A free press


I am all in favour of a free press. There will be times when they get it wrong, and will need to apologise. There may be times when journalists break the law. They should be punished like anyone else. There will be many times when they publish the inconvenient, the badly spun or the difficult to take. But I would rather live in a society where there is a free press than one where there is not. Sometimes they get their facts wrong, sometimes they express opinions I have good reasons not to  agree with, but that is no case for regulating them.

Labour and Lib Dems are now keen to set up statutory regulation for the press. I do not like that idea. Labour’s excessively complex and extensive regulation of banks and financial services did not prevent the worst crash of the last eighty years occurring on their watch. The EU’s excessive regulation of our energy does  not deliver enough cheap energy to homes and factories. No amount of health and safety regulation can prevent all untimely and unwelcome deaths in our hospitals. We need to be realistic about the limits of what regulation can achieve.

We also need to recognise that too much of the wrong kind of regulation can divert attention from regulators and governments doing what only they can do. The excessive detailed regulation of the Brown era meant they did not regulate the quantity of money, credit and capital that needed controlling to prevent boom and bubble, though they had  powers to do so and were advised to do so by some of us.

So why do Labour think they would be any better at regulating the press? What action would they have taken to stop phone hacking in  its infancy? How could a government regulator be truly independent of the government which has such a close relationship with newspapers? I will vote for the least intrusive regulation on offer, as I am suspicious of the motives behind the wish to regulate, and sceptical of the ability of any new regulators to get it right if appointed.

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  1. Single Acts
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 6:25 am | Permalink

    “So why do Labour think they would be any better at regulating the press?”

    I suspect you know why Labour want to do this. The last Labour administration had their PR thugs threaten and cajole editors, how much more control could they exert with a statutory framework? Once established, tweaking it would be easy and control could become total.

    You may have seem the SKY news journalist detained by the police yesterday in China. I am confident that you as an individual, would not like to see such powers in the UK. I suspect however that the Chavez lovers and Castro supporters in the Labour party would be far more comfortable with it as long as they were the ones in control.

    • wab
      Posted March 16, 2013 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

      “The last Labour administration had their PR thugs threaten and cajole editors.”

      The previous Tory government was pretty good at this game as well, in particular with regard to the BBC, shall we say. All governments are pretty much the same.

      “I suspect however that the Chavez lovers and Castro supporters in the Labour party would be far more comfortable with it as long as they were the ones in control.”

      I suspect that the Pinochet lovers and the Botha supporters in the Tory party would be far more comfortable with it as long as they were the ones in control.

      • Single Acts
        Posted March 17, 2013 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

        Yes, I agree, your comments are quite fair.

    • uanime5
      Posted March 16, 2013 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

      The last Labour administration had their PR thugs threaten and cajole editors, how much more control could they exert with a statutory framework?

      That’s a lie and you know it. That’s why newspapers were freely able to criticise Labour.

      You’ve also ignored that broadcasters, such as Sky News, are subject to the same type of regulations that Labour is proposing should apply to the press.

    • sjb
      Posted March 16, 2013 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

      Single Acts wrote: You may have seem the SKY news journalist detained by the police yesterday in China. I am confident that you as an individual, would not like to see such powers in the UK.

      (this can happen here -ed)

  2. Ian Hills
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 6:38 am | Permalink

    I get very confused on whether we’re living in a nanny state or a police state. Or superstate, as in the EU’s proposed “media councils”.

  3. Leslie Singleton
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 6:41 am | Permalink

    It’s a very poor show the way things work in a hung parliament especially when there are people of Clegg’s (lack of) character around. Transparently, he sees the chances of a Tory outright victory as increasingly (Do I mean decreasingly?) small now, which in itself means there is a good chance of another coalition, so he is starting the process of cosying up to Labour. Not a pretty sight. And all because Cameron made the idiotically wrong call of allowing him equal prominence on that pre-election TV thinggie. For that alone (but it is not alone) Cameron’s judgement is damned for all time.

    • lifelogic
      Posted March 16, 2013 at 10:56 am | Permalink

      If only Cameron had given me or JR a two minute call and asked should I break my cast iron guarantee, should I put a fake green, big state, pro EU agenda to the nation, should I give Clegg equal TV billing – I could have put him right in seconds and the Tories would now have a clear majority, good growth, triple A and a good chance of winning in 2015. But alas he blew it.

      Mind you had Major asked me as Chancellor, should I go into the ERM or sign Maastricht, then we could have saved millions of jobs, people houses, destroyed lives and some democracy.

      They never take notice of anyone sensible alas. It is in their genes to drive over the cliff. Emotion over reason, religion over logic every time.

      Reply I did advise Mr Major against the ERM, and advised Mr Cameron against a three way TV debate.

      • Leslie Singleton
        Posted March 17, 2013 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

        Comment on Reply–I am glad to hear you say you advised Cameron against a three-way debate. Apart from his judgement, his monumental conceit didn’t help.

      • lifelogic
        Posted March 17, 2013 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

        Good for you JR, why on earth was he so daft not to follow your sound and obvious advice? Have you ever asked him that?

    • uanime5
      Posted March 16, 2013 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

      You’ve forgotten that Clegg did support the Conservatives by voting against Labour’s mansion tax, even though the Lib Dems are in favour of such a tax.

      • Leslie Singleton
        Posted March 17, 2013 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

        unanime–What has that got to do with whether it was right to agree to a three-way debate? Not that what you say ever has to be logical or relevant. Milliband could have presented the policy as Labour’s (don’t worry about the truth intervening) and Clegg as his puppy dog, which is why Clegg supported Cameron.

  4. lifelogic
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 6:48 am | Permalink

    Indeed you are right. Good, well directed but light regulation is what is needed. Not endlessly providing copies of certified passports and utility bills but ensuring the banks are not over geared, manage risk and can withstand shocks.

    Endless yellow signs saying wet floors being cleaned, just left out all the time to be tripped over.

    Scaffolding being needed for even minor jobs that were before done with a ladder, mean far more man hours and often more net actual risks.

    Much health and safety and regulation is totally counterproductive and about pointless bit of paper rather than controlling real risks, this diverts attention for the real risks. Worse still it is a job creation scheme for parasitic bureaucrats, the legal profession, box tickers, insurance companies, consultancies and the fining industries. It destroys jobs and often make things far more dangerous on balance.

    But we have a world run by the state sector and for the state sector under this dreadful government so it will doubtless get even worse. Cameron already thinks governments should even fix insurance premiums by some gender equality religion and bank bonuses – I assume he thinks that the mere law will make woman drive like men and men live as long as women.

    Perhaps we need a law to address the lack of good female chess players too, clearly from the figures there must be huge anti female discrimination in chess. Perhaps lighter pieces are needed here or pinker more curvy and feminine chess pieces by law? I am sure he can frame some daft new law. After all gender “equality” is what matters, not jobs or growth, is it not Dave?

    • lifelogic
      Posted March 16, 2013 at 8:55 am | Permalink

      Then again it might just be that most women have more sense than to waste all their time and mental efforts playing chess.

