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Press Complaints Commission

Volume 405: debated on Monday 19 May 2003

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6.

If she will make a statement on her meeting with the chairman of the Press Complaints Commission to discuss its work. [113831]

I met Sir Christopher Meyer, the new chairman of the PCC, on 7 April, and we discussed a number of ways in which the PCC might improve self-regulation. Sir Christopher has recently announced a list of eight proposals, which I am glad to say broadly concur with the issues that we discussed, including areas for reform. He has made clear his open-mindedness on the case for reform and his wish to canvass opinion on that and other suggested areas for improvement.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for the efforts that she has made. Did she tell Sir Christopher that the PCC will continue to fail to inspire public confidence until such time as it changes the committee that writes the code so that we no longer have it made up of 100 per cent. newspaper employees? Secondly, does she agree that the commission should develop a proactive stance so that members of the public can begin to have a reasonable expectation that what they read in news columns will have at least some accuracy and some impartiality, with creative literature being kept to the comment columns?

I thank my hon. Friend and pay tribute to him for his staunch and long-standing defence of press freedom, and for the way in which he has campaigned over many years.

My discussion with Sir Christopher Meyer was broadly in the terms that my hon. Friend suggests. It took place within a context that recognises clearly that self-regulation is just that. The Government have no intention of seeking to interfere with the self-regulation of the press—that is a matter for the press—but in parallel with that, as my hon. Friend describes, is the importance of public confidence and trust in self-regulation. Sir Christopher took both those points seriously.