HC Deb 22 February 1993 vol 219 cc666-7
6. Mr. Soley

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what consultations he has held with the Press Complaints Commission on the recent changes made by the commission in its code of conduct.

Mr. Brooke


Mr. Soley

Can the Secretary of State tell us what the Government's policy is? The Government have said that they do not like self-regulation because it is not working, but the Secretary of State has apparently had no talks with the commission to see whether self-regulation can be beefed up. In the past few weeks, we have seen headlines such as "You bitch" in the "Home Alone" case. Sir Allan Green's late wife was approached by the prostitute in the case and the photograph was paid for—if not directly by the press-indirectly either to the prostitute or to the pimp. We have not heard a dicky-bird from the Press Complaints Commission. What makes the Secretary of State think that self-regulation will work if he has not talked to the commission? All the evidence shows a continuing decline in press standards.

Mr. Brooke

The hon. Gentleman knows especially well that the Government have said that their final response to the recent Calcutt report will come after they have had the opportunity to listen to the debates in Committee on the Freedom and Responsibility of the Press Bill and after we have had the opportunity to hear the views of the Select Committee on National Heritage.

The Press Complaints Commission has not asked to see me. A meeting could, of course, take place if I asked to see it. I believe that self-regulation works when the inspiration for it comes from within the body that is doing the self-regulating rather than from outside it.

Mr. Alan Howarth

For those of us who believe in self-regulation the tragedy is that the press has always done too little too late. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the newspaper industry should not rest complacently on the latest changes to the code of conduct, welcome though they are? Does my right hon. Friend agree that the newspaper industry should reconsider carefully the code of conduct proposed in the first Calcutt report? It offers a tighter model of self-regulation than that offered by the relatively easy-going code that the newspaper industry has put together for itself.

Mr. Brooke

I am aware that my hon. Friend will contribute to the Select Committee report, to which we look forward. On the developments that have occurred since the second Calcutt report was published, I have welcomed the evidence that the press is interested in reform of its own procedures. There is still plenty of time before we have to come to a conclusion—after the Select Committee has reported—when we can see whether there are further developments.

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