Leveson won't comment on regulation
The judge who carried out the inquiry into press standards has insisted that he had no authority to enter into the debate over the implementation of his report.
Appearing before the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Sir Brian Leveson said that as a judge he could not comment on an issue of political controversy.
MPs on the committee expressed exasperation after he repeatedly refused to say whether rival proposals put forward by the Government and the newspaper industry complied with his recommendations.
However, Sir Brian said that he could not go beyond what he had said in his report.
"I don't think I could do it because I would be entering into a political argument. I could legitimately be criticised for reaching conclusions about matters on which I had not heard evidence or listened to the contrary argument," he said.
The committee chairman John Whittingdale voiced his "frustration" over Sir Brian's refusal to comment further in the face of a political deadlock over the way forward.
"We have reached a position where the Prime Minister told me essentially we are stuck. Both sides are arguing that their version delivers your recommendations, that they will establish a system which is essentially Leveson system," he said.
"You are somebody who has spent 15 months taking evidence, you are the head of an inquiry that cost £5 million, you took evidence from a huge range of people. It would be enormously helpful if in terms of trying to resolve these differences and trying to get an agreement if we could at least get your view on that subject."
Sir Brian, however, told him: "It is all, with great respect, there. I can't unpick that further. I deliberately put it all in so that everybody could read it."
He added: "If you ask me to pick and choose then I come into the problem I'd need to know why, I'd need evidence, I'd need submissions. That's how I work, it is a judicial exercise for me and I've finished and I don't have any authority to do that."
Earlier this week, the Privy Council rejected the industry's proposals for a royal charter establishing a new system of regulation. It will meet again at the end of the month to consider possible changes to the Government's proposed charter.
Asked if he had any regrets about his report, Sir Brian said there was a factual error in the section of the history of newspapers about The Independent which had allowed "much sport".
"That I regret," he said. He added: "There are some typos. It is said there are some minor factual errors."
Sir Brian told the committee: "For all its flaws I am proud of this piece of work. I am not saying it was free of error at all, but it was the very best I could do and it is far more detailed and thorough than I expected I could do in the time in available."
He refused to comment on claims that the fact that one of the lawyers on his inquiry team, Carine Patry Hoskins, had an affair with a barrister representing some of the victims of press intrusion, David Sherborne, represented a conflict of interest.
"I understand that a complaint has been made to the Bar Standards Board about Miss Patry Hoskins. I hope you won't mind if I afford to her the same courtesy of not commenting upon outstanding proceedings I have accorded to everybody else," he said.
Questioned by Tory MP Philip Davies, he insisted that he had learned of their relationship only in March of this year - after Miss Patry Hoskins had finished work on the inquiry.
He said that she had only been involved in questioning clients of Mr Sherborne in late 2011, before their relationship was reported to have begun, and that the final four months of her work had been restricted to the "collation of facts and proof-reading".
"She had no input at all into any of the recommendations on the regulation of the press. All the recommendations that I made were recommendations that I made. I discussed them at the most senior levels of the inquiry but her role was different," he said.