HC Deb 30 January 1995 vol 253 cc666-7
3. Sir David Knox

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage when he proposes to publish his White Paper on the regulation of the press.

The Secretary of State for National Heritage (Mr. Stephen Dorrell)

The White Paper on privacy and media intrusion will be published when we have completed our consideration of the issues raised by the proposed criminal and civil remedies.

Sir David Knox

I commend my right hon. Friend's caution, but does he not think that the time has come for the White Paper to be published, especially in view of the low standards currently applied by many newspapers?

Mr. Dorrell

I certainly agree that the time for consideration must be drawing to a close. No purpose is served by indefinite delay, and I very much hope that we shall be able to present proposals in the not too distant future.

Mr. Soley

Is the Secretary of State saying that we really have reached the stage of drinking-up time in the last chance saloon?

Mr. Dorrell

No; I am saying that we are thinking about it.

Mr. Jessel

May I remind my right hon. Friend that, when the Select Committee on National Heritage considered privacy and the media two years ago, the Lord Chancellor personally gave evidence to the Committee and said that we should recommend the appointment of a press ombudsman?

Mr. Dorrell

My hon. Friend mentions one of many current proposals. As a member of the Select Committee, he will know that many ways of improving the performance of the press in respecting individuals' right to privacy have been suggested. It is not a matter of controversy in the media; indeed, it is written into the Press Complaints Commission code. The question is how that undertaking can be given more tangible form.