Harman says PCC closure will lead to 'business as usual'

Proposals by the head of the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) to replace the body with a new regulator were condemned by Labour in the Commons.

Shadow culture secretary Harriet Harman said Lord Hunt’s plans would result in “business as usual” which “simply will not be acceptable”.

The deputy Labour leader said any new regulator must be independent of newspaper editors.

The industry’s self-regulator will close this year and Lord Hunt has promised its replacement will be an independent body “with teeth”.

But Harman and Labour MP Chris Bryant, a leading campaigner against phone hacking, dismissed his arguments.

Harman said: “The harrowing evidence at the Leveson Inquiry from victims of phone hacking and other abuse by the press means that we all want to see a new press complaints system and that it must be independent of politicians and editors and it must be able to enforce its rulings on all newspapers.”

Addressing Culture Minister Ed Vaizey, she said: “Do you recognise that the proposals being put forward by Lord Hunt, chair of the Press Complaints Commission, fail to meet either of those tests and until they do will amount to nothing more than a change of name, business as usual, and that simply will not be acceptable.”

Vaizey told her: “Lord Hunt has put forward his proposals and I would urge you to work with him if you think that they are not adequate.”

Bryant said: “The PCC are engaging in a pretty ludicrous example of shenanigans at the moment. They are trying to bounce Leveson into some new plan that they are trying to put forward.”

He asked Vaizey to “make it absolutely clear that the only thing that the Government is interested in is what Leveson comes up with, not some shoddy deal struck by the editors”.

Vaizey said the Labour MP was not being “entirely fair” adding: “While, absolutely, the final answer lies with Lord Leveson’s inquiry, Lord Leveson has also made it clear that he wants to see the press begin to make moves to get their house in order while he considers all the evidence in front of him.”

Lord Justice Leveson has indicated he will not simply accept proposals by the PCC for reforming the system of newspaper regulation without subjecting them to “forensic scrutiny”.

Labour MP John Cryer (Leyton and Wanstead) called on the Government to tell the inquiry the PCC’s replacement should be “politically independent and independent of what used to be Fleet Street”.

Vaizey, who told MPs earlier that Lord Justice Leveson had asked Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt to give evidence on the relationship between the press and politicians, said ministers wanted a self-regulatory body which was “independent of the press and independent of Government”.

He added that the department was “working constructively” with the inquiry over the release of background information.

  • To contact the Press Gazette newsdesk call 020 7936 6433 or email pged@pressgazette.co.uk

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