The proposed amendments to the Data Protection Bill would have threatened the free press by trying to introduce Section 40 and reopen the Leveson inquiry, albeit in relation to data protection. I believe this would undermine high quality journalism, and have a significant negative impact on local press, which is already struggling. The amendments were contrary to the 2017 Conservative Manifesto on which I was elected. The Manifesto stated that we would not be proceeding with Leveson 2 and would repeal Section 40. That is why I am glad the amendments were defeated.
The Government wants to ensure the press is well-regulated with high standards, albeit with their freedom protected. Tough new data protection laws will apply to journalists from 25 May. The Bill protects the confidentiality of sources and supports well run investigative journalism, but does not give journalists a free hand. Journalists must secure the information they hold, must assess risk when processing data, and must notify the Information Commissioner of any serious data breaches. A new Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) code of practice for journalists will set clear data protection expectations and the ICO will conduct a statutory review of media compliance with the new law over the next four years. If the media has not changed its ways and abuses the trust Parliament is placing in it, then this review will expose that.
I do not think that these amendments would have solved the challenges the media face. After conducting a thorough consultation on the Leveson inquiry, the Government determined that that reopening the Leveson Inquiry is not in the public interest, and that Section 40 is no longer necessary.