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Westminster Column


I could not write this column without briefly mentioning how I, many of my constituents and indeed the whole country has been shocked by the revelations about the News of the World phone hacking scandal.

The Government has been very clear about what needs to be done. We must ensure Britain gets to the bottom of this terrible episode - in terms of what newspapers have done - hacking into private data - and also get answers to some very big questions about potential police corruption.

To this end, the Prime Minister has announced that there will be a full, Judge-led inquiry, headed up by one of the most senior judges in the country, Judge Leveson. It will be established under the 2005 Inquiries Act, meaning it will have the power to summon witnesses including newspaper reporters, management, proprietors, policeman and politicians of all parties to give evidence under oath and in public.

Starting as soon as possible the inquiry will look at the culture, practices and ethics of the press; their relationship with the police; the failure of the current system of regulation; the contacts made, and discussions had, between national newspapers and politicians; why previous warnings about press misconduct were not heeded; and the issue of cross-media ownership. The Committee will make recommendations about the future conduct of relations between politicians and the press and will report within 12 months.

The second part of the inquiry will begin following the conclusion of the police investigation and will examine the extent of unlawful or improper conduct at the News of the World and other newspapers; and it will consider the implications for the relationships between newspapers and the police.

The Government has said very clearly that the relationship between politicians and the media has not been right. We are determined to get to the bottom of it to make sure we have a better relationship in the future and make sure we put these things right.

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Following extensive correspondence from concerned constituents on the issue of the abolition of cheques I also wanted to take this opportunity to give an update about the current situation.

Following sustained pressure from Parliament, the banking industry has now abandoned its plans to scrap cheques.

Earlier this year, the Treasury Select Committee launched an Inquiry into the Independent Payments Council's plan to phase out payment by cheque. The Committee was not convinced that cheques were in 'terminal decline' and asked the Council to conduct further cost-benefit analysis.

In addition, the Government made clear that it was considering intervening to prevent the Council from abolishing cheques. The Council has now announced that cheques will continue indefinitely. I very much welcome this reprieve and am glad that the voice of many of my constituents in Sutton has been heard on this matter.



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