Ministers sink threat to free Press 


Ministers sink threat to free Press

Ministers yesterday saw off an attempt to introduce State regulation of the Press by the back door.

A Labour MP wanted to change a Government Bill to put pressure on news organisations to join up to an ‘approved regulator’.

But Chris Philp, the culture minister, told MPs the Government would not accept this, as it would put the ‘free Press’ at risk.

He said: ‘Statutory or mandatory regulation of the Press is incompatible with Press freedom.’

Labour’s Kim Leadbeater, the MP for Batley and Spen, agreed to withdraw the amendment to allow more discussion on the issue. The proposed change was to the Online Safety Bill to crack down on internet hate speech, which Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries is steering through Parliament.

MP Chris Philp (pictured in 2020), the culture minister, said 'The commitment to a free Press in this country is an extremely important one', in response to Kim Leadbeater's proposed amendment to the Online Safety Bill

MP Chris Philp (pictured in 2020), the culture minister, said ‘The commitment to a free Press in this country is an extremely important one’, in response to Kim Leadbeater’s proposed amendment to the Online Safety Bill

The legislation includes exemptions for the media by making it harder for their content to be removed.

The Labour amendment would have meant this protection only applied to news publishers which are a member of an ‘approved regulator’.

This is a reference to one of the most controversial aspects of the Leveson Inquiry into Press standards – the demand that newspapers should sign up to a State-approved regulator.

Critics say the amendment means Labour is trying to get the recommendations of the Leveson Inquiry through Parliament clandestinely.

Speaking during a debate on the amendment, Mr Philp said: ‘The commitment to a free Press in this country is an extremely important one.

‘The Government is concerned that if the amendment were adopted in that way that it has been written, then it would effectively be requiring news publishers, in order to benefit from the exemption, to register with one of these regulators.

‘It would effectively constitute the imposition of a mandatory Press regulator by the back door.

‘I want to put it on record very clearly that for reasons of the free Press, this Government does not support any kind of mandatory or statutory press regulation of any form.’

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