Cabinet split on privacy law
Donald Macintyre writes political sketches for The Independent, having been Jerusalem correspondent since 2004, covering Israel and the Occupied Territories, as well as travelling for the paper to Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, Libya and Egypt.
Monday 14 February 1994
The high-powered Cabinet Committee on Home Affairs this week gave clearance to Peter Brooke, Secretary of State for National Heritage, to proceed with his long-awaited White Paper on the press.
But despite the outcry last year over the publication by the Daily Mirror of clandestine pictures of the Princess of Wales exercising in a private gym, ministers have not yet committed themselves to a new privacy tort, favoured by the Lord Chancellor, Lord Mackay of Clashfern.
The Cabinet is still divided over whether a new civil law to protect both public figures and ordinary citizens from press intrusion is desirable. The Prime Minister is among those having doubts about the use of a new civil statute.
In a clear sign that ministers are still hesitant about curbs on media excesses - five years after a warning by David Mellor, when he was a Home Office minister, that the press were 'drinking in the Last Chance Saloon' - officials acknowledge that parts of the White Paper will be tentative rather than definite proposals for legislation.
The White Paper will recommit the Government to criminal legislation designed to outlaw the kind of unauthorised electronic surveillance and bugging used to expose the extra-marital affair that halted Mr Mellor's ministerial career.
But it will be more cautious in dealing with the proposed civil tort, though it will outline possible ways of ensuring that such a law was not only used by the rich and famous, for example by creating an equivalent of the small claims court.
In cases both of the criminal law and the possible use of a new civil statute, the White Paper is expected to discuss a possible public interest defence that can be entered by journalists, where the purpose of intrusion can be shown to have such a purpose.
The White Paper is expected to argue that the press has taken an important step forward in self-regulation with the Press Complaints Commission's appointment last month of Professor Robert Pinker as its first privacy commissioner. In cases where there have been extreme breaches of privacy, Professor Pinker will be able to recommend that publishers discipline editors.
- 4 #JeSuisEd: People share photos of themselves eating awkwardly in solidarity with Labour leader
- 5 Women think Irish men are the sexiest, survey finds
Italian police 'reveal' what Jesus looked like as a young boy
Mysterious 'X-Files' sounds heard miles above the Earth
Florida couple forced to register as sex offenders for having sex on public beach
Who should I vote for in the general election? Take The Independent's interactive quiz to find out which party is the right choice for you
General election: Conservatives mocked online over Boris Johnson's claim of SNP 'jockalypse'
In defence of liberal democracy
General Election 2015: Post-election 'shambles' looms as 70 per cent of voters say SNP 'should not be able to veto UK government policies'
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
General election live: SNP suspends two members for disrupting Labour rally
General Election 2015: Sturgeon claims Scots 'appalled' by Ed Miliband's refusal to work with SNP
£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...
£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...
£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...
£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...