Eric Pickles opposed to tough new press laws

The Government should be very reluctant to bring in tough new laws to regulate the Press following the publication of the Leveson Inquiry, according to Communities Secretary Eric Pickles.

Pickles said the Press was working towards a way of offering proper recourse for those with legitimate complaints, telling Sky's Dermot Murnaghan the right of the British press to expose corruption must be protected.

And he warned ministers must be very careful about introducing statutory regulation, should Lord Justice Leveson recommend a new independent watchdog to monitor the press.

He said: "I think it is really massively important to ensure we have freedom of press in this country. Some of the characteristics of the British press – it is good at exposing corruption and it is good at going to places where other press wouldn't.

"I think it was Thomas Jefferson who said that for a free society to operate, then the 'river of a free press had to flow without restriction'.

"I think, given that the press are looking towards finding ways, the end result of offering a good way that people who have a legitimate complaint can find recourse, then that is right.

"We should be very, very, very reluctant to take on legislation. It's a balance and my view is that we should always balance in favour of a free press."

Meanwhile, Pickles also claimed the BBC needs to be far less secretive in the wake of the Savile sex abuse scandal.

Pickles said Corporation need to be far more transparent when it came to handling Freedom of Information requests and publishing its expenditure online.

Speaking to Sky's Dermot Murnaghan, he said: "I think it's in all our interests for the BBC to be held in the highest esteem that it deserves and I think the problem at the heart of the BBC is that the organisation is too secretive.

"I think it should think now that it should open itself up to Freedom of Information requests. I think it should look towards publishing a lot of its expenditure online. My department shows all its credit card (expenditure) online in real terms. Anything above £250 we put online.

"It's that kind of response that the BBC needs to understand. I don't think it can see itself away from the real world and I think part of the process of re-establishing the BBC in the affection of the nation, is that the BBC has to be far more open."

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