Howard's privacy law fears

Howard: PCC code ‘infinitely preferable’

Conservative Party leader Michael Howard wants to review the Human Rights Act because of his fears over its impact on press freedom.

Speaking at the London Press Club Awards this week, Howard told journalists there was a continuing danger that a privacy law could emerge from interpretation of the Act in courts.

“I am opposed to the courts fashioning legislation that should be for Parliament to decide,” he said. “And I doubt Parliament could ever form a workable privacy law. The next Conservative government will review the workings of the Human Rights Act and if we find it to be defective, we will amend it.”

He added: “We Conservatives support your right to regulate yourselves – it is a crucial part of press freedom – and will continue to do so.”

He revealed the Tories had twice fought against measures they believed could undermine self-regulation and said the PCC code was “infinitely preferable to any form of state control of editorial content or advertising – both of which would be an unacceptable infringement of freedom of expression”.

However, in an interview in this edition of Press Gazette, Howard does not rule out some form of statutory control above the PCC, although he said he hoped it would not be necessary.

Howard’s speech to the Press Club at the Savoy Hotel in London also noted his fears of Ofcom’s role in regulating newspaper mergers.

“I shall look to you to keep us in touch with problems that arise in this area,” he said. “We will not hesitate to act if it appears that the Communications Act is working in ways which amount to an unacceptable infringement on the freedom of the press.


The Independent was named Newspaper of the Year in the Press Club Awards. The innovative broadsheet-turned-tabloid won the same accolade at the British Press Awards in May.

Sunday Newspaper of the Year was the News of the World. Judges said: “Their scoops are magnificent, they shine lights in the murkier corners of life, they expose hypocrisy and every Sunday they give us all a bloody good read.”

The BBC’s Rageh Omaar was named Broadcasting Journalist of the Year. Scoop of the Year went to the Daily Mirror’s Ryan Parry, for his Buckingham Palace exposé.

The Daily Mail’s Ross Benson won the Edgar Wallace award for fine writing and Sean Poulter won Consumer Affairs Journalist of the Year. William Lewis of The Sunday Times was awarded Business Journalist of the Year.

By Ian Reeves

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