Leveson day: what happens when?

Your timetable for today.

After eight months of hearings and 474 witnesses, today's the day we get to see the Leveson report. Here's a timetable of the key events.

8am Ed Miliband and his staff received five copies of the 2,000 page report earlier this morning. David Cameron and Nick Clegg were given copies yesterday. In a piece for the Guardian on Monday, Miliband wrote that the government should act on the report's recommendations provided that they are "reasonable and proportionate".

11am The inquiry's "core participants" and selected members of the media will be given access to the report in a secure "lock-in".

1:30pm The report will be published on the inquiry website and Lord Justice Leveson will make a short statement at the QEII Conference Centre in Westminster. He will not take questions and will not give any interviews.

With Leveson due to fly to Australia this weekend to take part in a conference on privacy regulation and to deliver a series of speeches on the future of the media, MPs may not get a chance to question him before Parliament rises on 20 December. The Times (£) reports that Leveson is "unlikely to be available as he is taking a holiday after making the speeches."

3pm Cameron will gave a Commons statement outlining the government's "direction of travel" and Miliband will respond for Labour. This will be folllowed by questions from MPs.

Nick Clegg will then give a separate statement setting out the Liberal Democrat position and Harriet Harman, in her capacity as shadow culture secretary, will respond for Labour.

Clegg said this morning: "I believe in a vigorous free press holding the powerful to account and not subject to political interference. But a free press does not and cannot mean a press that is free to bully innocent people or free to abuse grieving families. I hope when Lord Justice Leveson gives his statement later today, we’ll remember the reasons why this inquiry was set up."

Lord Justice Leveson at the launch of his inquiry into the press earlier this year. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Getty
Show Hide image

How tribunal fees silenced low-paid workers: “it was more than I earned in a month”

The government was forced to scrap them after losing a Supreme Court case.

How much of a barrier were employment tribunal fees to low-paid workers? Ask Elaine Janes. “Bringing up six children, I didn’t have £20 spare. Every penny was spent on my children – £250 to me would have been a lot of money. My priorities would have been keeping a roof over my head.”

That fee – £250 – is what the government has been charging a woman who wants to challenge their employer, as Janes did, to pay them the same as men of a similar skills category. As for the £950 to pay for the actual hearing? “That’s probably more than I earned a month.”

Janes did go to a tribunal, but only because she was supported by Unison, her trade union. She has won her claim, although the final compensation is still being worked out. But it’s not just about the money. “It’s about justice, really,” she says. “I think everybody should be paid equally. I don’t see why a man who is doing the equivalent job to what I was doing should earn two to three times more than I was.” She believes that by setting a fee of £950, the government “wouldn’t have even begun to understand” how much it disempowered low-paid workers.

She has a point. The Taylor Review on working practices noted the sharp decline in tribunal cases after fees were introduced in 2013, and that the claimant could pay £1,200 upfront in fees, only to have their case dismissed on a technical point of their employment status. “We believe that this is unfair,” the report said. It added: "There can be no doubt that the introduction of fees has resulted in a significant reduction in the number of cases brought."

Now, the government has been forced to concede. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Unison’s argument that the government acted unlawfully in introducing the fees. The judges said fees were set so high, they had “a deterrent effect upon discrimination claims” and put off more genuine cases than the flimsy claims the government was trying to deter.

Shortly after the judgement, the Ministry of Justice said it would stop charging employment tribunal fees immediately and refund those who had paid. This bill could amount to £27m, according to Unison estimates. 

As for Janes, she hopes low-paid workers will feel more confident to challenge unfair work practices. “For people in the future it is good news,” she says. “It gives everybody the chance to make that claim.” 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.