      • sok
        Posted March 16, 2013 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

        I think, IMHO that women do not need a chess board, they can do it in their heads.

      • stred
        Posted March 16, 2013 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

        Re. equality. Following the ‘Rome’s Got Holiness Contest’ this week, before the winner turned out to be a nice old boy who want’s to invade the Malvinas, it emerged that our English old boy was not allowed to vote because he was over 80. Yet he looks and sounds younger than most of the others. And the Scottish one could not vote because he spoke out in favour of the new Pope’s views, but was found to have experience of the issue. How unequal can you get.

        I asked a scaffolder recently why he was wearing a safety harness but not clipping it to the scaffolding. He said they make movement difficult, so they wear them and clip them if anyone turns up to inspect. The harnesses have to be taken off when climbing up and down anyway and this is the dangerous bit.

    • Bob
      Posted March 16, 2013 at 10:09 am | Permalink

      “Then again it might just be that most women have more sense than to waste all their time and mental efforts playing chess.”

      It puzzles me that women are considered equal to men in the Fire, Police and armed services, but in football and tennis etc. they are considered (different-ed) to men.

      Reply: A lot of emergency service work requires skills and abilities other than personal muscle power, whereas different physical attributes have a bigger impact on certain sporting events so there are women and men competitions.

    • bigneil
      Posted March 17, 2013 at 9:01 am | Permalink

      of course chess is played by the male section of society – -we have to do something with our time while we all know that the women do such an incredible job of running the house, looking after the family, maybe having a job outside too – and looking fantastically smart, well dressed (etc ed) – – – – -or it could just be a “getout” from nagging.

  5. Steve Cox
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    The British government is already far too big and intrusive, not to mention far too expensive. Independent bodies created and bankrolled by the government are a laughable idea, only the most politically naive mind would give credence to such an notion. Anyway, we were promised in 2010 that for every new law enacted by the coalition, an old one would be repealed. So what are they going to repeal if they pass a new law here? I know, they’ve already forgotten that promise and couldn’t care less about it any more.

    • JoolsB
      Posted March 16, 2013 at 9:11 am | Permalink

      Not only is the UK Government too big but 119 MPs sitting at Westminster are part-time on full time wages and expenses. Now Scotland, Wales & NI have their own parliaments, something denied to England, the MPs they send to Westminster have no say on most matters for their own constituents who sent them there, devolved matters being decided at Holyrood, Cardiff & Stormont but they have 100% say on matters which affect only England where not one person voted for them. If they couldn’t meddle in English only matters they would be sitting on their hands all day with virtually nothing to do.

      If Labour & the Lib Dems manage to get their way on Levenson it could be that it passes only with the support of 59 Scottish (& NI) MPs despite it only applying to England and Wales. Yet again we could have regulation forced on England even if our elected MPs with English seats vote against as we did with the introduction of tuition fees. Take the Scottish & NI votes away and over 300 Tory MPs would allow Cameron to get his way.

      If Labour and the LibDums idea of press regulation goes ahead only thanks to non-accountable MPs voting for it, it will be thanks to Cameron and the Tory party refusing to address the English Question. Of course the other much worse thing they are doing by not addressing the undemocratic manner in which England is governed both politically and financially is handing England over to an even more anti-English Labour party on a plate come 2015 whether she votes for them or not.

      • The PrangWizard
        Posted March 16, 2013 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

        If these unaccountable Scottish and NI MPs vote at all we will have another constitutional and democratic insult directed at the English. I would hope that they will have the decency not even to attend the debate.
        Will any English MPs speak on this ‘English Question’? It will be a perfect opportunity to do so if these MPs do turn up, even if they don’t, to illustrate the absolute necessity of an English parliament.
        It has been said that the debate on the press is of considerable constitutional importance – the question of English self-determination is just as important, perhaps more so.

      • P O Pensioner
        Posted March 17, 2013 at 10:44 am | Permalink

        I agree entirely. As I said in a Post a few days ago we are controlled by a minority. The denial of democracy for England will not go away.

  6. Martyn G
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    I entirely agree with you, John. The Lib/Lab cabal proposals would probably soon morph into full censorship of the news media as we have seen in the past, for example, as in the USSR. If it goes through and the press is effectively stifled and only able to print that which the government and its lackeys agree to, the next logical step would have to be censorship of the internet much like does China and other dictatorships attempt to do.

    • uanime5
      Posted March 16, 2013 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

      Given that the regulations on broadcasters hasn’t morphed into full censorship it’s clear that your complains about similar regulations for the press are little more than scaremongering.

    • Mike Stallard
      Posted March 16, 2013 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

      Did you hear those ladies on Question Time on Radio 4? They want to tidy up everything and make it safe. One of them was even talking about cleaning up and controlling the internet for heaven’s sake!

  7. Nina Andreeva
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    You really think that you have a “free press” in the UK to begin with? It was a common complaint of Soviet dissidents once they had made it over to the West, that the press was here was not much different to what they were used too, it that the papers here also say the same thing. Here is a little test for you when did any of the “quality” papers (inc “The Daily Telegraph” ) really deviate from the agenda of the liberal metropolitan elite, save a couple of inches given over to a columnist “who has an alternative view”?

    • Jon
      Posted March 16, 2013 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

      A fair point, the Rochdale or a northern child sex ring anyway I remember reading about at least 10 years ago on the internet. That and FGM got next to nothing in the mainstream media because of community cohesion and the threat of being labelled a racist at the time. Its good things have changed but that was a change of government attitude rather than the mainstream press.

  8. Andy Baxter
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    Any MP who advocates and ultimately votes for press censorship, regulation, control of any kind is an advocate and friend of tyranny……therefore an enemy and nemesis of liberty, once the press is regulated, and it will be, next will be blogs and any criticism of The Powers that Be (TPB)…..

    welcome to 1984….

    “ Justice Leveson was complaining about a press that was out of control. Well, the only thing that’s worse than that is a press that’s under control.” – Audience member on BBC Question Time, 14th March 2013

    “The secret of freedom lies in educating people, whereas the secret of tyranny is in keeping them ignorant.”

    “Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive”
    C.S. Lewis

    “There is no greater tyranny than that which is perpetrated under the shield of the law and in the name of justice.”
    Charles de Secondat

    “A good deal of tyranny goes by the name of protection”
    Crystal Eastman

    “Withholding information is the essence of tyranny. Control of the flow of information is the tool of the dictatorship.”
    Bruce Coville

    • lifelogic
      Posted March 16, 2013 at 9:12 am | Permalink


      “The secret of freedom lies in educating people, whereas the secret of tyranny is in keeping them ignorant.”

      Hence the state funded BBC and all the pro EU, ever bigger state, ever more taxes, ever more regulation and the fake “renewable”, “sustainable” quack science being rammed down our throats by them – at our expense.

    • oldtimer
      Posted March 16, 2013 at 9:31 am | Permalink

      To your excellent list of quotes there should be added Dr Goebbel`s comment on the Big Lie – Goebbels knew a thing or two about propaganda:
      “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”
      Dr Goebbels

      This is another reason why the press should not be shackled by parliamentary regulation.

