PRIME Minister and Witney MP David Cameron has called for ‘independent’ regulation of the press ahead of today’s release of the Leveson Report.
Lord Justice Leveson will this afternoon publish the findings of his inquiry into press standards, set up in the wake of the phone hacking scandal.
He is likely to focus on the regulation of the press, but last night it was not known what form his recommendations will take.
There have been growing calls for legislation to underpin a new regulatory framework to replace the Press Complaints Commission.
This has been opposed by the industry and many politicians, who say this could open the door to future curbs on a free press.
Mr Cameron will address the Commons this afternoon on the issue, but during yesterday’s Prime Minister’s questions, he said the status quo was “unacceptable” and needed to change.
He added: “This Government set up Leveson because of unacceptable practices in parts of the media and because of a failed regulatory system.
“We should try to work across party lines on this issue, it’s right to meet with other party leaders about this.
“What matters most is that we end up with an independent regulatory system that can deliver and in which the public can have confidence.”
In reply to Oxford Mail editor Simon O’Neill – who wrote to express his opposition to statutory regulation – Mr Cameron also stressed the importance of maintaining a free press, saying: “What matters most of all is that we have a regulatory system in which the public have confidence so that, if mistakes are made, there are proper corrections; that if newspapers do the wrong thing, they can be fined; and that when things go wrong, there is a proper investigation. At the same time, it is paramount that we have a free, independent and vigorous press.”
The county’s other MPs were playing their cards close to their chests ahead of the announcement.
Oxford East MP Andrew Smith said: “Constituents have contacted me on this, both to call for effective independent regulation and to defend the importance of press freedom.
“This is an important balance to get right.”
Oxford West and Abingdon MP Nicola Blackwood is one of 42 MPs who wrote to The Guardian calling for independent regulation backed by statute.
She said: “Self-regulation by the Press Complaints Commission has not delivered that and any search for a replacement should be for a model of regulation that does.
“I have no ideological preference for statutory regulation but I do believe trying to come up with a solution from a purist position that it’s either freedom of the press or statutory regulation is simplistic and flawed.”
Henley MP John Howell said: “I am going to wait for the report to come out first.”
Banbury MP Sir Tony Baldry said: “I think we should all have the opportunity of reading Lord Justice Leveson’s report first.”
Wantage MP Ed Vaizey also declined to comment until after publication of the report.