Government challenged over links with Murdoch, as Home Secretary continues to block publication of Daniel Morgan Panel Report

  • Government continues to threaten review & redactions to Daniel Morgan Independent Panel Report, as the Panel stands its ground

  • MPs demand answers from the Home Secretary on meetings with Murdoch and News UK

  • Home Office Minister refuses to agree to meet with the Morgan family

  • MPs demand that the Government re-establishes Leveson Part Two

Daniel Morgan, a Private Investigator was murdered in 1987.

To date, five police investigations into Daniel’s death collapsed amidst allegations of interference from corrupt police officers and reporters at News International.

His family have been fighting for justice for over 30 years.

In 2013, an independent panel was established to again investigate Daniel’s murder and any failings which may have impeded justice being served. The panel was expected to publish their report on Monday this week. However the Home Office intervened, citing a need to review the Report for “national security” and human rights concerns.

Yesterday, Labour MP Chris Bryant asked an urgent question to the House of Commons, which called on the Home Secretary to agree to publish the Report of the Independent Panel.

Standing in for the Home Secretary, Home Office Under Secretary of State Victoria Atkins mounted a weak defence for the Government.

Implying that the review was part of a necessary process, she said,

“Once the panel provides the Home Secretary with the report, my right hon. Friend will make arrangements to lay the report in Parliament, as is her duty according to the terms of reference. The Home Office has asked the chair of the panel to agree a process for sharing the report with the Department in order to proceed with its publication.”

But the idea that the Home Secretary was working to a process accepted by all sides, as if it was the Panel’s fault for not passing on the Report, was nonsense.

For eight years the Panel has been investigating the circumstances of Daniel’s death and the investigations which have followed and, the Panel says, not once did the Home Office say a word about the prospect of this kind of “review” being necessary.  The Panel were, reasonably, suspicious of any political involvement in the process after the Home Department belatedly insisted that a review would be needed.

The Terms of Reference for the Panel are clear: the Home Secretary’s job is to lay the Report before Parliament and nothing more.  There are too many powerful interests which face scrutiny from the Panel’s investigations for politicians to be anywhere near it, much less make redactions as the Home Secretary has threatened to do.

As Chris Bryant said in response,

“I am sorry, but it was not a tragedy; it was a crime. Daniel was axed to death in a car park on 10 March 1987 – and thanks to the corruption in the police and interference by News UK, the family have had no justice.

“The Government have already cancelled the Leveson 2 inquiry, which was promised to Daniel’s family as a means of investigating that corruption, but now the Home Secretary has blocked publication of the Independent panel report, saying that she wants to review it…

“She has no power in law to do that.

“It is not covered by the Inquiries Act 2005.

“It is not difficult to see why powerful people with very close friends at News International might want to delay or even prevent this publication, so has the Home Secretary, or any of her advisers or officials, had any formal or informal discussion or correspondence on this matter with News UK, with Rebekah Brooks or with Rupert Murdoch? Will she publish the minutes of her and her department’s meetings with representatives of News UK over the past 12 months? If not, will not people conclude that the cover-up is still going on, and that the Conservative party is not the party of law and order, but the party of the cover-up?”

But the Home Secretary reverted to her previous bogus argument, saying,

“The Home Office has not received the report. As I said in response to the urgent question, the Home Office is working with the chair of the panel to agree a date for publication.”

That is not the version of events given by the family of Daniel Morgan, who commented on a “standoff” between the Home Department which was insistent on carrying out this “unnecessary” review, and the Panel which sought to protect its independence and the integrity of the Report.

SNP MP Stuart McDonald then interjected, to ask if the Home Secretary would have the decency to meet with Daniel Morgan’s family and challenged her over the Government’s links with News UK.  Finally, he called on the Government to commit to re-establishing Leveson Part Two – the public inquiry with the powers to explore matters relating to press and police corruption in respect of investigations into Daniel’s murder in more detail.

He said,

“Given the outrageous history of corruption, injustice and delay in this case, the requests by Daniel Morgan’s family are surely entirely reasonable, so will the Home Secretary meet the family? Will she agree that the timetable for the publication of the report should be very short indeed? 

“Will the Minister acknowledge that perceived ties and links between the Home Secretary and news organisations is all the more reason for such an independent process to exist in this case? May we have full disclosure of all the meetings and correspondence between the Home Office and news organisations under investigation by the panel? Finally, if the panel points to the need for Leveson 2 to be revived with far greater powers than the current panel enjoys, will that happen, and if not, why not?”

The Minister refused to agree to a meeting, to publish the minutes of meetings with News UK, or to commit to re-establishing Leveson Part Two.

The debate wore on, with the Government challenged again and again.  The Minister was given every opportunity to provide meaningful answers to dispel any allegations of corruption or improper interference from Rupert Murdoch or others at News UK in the decision to block and “review” the Panel’s Report.  She had none.

Rounding off the debate, Charlotte Nichols MP put the Minister on the spot.

She asked,

“Five police investigations failed to find the person or persons responsible for Daniel’s murder, but they did find evidence of police corruption. Police officers and News UK reporters are alleged to have corrupted these investigations in the 1980s, the 1990s, and the years after 2000. Throughout these 34 years, Daniel’s brother, Alastair Morgan, has led the campaign for justice for Daniel. The Daniel Morgan independent panel was promised access to Metropolitan Police Service files, but not to any material held by News UK. Given News UK employees’ alleged involvement in the cover-up of Daniel’s murder, will the Home Office now re-establish the Leveson part 2 inquiry, which has the necessary power to investigate News UK, or do the Government intend to allow potentially guilty parties in relation to this case to go free?”

A simple question.  But an evasive answer.

“We want the report to be published and the truth to come out… there is nothing further I can add”, the Minister replied.

It seems clear that the Government will stop at nothing to prevent Leveson Part Two from going ahead, and from justice being done.

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