By David Rose
The Government has leapt to the defence of the Press Complaints
Commission after Guardian columnist Roy Greenslade criticised tabloid
newspaper stories about Maxine Carr.
Minister Lord Davies refused to order the PCC to investigate,
arguing that as an independent body the Government had “no control over
But Lord Davies robustly spoke up for the PCC in the House of Lords and praised its independence and “effectiveness”
under present chairman Sir Christopher Meyer.
Taverne had pressed the Government to intervene, citing what he claimed
had been a “persistent campaign of persecution against Miss Carr, as
documented by Mr Roy Greenslade in The Guardian on 16 May.
five cases of totally inaccurate and unfounded stories appeared in the
News of the World, the People, the Sunday Mirror and the Mail on
Sunday,” Lord Taverne said.
“Miss Carr of course is in no
position to make a complaint herself. The Press Complaints Commission
should itself take action on its own initiative to prevent the spread
of such blatant lies, which are a danger to democracy, instead of
acting as if it is a paper tiger.”
But while Lord Davies said
many peers would “have sympathy” with the view expressed by Lord
Taverne, he said: “It is not for the Government to intervene. If they
did so, we would be very concerned about the concept of a free press.
is certainly the case that newspapers should be aware of the weight of
public opinion on those occasions when they appear to present matters
in ways that are largely unacceptable. I do not doubt the Press
Complaints Commission will note the exchanges.”
He added: “The PCC does initiate inquiries, although infrequently, on certain occasions.”
PCC has written to Carr’s lawyers to assure them that they are free to
file a complaint on her behalf without compromising her anonymity.
could complain under clause three of the Editors’ Code of Practice,
which says: “Everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and
family life, home, health and correspondence”.