HC Deb 25 January 1993 vol 217 cc694-5
2. Mr. Winnick

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what proposals he has regarding new regulations regarding the press.

The Secretary of State for National Heritage (Mr. Peter Brooke)

The report of Sir David Calcutt's review of press self-regulation was published on 14 January. I refer the hon. Member to the statement that I made on that day.

Mr. Winnick

While recognising the right of the press to investigate the rich and the powerful—I wish only that it would do so more frequently—when was the last occasion when press barons were criticised in the newspapers that they own or in other newspapers? Does the Secretary of State agree with the views that Lord Gilmour expressed last week outside the Palace when he said that for 10 years Tory newspapers toadied at every opportunity to the Government, especially to Lady Thatcher, and acted as her poodles? Is there not a great deal of hypocrisy coming from the press, especially the tabloid press?

Mr. Brooke

My knowledge of the press over the past 10 years is not so encyclopaedic that I could give a categorical assurance to the hon. Gentleman. Lord Gilmour has been in separate correspondence with me to rebuke me for having misquoted the example of John Wilkes when I first took office.

Mr. Peter Bottomley

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the historic meeting of the 21 editors is an important sign of what newspapers intend to do? Does he agree also that the people who should be even keener than newspaper editors on protecting press freedom are members of this place?

Mr. Brooke

I am in broad agreement with my hon. Friend. I thought that the reaction of editors in terms of the manner in which they wish to see the Press Complaints Commission further changed was extremely encouraging.

Mrs. Clwyd

The Secretary of State will recall that on Friday hon. Members voted to give the Shops (Amendment) Bill a Second Reading. The Government have, in effect, allowed the Bill to move to its Committee stage as a form of consultative process before they introduce their own Bill in the autumn. Will the right hon. Gentleman follow that precedent and agree to give the private Member's Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) the same opportunity when it is debated on Friday? Will he allow it to go to Committee so that we can examine in detail the need for legislation on the right of reply?

Mr. Brooke

When I made my statement on 14 January, I explained the Government's attitude to the Bill being promoted by the hon. Member for Hammersmith. It would be wrong of me in any way to anticipate the views of my right hon. Friend the Chief Whip. However, a consultative process would be welcome—not least to the hon. Lady, who will recall that on 11 January she described the statutory body as a necessary move, but by 14 January she was saying that it was clearly not the answer.