The statement, delivered by Culture Secretary Matt Hancock in the House of Commons said that the government would seek to repeal Section 40 “at the earliest opportunity” and had decided not to commence a “costly and time-consuming public inquiry” into Leveson Part 2.
The Society of Editors which has campaigned strongly against the implementation of Section 40 and Leveson Part 2 welcomed the decision.
Ian Murray, Executive Director of the Society of Editors said: “The Society of Editors is pleased to welcome the Culture Secretary’s announcement today and sees this as a common-sense approach to the issue of how the media is regulated here in the UK.
“It is heartening to note the strong support the Secretary of State gives for a vibrant and robust, but most of all independent, media here in the UK and the important role that this plays in our nation’s democracy.
“Of course the debate will continue into all aspects of the media and this is only right and proper that it should. However, the decision that a costly Leveson 2 inquiry will not now go ahead and today’s renewed pledge by the government to lift the very real threat posed to the existence of some local and national newspapers by Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act is extremely welcome.
“It is important to remember that there still remain threats to a free press in this country in particular the amendments posed to the Data Protection Bill by the House of Lords. The amendments pose extreme financial threats to newspapers and, if granted, would curb genuine investigative journalism by all sections of the media.”
In announcing the decision to close the Leveson Inquiry, Hancock said that the media environment had changed significantly since the first stage of the Leveson Inquiry and extensive reforms to both press regulation and policing had taken place.
Hancock said: “The (Leveson) Inquiry and investigations were comprehensive.
“And since it was set up, the terms of reference for a Part 2 of the Inquiry have largely been met.
“There have also been extensive reforms to policing practices and significant changes to press self-regulation.
“IPSO has been established and now regulates 95% of national newspapers by circulation. It has taken significant steps to demonstrate its independence as a regulator.
“And in 2016, Sir Joseph Pilling concluded that IPSO largely complied with Leveson’s recommendations. There have been further improvements since and I hope more to come.”
Hancock said that of the 174,000 responses to the consultation, the majority were overwhelmingly against reopening the Leveson Inquiry and commencing Section 40.
He added: “During the consultation, 12% of direct respondents were in favour of reopening the Leveson Inquiry, with 66% against. We agree and that is the position that we set out in our Manifesto.
“We do not believe that reopening this costly and time-consuming public inquiry is the right way forward.”
“Only 7 per cent of direct respondents favoured full commencement of Section 40. By contrast, 79 per cent favoured full repeal.
“We have decided not to commence Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 and to seek repeal at the earliest opportunity.
“We will take action to safeguard the lifeblood of our democratic discourse, and tackle the challenges our media face today, not a decade ago.”
Links / further reading: Read the full speech here.