      • uanime5
        Posted March 16, 2013 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

        You seem to have forgotten that broadcasters are already subject to regulations that are similar to the ones proposed by Labour for the press without suffering from any of the problems you mentioned.

    • A different Simon
      Posted March 16, 2013 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

      I haven’t bothered to watch Question time for a few years now but caught the end of the one you are talking about from Wales .

      It would seem that the Welsh audience was made up of people who are not deceived by the Westminster LibLabCon pretense like the majority of people in England are .

      Another audience member asked :-
      – “who lent the money which the country is supposed to owe and how did they get the money to lend to us in the first place” .

      I initially thought the panel misunderstood the question but now I think they deliberately ducked the issue as they spun it into “spending has to be paid for from taxes” .

    • uanime5
      Posted March 16, 2013 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

      “If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you’re mis-informed.”
      ― Mark Twain

      “The best fiction is far more true than any journalism.”
      ― William Faulkner

      “A newspaper is a device for making the ignorant more ignorant and the crazy crazier.”
      ― H.L. Mencken

      “The average newspaper, especially of the better sort, has the intelligence of a hillbilly evangelist, the courage of a rat, the fairness of a prohibitionist boob-jumper, the information of a high school janitor, the taste of a designer of celluloid valentines, and the honor of a police-station lawyer.”
      ― H.L. Mencken

      “Advertisements contain the only truths to be relied on in a newspaper.”
      ― Thomas Jefferson

      “Newspaper editors are men who separate the wheat from the chaff, and then print the chaff.”
      ― Adlai E. Stevenson

      “Freedom of the press in Britain is freedom to print such of the proprietor’s prejudices as the advertiser’s won’t object to.”
      ― Helen Swaffer

      In conclusion the purpose of the press is to sell papers, not inform people.

      Any MP who advocates and ultimately votes for press censorship, regulation, control of any kind is an advocate and friend of tyranny……therefore an enemy and nemesis of liberty, once the press is regulated, and it will be, next will be blogs and any criticism of The Powers that Be (TPB)…..

      So you consider all the MPs who voted for broadcaster regulations to be enemies of liberty? Along with everyone working in the BBFC.

  9. Mike Stallard
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    Did the FSA stop the 2008 crash? Did the Ofsted stop the scandal of dumbing down of A and GCSE levels? Are Ofgem stopping the lights going out?

    Is the Pope South American?

    I mean, really.

    • lifelogic
      Posted March 16, 2013 at 9:14 am | Permalink

      Did health and safely mean thousands of people are not killed by the NHS and a lack of water, food and basic care?

      • APL
        Posted March 16, 2013 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

        Did the F(ood) S(tandards) A(uthority) stop the adulteration of meat products?

      • Mike Stallard
        Posted March 16, 2013 at 4:58 pm | Permalink


      • P O Pensioner
        Posted March 17, 2013 at 10:54 am | Permalink

        The confidentiality agreements the NHS management forced whistleblowers to sign would probably not have become public if the press were government regulated.

        I can see why Milliband and Clegg want government control of the press so that their mistakes and lies are not examined in the public gaze. What a pathetic bunch of third rate politicians they are!

        • uanime5
          Posted March 17, 2013 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

          Given that these confidentiality agreements were also mentioned by broadcasters, who are subject to similar regulations to the ones proposed for the press, it’s clear that even if the press was regulated by an independent body they would have been able to report this. Your scaremongering is fooling no one.

    • Bob
      Posted March 16, 2013 at 10:25 am | Permalink

      Does BBC’s Royal Charter make it balanced and impartial?

      • uanime5
        Posted March 17, 2013 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

        It makes it more impartial than Sky News.

        • Bob
          Posted March 17, 2013 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

          You’re too clever for me Unanime5, I didn’t even know that Sky News was operating under a Royal Charter.

          You learn something new every day.

        • Mark
          Posted March 18, 2013 at 11:35 am | Permalink

          Does it? It’s slightly less partial than C4 News (which also has a public service remit enshrined in law).

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted March 16, 2013 at 11:15 am | Permalink

      Mike–Personally I think there are two separate concepts that are being conflated to everybody’s confusion. The first is Press Regulation and the second is enforcing other laws that apply generally, such as Invasion of Privacy and Bribery and what have you. IMHO the amount of Press Regulation needed is
      zero but the other laws are very important and should be enforced robustly. Anybody hacking somebody’s phone should be guilty not just journalists. Never quite understood why we needed Leveson nor his 1000 page Report.

      • APL
        Posted March 17, 2013 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

        Leslie Singleton: ” such as Invasion of Privacy and Bribery and what have you.”

        The whole edifice has been erected on the foundation of ‘phone hacking’. What is phone hacking?

        It is using the manufacturers default 4 digit pin, often 0000 to access voice mails left on the mobile phone. You simply dial the mobile number and enter the pin.

        So why is this a problem? Because people who use these services don’t bother to change the default pin to a unique number.

        That is is, the whole foundation of the ‘phone hacking’ scandal.

        That applies to the pie man from Hull – how is he qualified to run an office of state if he cannot be bothered to change his mobile phone vociemail pin number – is a question that ought to be answered.

        Now, the next question, why haven’t the police charged more journalists with perversion of the course of justice, or tampering with evidence – if that is what they have been doing?

        Because to do that, would be an effective deterrent but mean that the whole ‘regulation of the press’ furore is unnecessary.

  10. matthu
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    You only need to consider regimes such as Zimbabwe and apartheid-era South Africa to realise the incidious nature of state regulation and how it can in time be used to stifle any and all fair criticism of government or police or any other state organs.

    Of course, absence of state regulation will not absolutely guarantee fair criticism: look at the complete absence of criticism of e.g. the Climate Act and much of what the the EU gets up to in many of our important media today.

    But this simply makes it all the more important to have a free Internet and hence all the more concerning that the EU is trying to regulate what we can access on the Internet (under the guise – initially – of gender equality of course) and Australia seems to be trying to go down the same route.

  11. Andyvan
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    No regulation of any industry is as good as the free market. Regulation protects and entrenches existing players, hides problems until they become too big to hide, forces up costs and completely fails to live up to the promises to “protect” the public.
    Regulation is force and force ends up producing exactly the opposite of the desired result. Freedom is always better than force.

    • A different Simon
      Posted March 16, 2013 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

      Andyvan ,

      Your comment seems to follow political dogma .

      – Conservative political dogma : – All regulation is red tape .

      – Labour political dogma :- Confuses red tape with regulation .

      Consequently we end up with too much red tape and inadequate regulation .

      I invest in the onshore oil and gas sector to provide for my old age .

      One of the biggest risks in the UK is that an incompetent or unscrupulous operator will provide the excuse for closing the industry closed down .

      There is an awful lot of regulation in place and it goes a long way towards dissuading incompetent on unscrupulous operators from entering the market place .

      The last thing any of the onshore operators want is for regulation to be relaxed . They want omissions dealt with now so they can’t be brought up later , they want verification that they are complying with these rules .

