O'Donnell: ICO could become press regulator

Former cabinet secretary Lord O'Donnell has mooted the idea of the Information Commissioner becoming a press regulator

O'Donnell said that while there were "lots of options out there" for an alternative press regulator, the Information Commissioner's Office could be suitable because it looks at 'information across the board".

Appearing at the Leveson Inquiry this morning, he added: 'It seems to me it solves one of the issues that they're set up, they're independent, they're set up to look at broadcast media, newspapers, online. You know, they can look at anything so that's an advantage, I would say."

"The fact that they have the scope across all media I think is worth exploring,'he continued. 'It would have to be a very significantly enhanced ICO.

"But much as I've had my disputes with them, I regard them as a very credible and independent body."

Elsewhere, O'Donnell, who worked under three prime ministers between 2005-2011, agreed that David Cameron was too close to the media.

He said: "I think the Prime Minister himself, the current Prime Minister, has said that he felt his relationships had got too close, and I agree with that."

But he added that politicians in opposition parties often had closer relationships with journalists than Government ministers - and urged the inquiry to look into whether new guidelines were needed to govern the relationship.

"You have much fewer resources, so you do not have big press offices and the like, so you do tend to make closer personal relationships with journalists," he said. "There tends to have been swapping of mobile phone numbers, all of those sorts of things."

But they needed to be 'much more careful'when they made into Government, he warned. "Every single Secretary of State is subject to collective responsibilities much more important in government than we see in opposition. We have to be much more careful."

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