HC Deb 22 February 1993 vol 219 c672
13. Mr. Austin Mitchell

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage if he will introduce Government proposals for legislation arising from the Calcutt report.

Mr. Brooke

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the statement that I made to the House on 14 January on publication of the review of press self-regulation.

Mr. Mitchell

Why does the Secretary of State not call off the protracted farce and admit that he does not have an idea in his head as to what to do, that he is not allowed a policy by the puppet-masters in the Tory press and that it is impossible to do anything without infringing the freedom of the press? His strategy is to wait until the storm passes and attempt to kill off the Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith in the process.

Mr. Brooke

The hon. Gentleman, who knows how fond I am of him, dramatically oversimplifies the issue. He knows that his hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith would agree that his Bill is directed to a limited part of the issue, whereas we are looking at a wider one.

Mr. Peter Bottomley

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the best way to deal with most of the occasional excesses of the press is by public criticism and that one of the last things to do is to tie the press up in legislative knots, which would mean that it would lose the power to do good at the expense of trying to stop it doing things that are wrong?

Mr. Brooke

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that suggestion, which has much merit and wisdom. He will be aware of the evidence given by our noble Friend the Lord Chancellor to the Select Committee on National Heritage last week. The Lord Chancellor expressed the concern that a legal route would be made overcomplicated by lawyers.