      It shouldn’t just be incumbent on the operators to convince local communities that they are safe . The regulators should be disabusing the lies that fraccing is unregulated etc and that operators can pump what they like down a well and dispose of it how they like .

      Lack of proper regulation and enforcement is killing the AIM exchange .
      Osborne if he was not so naive would know this but instead he gets persuaded to give it a blood transfusion of suckers and put it on steroids by making such shares eligible to be held in an ISA .

      The regulation which is in place ostensibly to protect unsophisticated developers is merely designed to ensure sophisticated developers make money at virtually no risk .

    • uanime5
      Posted March 16, 2013 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

      The free market has been proven to be much worse than regulation. It was only due to regulations that the monopolies and cartels formed by the free market were destroyed. A lack of regulation is a far greater protection for large companies than too much regulation.

      • APL
        Posted March 17, 2013 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

        uanime5: “The free market has been proven to be much worse than regulation.”

        No it hasn’t.

        Giving you the benefit of the doubt, what you may be confusing, is your desired outcome and the outcome the free market produces.

        The ‘free market’ is only the aggregate of the wishes and decision of everyone in the market. It cannot be wrong – it can only produce a result you dislike.

        • Leslie Singleton
          Posted March 17, 2013 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

          APL–Look forward to unanime telling you that the free market (or more usually “the markets”) is only dabbled in by the rich, including greedy employers and if not them then people who have received inheritances, and others who have the necessary time, and as such the downtrodden poor are not getting their views factored in so the relative wishes and decisions are not those of everyone so should be ignored.

      • APL
        Posted March 18, 2013 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

        unime5 : ” monopolies and cartels formed by the free market

        Correction: formed in the free market.

        It is of course axiomatic that if a cartel is operating in a market it isn’t a free market.

        Leslie Singleton: “Look forward to unanime telling you ..”

        I have long come to the conclusion that if uanime5 says a thing, that thing is invariably incorrect.

  12. stred
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    The most insidious part of the proposals and current prosecutions is the attempt to close down the exposure of wrong doing in their departments by civil servants and police.

    • uanime5
      Posted March 16, 2013 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

      Do you have any evidence to support this claim? Thought not.

      • oldtimer
        Posted March 18, 2013 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

        Apparently there were over sixty calls for an enquiry into the Staffordshire hospital deaths before one was actually conducted.

      • oldtimer
        Posted March 18, 2013 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

        Later on I notice that matthu has reminded us of the BBC`s (expensive) efforts to hide legitimate requests under FOIA rules.

  13. M Davis
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    …I will vote for the least intrusive regulation on offer…

    Thank you, JR!

    • lifelogic
      Posted March 16, 2013 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

      Good – Needless to say the ironically named Liberal Democrats will not.

  14. alan Wheatley
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    As to what regulation can achieve, I was particular struck by what Mervyn King said in giving evidence to a select committee the other day: it is not the purpose of banking regulation to prevent banks from failing.

  15. Alan
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    I hope that Mr Redwood and other MPs will bear in mind that we need the government, newspapers, police, and influential and rich businesses to be checks and balances on one another, not all joining together in a conspiracy that excludes the voters.

    I think we need newspapers that are a check on government and police, government that is a check on newspapers and police, and police that are a check on government and newspapers. I think business, including newspapers, should be prevented from secret collaboration or influence with government or police.

    I don’t like ‘country suppers’ where the government and the newspapers get together and decide what public policy will be. I don’t like police taking secret payments from newspapers.

    The current system of regulation has not, in my opinion, worked: there was too much secret influence on public affairs. So a change is, in my view, definitely needed.

    • matthu
      Posted March 16, 2013 at 9:28 am | Permalink

      “I don’t like ‘country suppers’ where the government and the newspapers get together and decide what public policy will be. I don’t like police taking secret payments from newspapers.”

      Equally, I don’t like the freedom that the BBC has to conceal such meetings with government or green lobbyists from FOIA requests all in the name of journalism. Not when they are a state sanctioned broadcaster.

      • lifelogic
        Posted March 16, 2013 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

        Indeed – nor all the insider clique recruiting that goes on at the BBC often without a proper, fair, or impartial process.

      • uanime5
        Posted March 16, 2013 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

        FOI requests only apply to the Government, not every aspect of the state. The FOI Act clearly states this several times.

        • matthu
          Posted March 18, 2013 at 11:38 am | Permalink

          I think you may be badly informed there, uanime5.

          Under the Freedom of Information Act and the Environmental Information Regulations you have a right to request any recorded information held by a public authority, such as a government department, local council or state school. Environmental information requests can also be made to certain non-public bodies carrying out a public function.

          So the FOIA is wider than you outline above. The quoted paragraph comes from http://www.ico.gov.uk/for_the_public/official_information.aspx so I am assuming this is accurate.

    • Roger Farmer
      Posted March 16, 2013 at 9:33 am | Permalink

      Those newspapers not invited to the country suppers have grounds to investigate unhealthy relationships. Policemen on the take are criminals, the law is there to deal with them. In all these relationships, which are inevitable, integrity must reign supreme. We are all human and subject to all sorts of foibles, but ultimately we need to know where to draw the line or suffer the consequences of crossing it.

    • Mark
      Posted March 16, 2013 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

      So long as we have Le Canard Enchaîné equivalents that report on these goings on (e.g. Guido Fawkes website), we have some protection. It’s when such meetings are themselves a secret that we face danger.

  16. Roger Farmer
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    Totalitarian , and in terms of Europe, mostly socialist regimes, exist by control. Read George Orwell 1984. Such regimes invariably rot from within. They work on the premiss that there is one rule for those in control and a raft of rules for those not in control. (examples of Lib Dem and Labour hypocrisy left out-ed)
    Conservative philosophy tends to look for gradual improvement for all in society and relies upon the law to curb the excessess. Socialism in the UK does not want the prying eye of the press searching out all their peccadilloes. Where would Stalin have been without control of the press.
    On balance I would say leave it to the law as it is now, but ensure that going to law against an offending press is not for the wealthy alone. The legal profession has made a goldmine out of accidents perhaps they should grub among the libel laws.

  17. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    I too “am suspicious of the motives behind the wish to regulate”. I think the word ‘regulate’ should be changed to ‘control’. Labour has long felt that the press is hostile to them and can’t be trusted with statutory regulation. The LibDems are anything but liberal and are now overtly showing their intentions from 2015; the LibLab coalition beckons. They will do anything to keep their government jobs after the next election, knowing that Cameron is too weak to stop them.

  18. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    Have just written a piece on why I think regualtion is already in abundance , however the wrong type of control is applied. Trash should not be allowed to be published which ruins peoples lives. There is far too much sensationalism . Reality should not be subjugated at the expense of fictional hype.
    It is hype rather than rational, reasonable thinking which has allowed this country to go on living on borrowed money under the auspices of prosperity . Borrowed money is not prosperity. A timely jog at the age of 34 by a solicitor emphasised the fact that a mortgage does not mean I own my own home .Many are living in a state where they believe borrowing is owning. The press hyped the good times..they did not exist. Hacking is not solely the criminal activity of the press . In my opinion hacking is rife where a fast buck is to be made out of others hard work and lack of support . Criminals will not support the honest.

