on the issue of regulation. The burden of proof, Gove said according to a report from The New York Times, ‘is on those who regulate’ to ‘make the case that regulation would be effective rather than a curtailment of the freedom of individuals to express themselves and to engage in public debate’. Leveson then responded by saying that he did not need to be lectured about the importance of free speech.
Last week, Cameron and former Prime Ministers Sir John Major and Gordon Brown came before the Inquiry. Brown said the main concern was, according to the Times, is who will pay for quality journalism in the future. ‘The advertising and business model of today’s newspapers, today’s print media, is being shot through as advertising gravitates from the ordinary news media to the Internet,’ Brown said. ‘The question then arises: Who is going to sponsor, who is going to pay for, who is going to be the person that underpins quality journalism?’
Major said the press was a source of wonder. ‘I woke up each morning and I opened the morning papers and I learned what I thought that I didn’t think, what I said that I hadn’t said, what I was about to do that I wasn’t about to do,’ Major said in remarks according to the Times.
Cameron has asked Leveson to report back with results of the Inquiry later in the year. The Inquiry was launched last August.