Tory peer Lord Hunt appointed chairman of Press Complaints Commission

Conservative peer Lord Hunt has been appointed as the new chairman of the Press Complaints Commission.

The lawyer and former MP takes up his role next week, succeeding Baroness Buscombe, who stepped down in the summer.

Lord Hunt's appointment to lead the body comes as the methods of the press face increased scrutiny following the phone hacking scandal.

He said he would continue to fight for freedom of expression, but said there is "a real appetite for change".

Lord Hunt became a peer in 1997 and is currently chairman of the financial services division at law firm Beachcroft. He is a former Cabinet Minister and MP for Wirral and Wirral West.

He said: "I am delighted I shall be leading the crucially important process of wholesale regeneration and renewal of the system of independent self-regulation of the press.

"My job is to ensure we create in due course an effective, genuinely independent standards body, which enjoys the overwhelming respect and support of the media, our political leaders and the general public."

Lord Hunt continued: "Throughout my political life I have fought for freedom of expression; and a free press is the distinctive and indispensable hallmark of any truly free, civilised society. I have no desire to live in a country where the legitimate, lawful investigative activities of the press are fettered at the whim of politicians. That would not be freedom at all."

The appointment was announced a day after senior media figures launched a robust defence of press self-regulation and hit out at the Prime Minister for undermining the PCC.

Addressing a hearing of the Leveson Inquiry, set up by the Prime Minister in the wake of the phone hacking scandal, Associated Newspapers editor-in-chief Paul Dacre accused Mr Cameron of a "cynical act of political expediency" by declaring the commission was "failed".

He said over-regulating the press would "put democracy itself in peril".

"Am I alone in detecting the rank smells of hypocrisy and revenge in the political class's current moral indignation over a British press that dared to expose their greed and corruption," he said.

He said the commission had been naive over phone hacking, but added: "If phone hacking results in the abolition of the PCC, then logically it should result in the abolition of the police and the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service)."