    • Bob
      Posted March 16, 2013 at 10:34 am | Permalink

      Mobile phone voice mail can be protected by using a PIN.

      A simple solution for the “hacked off” brigade, so no need to change the law because a few people were too lazy to set a PIN.

  19. Acorn
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    Do any of these proposals include a “statutory right of reply”. Most of Europe has such protection that aligns with Article 10 of the ECHR. Naturally the UK elite have avoided its proletariat discovering such facts; Leveson dismissed it for reasons which were unconvincing. Now, our government tells us that the UK is always right, and the rest of Europe always get it wrong, don’t we. Fortunately we are still connected to the ECHR which can protect us little people, from our own government ignoring us at every opportunity. In 1974 the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted a Resolution on the Right of Reply (Res (74) 26). It was recommended that “as a minimum,” that:

    “In relation to information concerning individuals published in any medium, the individual concerned shall have an effective possibility for the correction, without undue delay, of incorrect facts relating to him which he has a justified interest in having corrected, such corrections being given, as far as possible, the same prominence as the original publication.”

    Vitrenko v Ukraine (Decision of 15 December 2008). “… the Court bears in mind the positive obligation on the State to ensure that persons subjected to defamation have a reasonable opportunity to exercise their right to reply by submitting a response to defamatory information in the same manner as it was disseminated.”

  20. Iain Gill
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 9:32 am | Permalink


    I sympathise with what you say but am not convinced. As far as abuse of the press I would like ordinary citizens to have as much practical ability to resolve abuses against them as the Elton Johns of this world do. Those who have had close family members killed and abuse from the press really deserve better.

    In the old days I happened to end up close to where the Princess of Wales was and I thought the numbers of press cars racing after her were completely out of hand. I have seen similar more recently with other individuals being chased by the press.

    On the whole I would prefer proper freedom of speach legislation as per the USA where folk like me can say what we really feel, to equalise the balance of power between the rich and powerful and the rest of us.

    So nothing here is going to fix it.

    • uanime5
      Posted March 16, 2013 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

      On the whole I would prefer proper freedom of speach legislation as per the USA where folk like me can say what we really feel, to equalise the balance of power between the rich and powerful and the rest of us.

      In the USA newspapers can say whatever they like about people, whether it’s true or false, and the person injured by these claims has no recourse unless they can prove that these claims were malicious. The system in the USA is far more rotten than the system in the UK as it means that the poor have no way to protect themselves from being ruined by journalists.

      • Leslie Singleton
        Posted March 17, 2013 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

        unanime–Your hatred of America shines through (I had my chance to stay there but declined you will be pleased to know) as ever and is no doubt a major part of your pro EU stance on absolutely everything. Please do not forget to tell us how you see the Cyprus fiasco. I suspect you will find a way to say it was all the fault of The City of London

  21. nTropywins
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    “So why do Labour think they would be any better at regulating the press?”

    They don’t. It is just cynical populist opportunism. They are politicians. Power at any price.

    PS. Have you noticed that the leader of the Labour party seems to model himself on the Harry Enfield character, Tim Tim Nice But Dim?

  22. Robert K
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    Leveson has demonstrated the excesses of the press and the scale of the problem is flagged by the fact numerous journalists have been arrested and some imprisoned. This proves that regulation is not necessary – existing laws and protocols have rooted out the problem. The motives of those who want regulation of the press are irrelevant – the consequence of state regulation will be choking off of free speech.
    I am utterly opposed to state regulation of the press. It really would be the last nail in the coffin for liberty in this already state-benighted country.

    • Atlas
      Posted March 16, 2013 at 10:30 am | Permalink

      “Amen” to all you say.

    • uanime5
      Posted March 17, 2013 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

      Your analysis is incorrect. Phone hacking was able to continue for a long time because the existing laws were unable to prevent it. Consequently these laws need to be strengthened so that phone hacking can never become so endemic in a newspaper.

      • Edward2
        Posted March 17, 2013 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

        You analysis is wrong.
        Phone hacking is already illegal and journalists have been arrested.
        Some have already gone to prison or have been sacked.
        Those wronged have already been able to get large sums in damages and one of the biggest and oldest Sunday newspapers has closed.
        This is under current levels of legislation.

      • Mark
        Posted March 18, 2013 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

        It isn’t the strength of the law that was the problem, but the lack of investigation and enforcement.

  23. Vanessa
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    The press are already state owned. You only have to remember how cosy politicians are with journalists and, of course, papers only make money with advertisements when big corporates pay money for big page advertisements. What is there “free” about it. It is already being controlled by these people. The drivel they and the State BBC put out is lies; nothing else. Legislate away !! Governments will always cosy up to the press and pay them for good stories and legislate for bad ones. Get real !!
    The book “Scared to Death” tracks “scares” which are nothing of the sort (global warming) which the press report on ad infinitum and “scares” which are real scares and the press ignore them (organophosphates – OPs) because the government covers them up.

  24. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    Will you please comment on the story in today’s Telegraph that the eurozone is bailing out Cyprus but “The terms of the deal mean that Cyprus’s savers will sacrifice up to 10pc of their deposits in a move which will raise as much as €6 billion.”

  25. Peter Stroud
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Labour can always be predicted to call for more regulation, including the press. Leveson was a gift to them, and David Cameron was probably wrong to set up the Inquiry, or at least to allow the breadth of its terms of reference. However, we are where we are. The LibDems have, once again shown how treacherous they can be. Clearly the worlds worst political allies. Hopefully the few Tories in favour of legislation, can be persuaded to toe the party line. Hopefully there will be some in the minor parties who wish for a continuing free press. Though we can forget the SNP members. It will probably be a close run thing.

  26. Jerry
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    To anyone against statutory press regulation I have but one question, do you think that other forms of the mass-media should have similar restrictions lifted, should both radio and television be unrestricted bar the common and criminal law. If not then why not, if the broadcast media can work within such statutory regulation then why not the print media?

    • Jerry
      Posted March 17, 2013 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

      Seeing that by the time my comment was published, not complaining just stating the fact, this blog has slipped down the topicality table so let me follow up my debating point above with the comment that I’m agnostic as to press regulation other than I think that all media outlets (print, radio, TV and web) should work within the same framework – even more so when there is now so much ownership cross-over.

  27. Peter Davies
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    Agreed – if journalists have already been rooted and dealt with using current laws, I would say the Tory stance is the right one in this case.

    I can see why the like of Labour/Libs would favour the alternative, after all full state control in the Soviet/Stalinist way suits them well.

    • Jerry
      Posted March 17, 2013 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

      Peter Davies: “I can see why the like of Labour/Libs would favour the alternative, after all full state control in the Soviet/Stalinist way suits them well.

      That sort of control of the press would suit any political flavour, hence why control of the press has been used by some rather nasty right-wing juntas as well as those of the Soviet/Stalinist way…

  28. Neil Craig
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    A more direct example is state regulation of broadcasting and ownership of the majority of it.

