MPs were scathing in their criticism of the press watchdog as it faces possibly the toughest test in its 20-year history.
Alun Michael MP (Labour) himself a former journalist, speaking in an emergency debate about phone-hacking in the Commons yesterday, said: ‘The PCC is well meaning, but frankly it’s a joke, the public deserve better and the journalists deserve better. The PCC clearly has neither the will nor the ability to change things. What we need is an independent body, that is robust, effective, and has the powers to investigate and enforce. That would be a major step forward.
Adrian Sanders MP (Lib Dem) compared the PCC to a ‘chocolate teapot’and a ‘fishnet condom’and he also suggested that any inquiry into phone-hacking needs to look at the Daily Mirror and the Daily Mail.
He noted: ‘The Mirror under Piers Morgan is suspected of using voicemail interception to reveal Sven Goran Eriksson’s affair with Ulrika Johnsson.”
Michael Meacher (Lab) also said any public inquiry should ‘look at the future of self regulation”.
The PCC discussed phone-hacking at its regular meeting yesterday afternoon. It said in a statement afterwards that it “readily accepts its responsibility, shared with others, to ensure that events of this sort should never happen again”.
It said: “To that end, it agreed that public members of the commission will lead a review of all aspects of press regulation in its current form, which will be designed to ensure that public confidence is enhanced. The commission will wish to review its own constitution and funding arrangements, the range of sanctions available to it, and its practical independence.”
Chairman Peta Buscombe said: “We welcome the announcement by the Prime Minister of his proposed inquiries. The PCC is determined to identify necessary reforms that will guarantee public confidence in press regulation. Already, the PCC provides a free public service that helps thousands of people every year.
“There is currently a major police investigation, which has the necessary powers of investigation and resources to identify the perpetrators of these criminal acts. However, the commission is determined to play its part in bringing to a conclusion this shocking chapter, which has stained British journalism, and to ensure that good comes out of it.”
Commenting on the points raised by the debate in Parliament she said: “The status quo is clearly not an option, and we need to identify how the model of an independent PCC can be enhanced best to meet these challenges. Hence the action we have taken today”.