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Press Complaints Commission

Volume 542: debated on Thursday 22 March 2012

3. What assessment he has made of the potential effects on local newspapers of the closure of the Press Complaints Commission. (101299)

The Leveson inquiry was established by the Government last July and will make recommendations to my Department about reform for the system of press regulation. The closure of the Press Complaints Commission is a matter for the industry, but the new structure will apply to all newspapers, local or national.

My local press are watching with interest to see what replaces the PCC. What measures are in place to defend or protect the general public when taking redress against, mainly, the national newspapers? Will the Minister share with the House how many meetings, if any, his Department has had with national newspaper editors or proprietors?

I do not have the details of meetings with national editors, but I am happy to share them with the hon. Gentleman by way of a letter. The Press Complaints Commission mediation procedures will continue during the transit to a new arrangement.

I draw Members’ attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. The Press Complaints Commission is engaging in a pretty ludicrous example of shenanigans at the moment; it is trying to bounce Leveson into some new plan that it is trying to put forward. Will the Minister make it absolutely clear that the only thing that the Government are interested in is what Leveson comes up with—not some shoddy deal struck by the editors?

I am not sure that the hon. Gentleman is being entirely fair. My understanding is that although the final answer lies absolutely with Lord Leveson’s inquiry, Lord Leveson has made it clear that he wants the press to begin to make moves to get their house in order while he considers all the evidence.

The harrowing evidence at the Leveson inquiry from victims of phone hacking and other abuse by the press means that we all want a new press complaints system, which must be independent of politicians and editors and able to enforce its rulings on all newspapers. Does the Minister recognise that the proposals being put forward by Lord Hunt, chair of the Press Complaints Commission, fail to meet either of those tests? Until they do, they will amount to nothing more than a change of name and business as usual. That will simply not be acceptable.

Lord Hunt has put forward his proposals and I urge the right hon. and learned Lady to work with him if she thinks that they are not adequate.