    (alleges that BC is biased-ed)
    I doubt if anybody, however ignorant or dishonest, would try to claim that the BBC do not censor and slant between parties or between factions within parties. Would anybody ever claim, for example, that coverage of UKIP, the LibDems and the Greens is proportionate to their popularity?

    And all this is done with a BBC Charter which commits it to balance and political impartiality. Does anybody think that any new Charter, or Act will not, in time, prove equally totalitarian?

    Reply The BBC says they do offer airtime in relation to voting results and numbers of elected officials.

  29. behindthefrogs
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    How can anyone support a prime minister who sets up an enquiry and then chooses to ignore its recommendations even when the majority of MPs support them. This issue should at least have a free vote rather than the Tory whips working so hard to make sure all Tory MPs vote the way our u-turn PM wants.

    This combined with his change of direction on minimum alcohol pricing has probably lost him the next election.

  30. sok
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    Watching the mainstream media and then getting online shows me that these proposals are irrelevant. Even the dogs in the street know that the press is corrupt.
    The politicians seem to be on another planet.
    How are they going to regulate the internet?
    Get real.

  31. cosmic
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    “So why do Labour think they would be any better at regulating the press?”

    Because their solution to anything is to have state regulation, and if it fails, that simply means there hasn’t been sufficiently extensive regulation. it’s in their blood.

  32. David Langley
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    Correct, there is a remedy for newspaper defamation, and they pay a pretty penny when they get it wrong. A code of conduct that allows the public to inexpensively expose wrong doing and assist in legal action would be a basic right to protect and enforce. What the newspapers print should then be up to the proprietor.
    I think the paper news is slowly going down the pan, nothing but adverts and trivia usually. Now and again they have a great time exposing the bad aspects of our society, but scandal sells newspapers not good news.

  33. MichaelL
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    @Steve Cox
    “The British government is already far too big and intrusive, not to mention far too expensive.”

    True. I sometimes think that prior to the last election the Conservatives should have stuck to their austerity message. If it had cost them the election, no matter , play a longer game – Labour would have bankrupted the economy and around about now we’d be looking at them being forced from power – with that comes the chance to really start again. First thing being the rolling back of government. Well worn, but starting with the Bank of England – it should be abolished. Let the markets set interest rates, and so what we have some deflation…. People need to look at the sad opportunism of UKIP, it now seems their leader is in favour of ramping up the printing presses.

    \Back to the free press, of course we should have freedom of speech, the press have made a rod for their own backs by their actions and Cameron’s choice of friends has showed his poor judgement.

  34. Bernard Juby
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    Totally agree John. There is already plenty of existing law so use that instead of layering on yet more ill-considered regulations. Don’t let us go down the route of Parliament controlling the Press. Big Brother here we come? – NO thank you.

  35. Tad Davison
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    A press that gets it wrong, or acts in a deplorable way, merely to generate news rather than report it, is a bad thing. A press that isn’t free to report accurate news without first passing some sort of censorship, is far worse.

    We in Britain are staring at a contrived political configuration that threatens to abolish many of the freedoms we have fought for hundreds of years to secure, in the form of the European Union. It would thus suit the supporters of the EU, such as Clegg, Red Ed Moribund, and to an extent, even Cameron himself, were the press not free to report that threat in an even-handed way. That cannot be allowed to happen. A wise and noble monk from the 14th century once said, ‘Where they burn books, there, eventually, they burn people.’

    It was said in Germany in 1932, that could not possibly happen, yet within nine years, the slaughter had begun, and it took a world war to get those freedoms back again.

    Whilst a Nazi-style dictatorial totalitarian regime might, or might not happen this time around, to control the press, is to discard one of the key safeguards which undoubtedly helps to prevent it.

    The telling thing, has to be the support the gagging of the press receives from some of our own political leaders right here in Britain, who pin their colours of the mast of freedom and liberty, yet pay scan regard to it, when it suits their cause. They have either learned nothing whatsoever from history, or have some hidden agenda, and my guess is, it is a lot of both. They cannot believe in freedom and liberty, just when it suits them.

    Unless the press is free to report in an accurate, but responsible way, we will pay a high price for it later. This is the thin end of a very dangerous wedge, but we need to remember who voted which way, come the next election, as the forthcoming House of Commons vote will be the true acid test.

    Tad Davison


  36. Frank H Little
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    I am with you as far as the criminal law goes. The trouble is with offences which can only be redressed through the civil courts. The gutter press could describe me tomorrow as a terrorist or a paedophile and get away with it, because I cannot afford to sue them. There is no legal aid for civil actions such as this.

  37. APL
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    Anyone with any deposits in the European Union ought to take note of (recent events-ed)If it succeeds in Cyprus, you can bet your, well last pound, they’ll try it here!

  38. Mark
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    The changes that are needed include access to low cost libel proceedings with restitution being in the form of equal prominence publication of corrections and apologies, and extension of the same regime as that facing Fleet Street to the BBC. It is no longer tenable for the BBC to be its own judge and jury, if it ever was. At the same time Eady judgement libel tourism is an enemy of press freedom, and should be circumscribed.

    Labour and Lib Dems and Whitehall seem to prefer the culture of cover-up. We need much more thorough investigation of what lies beneath the stones they wish to keep unturned. Press freedom is in all our interests.

  39. Roger Farmer
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    By seamingly omiting my earlier contribution you appear to be guilty of the very thing you suggest you are opposed to. Who is regulating John Redwood. Could it be that your moderation is a bit slow today.

  40. Alte Fritz
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    The criminal excesses of the press were and remain just that, criminal. Regulation will not change that. So we are left with whether we like the press or not and if not, does that mean there ought to be heavy regulation.

    Criminal excesses will be best dealt with by giving some journalists and executives an inside view of the prison system many of them think too soft. And let us wonder whether abuse of parliamentary expenses would ever have come to light under a regulated press.

  41. uanime5
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    Labour and Lib Dems are now keen to set up statutory regulation for the press. I do not like that idea.

    I trust you also dislike the statutory regulation that broadcasters have to comply with.

    Labour’s excessively complex and extensive regulation of banks and financial services did not prevent the worst crash of the last eighty years occurring on their watch.

    I thought Labour made the regulations more lax so the City could make more money. I also recall the Conservatives calling for even more lax regulations.

    The EU’s excessive regulation of our energy does not deliver enough cheap energy to homes and factories.

    Given that this problem doesn’t occur in other EU countries it’s more likely that this is a fault with the EU energy market. This could be resolved with better regulations or a state owned power company to provide real competition.

    No amount of health and safety regulation can prevent all untimely and unwelcome deaths in our hospitals.

    But they can reduce the number of deaths, especially those due to negligence.

    In other news Ian Duncan Smith has decided to create legislation that will protect the DWP from have to pay compensation to anyone who was illegally sanctioned while on Workfare or the Work Placement, even though such retroactive legislation is a violation of people’s human rights. Expect several legal challenges if this immoral law is ever passed.


