Labour Deputy Leader, Harriet Harman MP has told BBC1′s Andrew Marr that Labour has rejected the idea that the failed system of self-regulation of the press be maintained in the wake of the Leveson Inquiry and is giving its backing to a new independent press regulator, underpinned by statute.
Responding, Professor Brian Cathcart, Executive Director of Hacked Off, the campaign for press reform, said:
“We welcome Labour’s clear and unequivocal commitment to support what Lord Leveson proposes, as long as it is sensible and proportionate.
“Labour recognises, as we do, that after fifty years of failed self-regulation and the revelations of the last 12 months, the status quo is simply no longer an option.
“Victims of hacking, harassment and bullying by national newspapers now hope that the Government will seek cross-party agreement for the establishment of a new independent regulator, underpinned by statute.
“The days of newspaper editors acting as judge and jury over their own misdemeanours are over.”
Below is an excerpt from an interview with Harriet Harman, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party on The Andrew Marr Show, 28/10/2012. Watch the show on BBC iPlayer here.
Let me ask you about another highly controversial area, which is press regulation. If Lord Leveson comes through next month and suggests some kind of legal underpinning for a new system, it’s quite clear that he is going to face an absolute barrage of hostility from most of the major newspapers, and they’re already firing the opening salvos at the moment. Is the Labour Party going to stick with what Lord Leveson says, or is the Labour Party going to sit back and think well actually perhaps self-regulation needs to be given another chance?
Well I don’t think self-regulation could be, should be given another chance. And obviously Lord Leveson has heard a great many revelations from the McCanns, the Dowlers, the Watsons. It’s clear that business as usual cannot obtain. And I think it’s disappointing of the newspapers to, before even Leveson has come out, to say we want a status quo because the status quo has failed. There is not a proper press complaints system which ensures that where the press get it wrong, the individual can complain and it will be independently looked at.
The Telegraph, Sunday Telegraph today says you know we don’t want business as usual, but the trouble is once you get statutory regulation of any kind, it’s the beginning, it’s the slippery slope; politicians will over time push for more and more control over the press and it is inevitable that we will have the press shackled by politicians who simply don’t want embarrassing stories to come out.
Well in fact self-regulation is business as usual and that is what has failed, and we don’t want any inhibition on press freedom. I mean I’ve been in opposition long enough to have a view that if the government were to control the press, I mean that’s terrible. I’ve always argued for press freedom. But I think that we need empowering of … We may need a statute to underpin a truly independent press complaints system, a bit like the independent system that deals with complaints against solicitors, so that it’s independent of government but also you don’t have them judging their own cases. But also I do think that we ought to be clear there should be no prior restraint. This is about complaints after …
… the press have reported something, not somebody nosing around in the editorial decisions.
We have seen some prominent politicians come out on the other side of the argument already – Boris Johnson would be a good example. How important do you think it is to get cross-party agreement and do you think it’s possible to get cross-party agreement on this?
Well I think there is every possibility of getting cross-party agreement and that’s what we should have. This should not be a political football. We don’t want the press doing divide and rule amongst politicians. We don’t want politicians wanting to settle scores against the press who’ve been bruising them. I mean we need to have a cool head here. We need to look at what Leveson proposes and hopefully take it forward if it’s sensible and proportionate, but the status quo is not acceptable.
Transcript by the Andrew Marr Show, BBC1, reproduced with thanks.