A cross party group of 86 MPs and Peers have given their backing to the Hunt-Black plan for a beefed up system of press self regulation, rejecting any move towards a statutory regulator.
The letter comes on the eve of the Leveson report into press standards which it has been predicted will call for the creation of a new independent press watchdog underpinned by statute.
Today's letter states: “No form of statutory regulation of the press would be possible without the imposition of state licensing – abolished in Britain 1695. State licensing is inimicable to any idea of press freedom and would radically alter the balance of our unwritten constitution.”
The signatories, who include David Blunkett and Lord Coe, state: “Lords Hunt and Black have come forward with a detailed proposal for a much improved , genuinely independent regulator with the power to intervene proactively, to levy substantial fines and to enforce membership for the first time through a system of civil contracts. They need to deliver on this promised reform.”
The move follows an earlier letter signed by 42 MPs and Peers which supported the creation of a new independent stautory press regulator.
Yesterday significant criticisms of the Hunt-Black plan emerged among national editors. The Independent, Standard, Financial Times, Guardian and Times all believe it needs to be more independent.
The current blueprint suggests that the industry would appoint two members of the five-person board who would run the new regulator, and that they would have power of veto over the selection of the chairman.
Yesterday in a leader, The Independent said that none of the publishers who fund the new regulator should be able to make appointments to it.
Times editor James Harding said he thinks the new regulator should be run by a three-person board appointed by the Lord Chief Justice.