  42. Antisthenes
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    Seeing as the UK, the EU and most other nations now have cultural socialism at the core of their societies it is no surprise that we have mountains of regulations and the demand is for more. For socialism to function in any form it has to create an environment where government control is close to absolute so suppression of free speech is just a natural progression. Of course it also establishes a society that is unstable and an unsustainable economic system that will eventually disintegrate.

  43. Graham Swift
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    Both Liebour and LiDumbs intend to create a totalitarian state. Br

  44. Andyvan
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    This whole Leveson saga just shows the difference in attitudes in Britain. A private;y owned press hacks a few phones, throws some bungs to dodgy coppers and embarrasses some of the great and the good. It is subject to a public circus, endless hours of tv, whole forests of newsprint, arrests and threatened with state censorship.
    The NHS kills hundreds if not thousands of it’s patients, does it’s absolute best to hide the truth and gets what? A slap on the wrist and some media comment.
    All part of the unspoken agenda – public sector good, everything else bad.
    Of course had some media luvvies been killed off by the NHS it would possibly be different.

  45. Chris Rickard
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    The real issue, for me, is that whilst the real victims of press intrusion – the McCanns (words left out as did not make sense-ed); Chris Jeffries who was wrongfully tried and convicted by the press after his arrest; and the Dowlers – have been financially compensated, the means to stop the wrongs they suffered from recurring have, for all the talk, not been implemented. Because they have not been implemented, there is scope for the threat to press freedom we see today to thrive. The victims of Hacked Off are just that – victims. They are not legislators and have no mandate to require the end of a free press. We clearly want to maintain a free press to bring us the scandal of MPs expenses & the tragedy of Mid-Staffs. However we want a free press that acts responsibly and within the law. Without proper redress being identified by the Conservatives which has public support to stop the wrongs suffered by the Dowlers, McCanns & Mr Jeffries, the way is open for Labour & the Lib Dems to seek to put manacles on the press. That would be a tragedy.

  46. muddyman
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    The ‘ impartial’ BBC takes money from the EU, given to support their continuous propaganda. It also relies upon feed from Labour and LibDim central for its ‘News’ and ‘Reviews’. Without a free press we will be subject to total mind control.

  47. Ralph McHendry
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    Extremely well put Mr Redwood. I completely agree with your view.

  48. Graham Swift
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    Both Liebour and LibDumbs intend to create a totalitarian state. (complaint about levels of immigration-ed) Most MPs are completely out of touch with reality , ignoring the wishes of their constituents . Perhaps reform of the Commons should be a priority , no MP under the age of 40 and no MP unless he/she has had a real job in the real world . Also retirement at 65 , self-contributory pension and no automatic place in the retirement home for political failures , namely the House of Lords. Also a maximum number of 250 MPs.

    Reply MPs do contribute to their pension plan out of income.

  49. Dick Sawdon Smith
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    Much of the shortcomings of the press can be dealt with by current laws (hacking etc) The Lib/Lab colition on the subject is the slippery slope. Let’s hope it doesn’t happen.


  50. English Pensioner
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    Before we have new laws, we should define exactly what is wrong with the existing laws. As far a I can see, phone hacking is, and was, an illegal activity and if it had been reported, there could have been prosecutions. There are laws against libel which are there to prevent defamatory statements being made about individuals and again legal action can be taken. The only changes in the law that might be necessary is to make action easier for an individual, particularly in the case of libel where costs can prevent individual action.

    Doing much more seems to be an attempt to take control of the media, which in the end will prove the demise of newspapers in favour of a totally uncontrolled internet where truth, rumour and downright lies will merge into one and it will become virtually impossible to get any redress. We would end up reading foreign news sources on-line to discover what is actually happening in this country, just as in 1936, everybody except the British knew about Edward VIII and Mrs Simpson. If Labour’s proposed laws had been in place, would we have heard about the Stafford Hospital scandal? Or indeed that of some MP’s expenses? I doubt it!

    • uanime5
      Posted March 17, 2013 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

      Doing much more seems to be an attempt to take control of the media, which in the end will prove the demise of newspapers in favour of a totally uncontrolled internet where truth, rumour and downright lies will merge into one and it will become virtually impossible to get any redress.

      Given that at present in the press truth, rumour, and downright lies will merge into one in order to sell papers putting it on the Internet won’t change anything. It may even make it easier to get redress as IPs are more willing to remove defamatory statements because they don’t profit from them.

  51. Mark B
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    Its not about regulation, its about enforcement. We already have all the laws necessary to combat much of what went on.

    Take the BBC and the Police over the allegations made against Jimmy Saville. Unless people come forward, unless the Police take their duties seriously and act, then all the laws and regulations in the world mean nothing. You could even draw parallels with the meat adulteration scandal. Yes, they had regulation. But no, people just ignored it, and broke the law, or made sure that they have all the necessary paperwork in place and can be seen to be acting in ‘good faith’.

    This is not about regulation of the press. This is about control !

    As someone said/posted elsewhere:

    “There is only one thing that is worse than a press that is out of control, and that is one that is, ‘under control.”

  52. A different Simon
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    O/T ,

    The EU has forced Cypriot authorities to appropriate money from current and savings accounts in Cypriot banks ?

    They are doing this now because it is a public holiday in Cyprus on Monday . The place will erupt on Tuesday when the banks reopen .

    They are calling it a “tax” in order to get around the EU deposit guarantee scheme but what it means is that the EU deposit guarantee scheme ceased to exist today .

    Expect massive runs on European banks come Monday .

    Does anyone think that capital controls and limits to the amounts people can withdraw are not around the corner ?

  53. Denis Cooper
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 7:12 pm | Permalink


    Re-reading the Goebbels diaries, again and again he mentions giving directions to the press about what they should and should not print and what propaganda line they must take, and that didn’t start when the war started but once he got the power to do it.

    • uanime5
      Posted March 17, 2013 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

      Good thing that nothing being proposed would give any UK Government this power.

  54. Mark
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 7:39 pm | Permalink


  55. Rods
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

    More and more regulation is slowly killing this country in terms of freedom and the size of the productive economy. At some point in both areas things will have to change as the current situation is not sustainable. Press regulation will lead to more corruption as there will not be the checks and balances with press freedom to prevent it.

    Under the last Government we had the politicization of the civil service, political left wing “Common Purpose” courses paid for out of public funds for public employees. Public sector Trade Union officials employed in jobs by the Government being allowed to conduct union activities during work time, so the trade unions are being subsidized by us, whether we like it or not| Very little of this has been reported in the MSM, much more in Internet blogs, so the press are already failing us and with intrusive Government regulation this can only get worse. If some of these politicized civil servants are put in charge of press regulation, what do you think will happen to right wing press freedom?

    Where I’m sure the ‘regulation’ of the press will have to be paid for by the press with set Government fees. As this will probably be like the Financial Services Authority (FSA) a self-serving monopoly free to set the levels of fees, with an income of almost £500m a year and we still have many financial institution failings like PPI and bankrupt banks. With press regulation this will lead to fewer newspapers, where they are already under tremendous pressure due to falling circulations and advertising revenues thus restricting consumer choice. I’m sure it would suit the Labour and the (Ill?) Liberal parties very nicely if the UK’s main MSM and source of news was mainly the BBC.

