THERESA May yesterday denied claims that News International pressured her into launching a fresh inquiry into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.
The Home Secretary rebuffed suggestions made at the Leveson Inquiry that she was told they would “put her face on the front page every day” until she gave in to their demands for a new investigation.
She insisted phone calls discussing the plans for the Scotland Yard review with former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks and Sun editor Dominic Mohan were at “her instigation”.
Mrs May said that preparations for the new investigation had begun under the previous government and the work was simply coming to fruition when the announcement was made.
She told the inquiry: “Neither Mrs Brooks nor Mr Mohan made any indication of that sort to me.
“The nature of these conversations was to alert them to the fact that the government was taking some action, there was going to be some further work by police here in the UK and to put forward the point that it was very important that the UK authorities were able to work with the Portuguese authorities.”
The inquiry heard that the Home Office’s work was “coming to fruition around this time and obviously the issue was of public interest”.
“The Home Office first started discussing with Acpo [the Association of Chief Police Officers] the possibility of a police review or further police work on this under the previous government,” she said.
The Home Secretary said David Cameron was “interested in this specific issue”, but said she could not recall “having a specific discussion myself” with the Prime Minister about whether the Met should carry out its own review.
Mrs Brooks denied bullying the government over the issue when she appeared before the inquiry earlier this month.
Mrs May, one of the Cabinet ministers to whom Lord Justice Leveson’s report will go directly, declined to be drawn on what specific rules should be brought in to regulate the press.
But she told the inquiry she strongly believed in the freedom of the press and warned against any measures that would compromise that.
She also cautioned against possible plans to allow groups of people to make joint complaints against newspapers.
Earlier, Lord Leveson indicated he might act on the problem, after he told the inquiry he had received representations from transgender, disabled and immigrant groups complaining they were unable to take issue with coverage unless they were specifically named in an article. “It would be necessary to be very careful that it didn’t generate an industry of group complaints,” Mrs May warned.
She also told the inquiry new guidelines that would bring “common sense” to relationships between the police and media have been drawn up.
Acpo guidance recommends officers should not accept gifts, gratuities or hospitality “except if it is of a trivial nature”.
Mrs May said it was important that officers did not put themselves in a position where “people could feel that they are being influenced by the receipt of such gifts”.