Mandelson rules out tougher privacy laws

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The Diana photographs were described as "intrusive" yesterday by Peter Mandelson, the minister without portfolio, but he ruled out government action to impose tougher privacy laws, writes Colin Brown.

He said he was against introducing statutory laws on press and privacy, and he cast doubt on claims that the Government's plans to incorporate the European Convention on Human Rights into British law would mean new curbs on the press.

Mr Mandelson said the convention gives protection to both the individual's right to privacy and the media's right to freedom of expression. "You've got two competing rights there and they've got to be properly balanced," he said.

The Government would leave it up to the judges to determine the balance, said Mr Mandelson, who saw nothing wrong with media coverage of the decision by Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, to leave his wife after 28 years to live with his secretary.

"Robin Cook himself has said he's a public person, he's a public individual. What he regretted were the consequences for his wife and family and he made a very fulsome apology to his wife and to his two boys for the hounding that they subsequently received. Although I must say I think even that has been tempered by a great deal of responsibility and sensitivity shown in the main by the press," Mr Mandelson said on BBC's Breakfast with Frost.

"The problem of having an all-encompassing privacy law being introduced by Parliament is the protection it gives to those who don't merit protection," added the minister.

"The press, when it's doing it's job properly, when it's not just engaging in gossip and tittle-tattle and having a go at various individuals ... is exposing wrongdoing and corruption and malpractice.

"I would hate to see the day when the British press are prevented from exposing that wrongdoing."