    In the finance and banking industries the problem is the regulation and not the solution, where the regulators will view every ticked box and in reality see nothing! This is why we have a very few too big to fail banks. If basic banking was regulation free apart from a minimum capital requirement and deposit insurance was readily available from multiple sources then the market would price a bank’s risk through the price of the insurance. Banks would be required with quarterly statements to show in their accounts, their capital reserves and their loan book including non-performing and bad loans, by industry sector and the book value of loan guarantees.

    Firstly, there would be many small chains of high street and also many Internet banks and wide consumer choice and their would be no Government risk. You could cover potential losses through deposit insurance or take the risk by not bothering. Investment bank risk could be contained by making them partnerships and like Lloyds insurance, unlimited liability for the partners in charge and also those involved with investing. This way they would have a personal interest in making sure the risks were contained so the bank did not go bankrupt.

    In most markets there are reasonable market solutions which with the correct legal framework can be made to work much more effectively than regulation and the criminal law used to punish law breakers. One of the current problems is that these are not used often enough, so onerous regulation is looked upon as a favourable alternative, but all this does is increase industry costs, restricts choice, through cost and barriers for new entrants, increases prices to consumers, reduces the productive side of the economy and provides a false sense of security, where they are just as vulnerable to missing what is going on and then shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted (Literally with the other FSA the Food Standards Authority)!

  56. Barbara
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    This will suit the Labour party if they gain power, God forbid. Why is it they feel they have to control, but there again Socialists always think of committees and laws for everything. I hate such things, freedom as been fought and gained by people’s lives, we should not forget that. Without press freedom MPs expenses would not have been exposed, and without a free press we would not know about the failings of the NHS until many more had died or suffered. NO, the press must remain free. Clegg is a fool to himself, he’s grabbing power where ever he can even if it means walking with Labour. The Conservatives should ditch him as soon as possible, well before the date for an election. His poll ratings are right down to 7%, and the Eastleigh votes were cast and a safe seat for them, but the next general election might prove different. Its a pity Cameron as allowed the referendum to take place after the next election, if it had taken place before the nation would have spoken. What party could go against a whole nation? Its an awful risk Cameron as taken, and laid bare the possiblity of another Labour government. This nation cannot afford Lib Dems or Labour it would be the death knell for our freedom.

    • uanime5
      Posted March 17, 2013 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

      You seem to have forgotten that the only reason we have these freedoms is because the socialists forced the capitalists to share their privileges.

      Also given that broadcasters are subject to similar regulations proposed for the press without any of the problems you mentioned it’s clear that your claims are nothing more than scaremongering with no basis in reality.

  57. Jon
    Posted March 16, 2013 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    One regulates clocks so that they all show the same time.

    In the 50’s some clever people started to develop the atomic clock, the counting of caesium radiation. Its regulated now by averaging the various atomic clocks around the earth. Occasionally they all have to readjust because the earth is not playing ball and decides to change its spin. Regulators count, they don’t do anything usefully else. They do add some additional things such as fines to be spread amongst the population but they have no stewardship capability.

    • Jon
      Posted March 16, 2013 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

      The regulators I don’t mind are the ones in an anorak standing at the end of a platform at Euston as I commute in with their pencil and note book noting the train numbers. That I don’t mind about regulators, just don’t put them in charge of an industry. Let the police police the wrongs.

  58. outsider
    Posted March 17, 2013 at 4:05 am | Permalink

    Dear Mr Redwood,
    Thank you for being on the side of freedom. However, I fear the damage was done as soon as such a wide-ranging inquiry was set up under an establishment judge.

    Libel laws and contempt of court are excellent and powerful disciplines for all publishers. I see that libel laws are to be weakened drastically, far beyond anything needed to curb the claimed misuse .

    The Leveson Inquiry proceedings showed that most of the worst press excesses that spawned it were illegal under existing laws but that these laws were not enforced.

    The remainder arise out of competitive stress when dozens of reporters are under pressure to come up with developments in sensational crimes : a harder one to crack but not needing an all-embracing paraphernalia. A few public prosecutions for criminal libel would probably do the trick. The old Press Complaints Commission also needed more clout to enforce its corrections and judgments but that lesson has already been learnt.

    Overall regulation, as envisaged by the Leveson report (statutory or not) is a device to enforce political correctness, meaning the prevailing nostrums and standards of the liberal elite (or “society”). Under the cloak of protecting the little man, they will actually protect the rich, influential and well-connected and will open the flood gates for their lobbyists and campaign groups, effectively to censor what is written.

    The Advertising Standards Authority provides a good example of what happens when we have regulation by “socially responsible people” : the sort who will now rule in private over the press. A single congenial complaint may drive the ASA into overdrive while hundreds of uncongenial ones may be rejected as “unrepresentative”. Likewise at Ofcom.

    Many important press revelations, for instance about cricket and other sporting malpractice, MPs expenses records, questionable climate change data, business scams and ill-treatment in care homes, have been made using methods likely to be banned in any strictly enforceable “code of conduct”. Underhand, deceitful or grubby methods of finding the truth will doubtless be disapproved of by the “socially responsible people” who are appointed to public or semi-public bodies (because professionals cannot be trusted). Unless, of course, the ends are congenial to these “socially responsible people”.

    Not so much a slippery slope, more a cliff edge.

  59. William Long
    Posted March 17, 2013 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    I find it ironic that the so-called liberals favour the illiberal option. If it were not for a free press we should probably never have heard of phone tapping or the Parliamentary expenses scandal. No doubt a state regulator would be just like the others (the FSA is the one I know most about) and concentrate on ticking boxes to preventing yesterday’s scandals while remaining totally blind to the new ones being cooked up.

    Posted March 17, 2013 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    Dear Mr Redwood,

    The whole Leveson thing is extremely serious- and if the Prime Minister loses tomorrow’s Vote we are looking at the Left gaining control of the Press. Labour will- assuming they get into office (and this looks very likely given the current polls)- modify the new Press legislation to make it illegal for newspapers to offend (i.e criticise) the Government, criticise public service institutions (like the NHS or the Police) in the interests of national security. They will do this to stop right-wing newspapers from exposing the failures of more public spending, more borrowing and more taxes on the rich.

    Leveson is a stepping-stone to ensuring a future Labour Government (or Labour-Lib Dem Coalition) has the power to bully the entire Press into obediently trotting out Left Wing propaganda (as the BBC already does) and so brain-washing the electorate to keep them in office: The Tories may never get into Government again!

    To that end Sir, you (along with fellow Conservative MPs) should be screaming in the streets about this whole (and wholly undemocratic) conspiracy by the Left to win- and retain power forever. The Lib Dems sided with Labour in January to vote down proposed changes to Constituency Boundaries to keep the entire Electoral System biased against the Tories- another part of the Socialists Grand Plan: I am surprised Sir, that you and fellow Conservative MPs have not cottoned-on to what the Left is up to and started laying into them.

    If there is not to be a terminal end to the Centre Right in Britain you will need to start jumping about- FAST!

    Ian Pennell

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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