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Leveson clashes with Education Secretary over Press Freedom

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Leveson clashes with Education Secretary over Press Freedom

Post  Panda on Sun 17 Jun - 7:00

4:35am UK, Sunday June 17, 2012

The judge leading the investigation into press ethics complained to the UK's most senior civil servant about claims made by the Education Secretary that the inquiry was preventing press freedom.
Lord Justice Leveson spoke to Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood about Michael Gove's comments that the inquiry had created a "chilling atmosphere" towards the media.

In a telephone call with Sir Heywood, Lord Leveson allegedly called for the Tory to be "gagged" and warned the inquiry was being undermined.

Sir Jeremy is reported to have told Prime Minister David Cameron about the conversation.

:: Read more on the Leveson Inquiry here

"Our clear impression was that he was spitting tacks with Gove and was ready to resign unless the Minister was told to shut up," a Government source told the Daily Mail.

Michael Gove was apparently worried about freedom of speech

Mr Gove, a former journalist at the News Corporation-owned Times, told a Parliamentary Press Gallery lunch in February that he saw "dangers" in the inquiry into press cultures, practices and ethics.

Lord Justice Leveson instructed his officials to compile a full report of the comments and he phoned Sir Jeremy within 24 hours, it was reported.

Called to give evidence at the inquiry last month, the Conservative Cabinet Minister went on to make an even more robust assessment about the potential outcome of the probe, warning the judge that inquiry recommendations were often "applied in a way that the cure is worse than the disease".

The pair then clashed when Mr Gove raised concerns about restraints on the "precious liberty" of freedom of speech. In an apparent slap down, Lord Justice Leveson said: "I do not need to be told about the importance of freedom of speech, I really don't."

Earlier this week he opened the hearings by warning it was "essential" cross-party political support for his investigation was "not jeopardised".

A Leveson Inquiry spokesman said: "Lord Justice Leveson is conducting a judicial inquiry and, in that capacity, will not comment on press stories outside the formal proceedings of the inquiry."

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