The Prime Minister announced a two-part inquiry investigating the role of the press and police in the phone-hacking scandal, on 13 July 2011.
Lord Justice Leveson was appointed as Chairman of the Inquiry. The first part will examine the culture, practices and ethics of the media. In particular, Lord Justice Leveson will examine the relationship of the press with the public, police and politicians. He is assisted by a panel of six independent assessors with expertise in key issues being considered by the Inquiry.
The Inquiry has been established under the Inquiries Act 2005 and has the power to summon witnesses. It is expected that a range of witnesses, including newspaper reporters, management, proprietors, police officers and politicians of all parties will give evidence under oath and in public.
It will make recommendations on the future of press regulation and governance consistent with maintaining freedom of the press and ensuring the highest ethical and professional standards.
Lord Justice Leveson opened the hearings on 14 November 2011, saying: “The press provides an essential check on all aspects of public life. That is why any failure within the media affects all of us. At the heart of this Inquiry, therefore, may be one simple question: who guards the guardians?”
Leveson inquiry: Jack Straw used to gossip with Rebekah Brooks
Former justice secretary reveals he regularly arranged to meet the then Sun editor as they made the same train journey
Jack Straw arranged to meet Rebekah Brooks for a gossip once a week when they commuted on the same train when he was justice secretary and she was editor of the Sun, the Leveson inquiry has heard.
Straw, the former Labour cabinet minister, told the inquiry on Wednesday that they made the arrangement to sit together and used to "gossip about personalities" and what "was in the papers" as they took the hour-long journey from Charlbury in west Oxfordshire to London.
He revealed his meetings just moments after railing against politicians who had too close a relationship with journalists and criticising the press for "recording" his profession as "personality, conflict-based".
Earlier the inquiry heard how the Sun had been "ruthlessly hostile" to the Labour party and that owner Rupert Murdoch enjoyed playing "a power game" with politicians, according to Straw.
Unlike other witnesses to the inquiry, such as Alastair Campbell, who testified earlier this week that the Sun backed Labour because it was a winner, Straw was of the view that the News International tabloid did have the power to make or break politicians' fortunes.
"Few of us who took part, for example, in the 1992 general election, are in any doubt that the Sun's approach lost us seats. That was the purpose [of the hostile coverage] and it is disingenuous for anyone to deny it," Straw said.
Straw said he believed newspapers had debased public discourse about government and democracy and had contributed to the low turnout at elections because they portrayed politics as "boring" and "completely self-serving".
In a barbed remark about journalists, he said: "As John Major famously said, 'the only people who've never made a mistake are the people who have never made a decision'. To which I would simply add: they are called journalists."
Straw told Leveson he was in favour of radical reform of press regulation, which had "palpably failed" over the past 50 years.
He said some sort of "statutory" regime which would provide remedies for fast-tracking cases of defamation and breaches of privacy.
Jeremy Hunt investigated over donations register
Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt is to be investigated over claims he failed to register donations from media firms.
Parliamentary standards commissioner John Lyon launched an inquiry after a complaint from a Labour MP.
It concerns meetings organised by private companies between July 2009 and March 2010, when Mr Hunt and his deputy Ed Vaizey were in opposition.
These were described as "networking events" where senior Conservatives met figures from the creative industries.
Labour has demanded the resignation of Mr Hunt over an "accumulation of evidence" that his relationship with Rupert Murdoch's News International was too close at a time when he was overseeing the company's attempt to take over broadcaster BSkyB.
But he has resisted the calls, saying he behaved with "integrity" throughout the process.
The investigation Mr Lyon is heading relates to separate allegations over Mr Hunt's conduct while the Conservatives were in opposition.
Mr Vaizey stated in his entry in the register of interests that he and Mr Hunt had attended eight sponsored events between July 2009 and March 2010.
Mr Vaizey registered the events as donations worth £27,000. These are not cash donations, but estimates from Mr Vaizey of the cost to the companies concerned of hosting the events.
However, Mr Hunt did not declare the meetings against his name in the register. He has subsequently claimed that he attended only three of the eight meetings.
His spokeswoman said he had amended his register entry since the complaint was raised and the discrepancy had arisen because of "miscommunication".
Lord Mandelson gave Jeremy Hunt qualified support at the Leveson inquiry, when the former Labour minister said he should treat controversial emails written by a News Corporation lobbyist about the culture secretary's thinking with caution.
Giving evidence, the former business secretary said he was not surprised to learn that references to "JH" in emails written by News Corp's Frédéric Michel to his boss James Murdoch were based on information received from the minister's former special adviser Adam Smith.
Hunt's special adviser Adam Smith resigned last month after James Murdoch released to the Leveson inquiry last month 163 pages of almost daily updates from the culture secretary's office on the BSkyB bid. Hunt said the "volume and tone" of Smith's contact with Michel in the context of the £8bn bid was inappropriate.
Mandelson, though, did take aim at Hunt over the conduct of Smith. He said if a special adviser had been caught in such a close relationship with a corporate lobbyist when he was a secretary of state "they would have been taken out and shot". He blamed inexperience of Hunt and Smith to ensure "inappropriate contact" had happened.
He said Brown had taken their (the Sun's) Labour's Lost It frontpage splash, which announced the decision, "too personally" but confirmed he had phoned Brooks to tell her she and her Sun colleagues were a bunch of "chumps".
The former culture secretary said she sought an assurance from Tony Blair he had made no deal with Rupert Murdoch on media regulation when she was appointed to the role.
She told the Inquiry: “I do think that we were always too reliant on the support of newspapers and I think that, in the context of everything I have said earlier, our expectations were too high of the degree to which the government’s story could be conveyed through the newspapers.”
She said the then prime minister had assured her that there was “no prior agreement” with the media baron on his government’s reforms to cross-media ownership rules.
Today, she told the inquiry that Mr. Blair’s instincts to deregulate were stronger than hers.
However, she insisted that that was not driven by “any particular media company”.
Ms Jowell said she spoke to the prime minister within days of her appointment as culture secretary in June 2001.
“I asked him whether any deal had been done with Rupert Murdoch on the reform of cross-media ownership,” she said.
“He gave me an absolute assurance, which I completely accepted, that there had been no prior agreement."