HC Deb 25 January 1993 vol 217 cc700-1
9. Mr. Fabricant

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage whether he has had an opportunity to consider the report of the committee on the conduct of the press chaired by Sir David Calcutt; and whether he will make a statement.

Mr. Brooke

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave earlier today to the question from the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick).

Mr. Fabricant

Although I accept that the Secretary of State has to consider the Calcutt report, which has only just been published, I believe that many of my hon. Friends share my view that the Press Complaints Commission, if it has teeth at all, has milk teeth. Will my right hon. Friend consider either giving canine teeth to the PCC or setting up a more powerful body that could deal with delinquent newspapers?

Mr. Brooke

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's question. He takes a keen interest in these subjects. One of the benefits of the consultation period is that it offers the opportunity for such suggestions to be ventilated.

Mr. Bryan Davies

Does the Secretary of State accept that he would be on far firmer ground in seeking to resist and restrict gross intrusions into the privacy of ordinary individuals if this Administration were committed to introducing a freedom of information Bill?

Mr. Brooke

It will be to the benefit of the hon. Gentleman that, coincidentally, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who has responsibility for these matters, is in the Chamber and will have heard his question.

Mr. Cormack

Does my right hon. Friend agree that a free press is as important to a free society as a free Parliament, but that so is the freedom of any two law-abiding individuals to have a private conversation, in any circumstances and anywhere, without fearing that someone will reproduce it?

Mr. Brooke

Many hon. Members will share my hon. Friend's view and Sir David Calcutt's report dealt with intrusions into the privacy of everyone in the land.

Mrs. Clwyd

May I exercise my own right of reply to correct an inaccuracy? A few moments ago, the Minister said that I am in favour of statutory controls. Does he accept that, until we have a freedom of information Act, the only statutory control on the press of which I am in favour is a statutory right of reply? Will he make that clear and not repeat his mistake of trying to perpetuate an inaccuracy?

Mr. Brooke

The hon. Lady must be grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Staffordshire (Mr. Fabricant) for having tabled the question, which enabled her to reply. I am delighted to have that gloss on what she said earlier and I shall go back to see what she said in the first instance.