Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 8 November 2012


Very soon now Lord Justice Leveson will report to Parliament with his recommendations as to how the British press should be regulated. This was the enquiry set up by government following the expose of the phone hacking scandal by certain national newspapers.

At the moment the press is self-regulated. Apart from the Monarchy, it is the last great institution that does not have an external regulator. The Press Complaints Commission to whom we can appeal if traduced by the press is funded by the press and presided over by a board the majority of which are editors. Not exactly impartial you might think.

We do not know what the Leveson enquiry will recommend, but it is likely that press regulation will be beefed up. The issue is whether the press will be placed under a statutory regulator as is the case with most organisations (Offwat for water, Offgen for power generators, Offcom for commercial broadcasters and so on.) The press naturally are resistant of this and are trying to get their retaliation in first. I was interested to read the article by the editor of the Ivybridge News last week, suggesting that press freedom would be crushed to death if Parliament set up an independent regulator.

He will understand it if I take issue with him. Nobody wants to curtail the freedom of the press to dig and probe and publish and expose. But they should do so within the law, without phone hacking or accessing confidential information illegally. Furthermore when the press get it wrong and unfairly traduce a member of the public, there should be proper redress. Now if a major mistake is made by a newspaper in bold print on page one, the Press Complaints Commission – six months later – might order a correction in small print on page 47.

An independent regulator set up by statute – but remaining independent of government like all the others are – would tackle these abuses and might also want to recommend new privacy laws – not to protect MPs (we are fair game) but ordinary members of the public.

We are fortunate to live in a country where the press is free. It is an important part of our democracy. But our press has not always exercised its freedom responsibly. An independent regulator would help us to get the balance right. I hope Leveson will recommend an independent regulator and that Parliament will act swiftly to put it in place.

posted by Gary @ 17:05