Lord Hunt defends decision to scrap PCC


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Press Complaints Commission (PCC) chairman Lord Hunt today defended plans to scrap the body before Lord Justice Leveson completes his inquiry into media standards.

The industry's self-regulator will close this year after failing to recover from its decision not to fully investigate phone hacking allegations at the News of the World.

Lord Hunt, who became chairman after predecessor Baroness Peta Buscombe quit last year amid mounting claims of hacking at the now-defunct Sunday tabloid, claimed he would replace the PCC with a "robust, independent regulator with teeth".

He said: "British people deserve a Press that takes its responsibilities seriously and exercises professional standards by recognising that the precious freedom it enjoys is a privilege, not a God-given right."

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, former Conservative Cabinet Minister Lord Hunt said Lord Justice Leveson had urged him to "press on" with reforming the regulator.

Lord Hunt said: "I decided early on that the problem really was that the PCC was being criticised for not exercising powers it never had in the first place, so I recommended we start again with a new body with a Press regulator with teeth."

He said the PCC would continue to deal with readers' complaints while the new body was created and said panel members of the PCC backed his plan.

He added: "What the PCC has done is to accept my advice that we should now in principle move forward into a new body, transferring the existing assets and liabilities .

"But the most important thing of all is to do something that will restore the public trust and confidence in the Press."

The chairman denied statutory powers were needed, but admitted he needed to persuade publishers and newspaper proprietors to "subscribe and pay for a new body, a regulator with teeth", adding: "Then at least I will have started to do what I think the public wants to see."

Prime Minister David Cameron asked Lord Justice Leveson to investigate newspaper practices following disclosures the News of the World listened to voicemails left on the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.