The Press Complaints Commission came under fire again last night after being branded a ‘toothless tiger’in the House of Commons.
The criticisms were made at an adjournment debate on press regulation and one week after Labour leader Ed Miliband called for an independent inquiry into how the press is regulated.
Conservative MP John Whittingdale, chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, claimed the News of the World phone-hacking had led to the greatest ever loss of confidence in the system of press self-regulation, run by the PCC.
Addressing Edward Vaizey, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, he said: ‘Does my honorable friend recognise that the revelations that have streamed out over the past six months have probably led to a greater loss of confidence in the self-regulation of the press than there has been at any previous time?
“I strongly support self-regulation, but if the public are to regain confidence in that self-regulation, the PCC will have to be seen to have stronger powers.”
Whittingdale was backed by Labour MP Michael McCann – who claimed there was a ‘serious lack of confidence in the system’– and Conservative MP Nadine Dorries.
‘I am one of the members who can speak with authority as one who has been maligned time after time by page after page of pure lies, but I have never gone to the PCC, which I regard as a toothless tiger,’said Dorries
Vaizey, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, defended the PCC.
Responding to the criticisms, he replied: ‘It is my experience that the PCC has a strong appreciation of the need to be seen to be effective and robust. It spreads the word on what it does and what it can do. It seeks to be transparent in how it works and is extremely helpful in providing advice.”
He added: ‘I have been keen to stress that the system is self-regulatory, and no government – not this government and not the previous government – want statutory regulation of the press.”
The PCC was urged to look into the issues of due prominence for apologies, and whether anonymous contributors should be included in letters pages and online comments.