Minister's complaint puts press body to test

THE Press Complaints Commission, the body which was openly criticised by Sir David Calcutt's report on the press, faces a potentially crucial test from high profile complaints, including one from a government minister.

Jonathan Aitken, Minister for Defence Procurement, has lodged an official complaint about an article in the Observer last year, linking him with illegal arms exports to the Middle East. Mr Aitken is believed to have received clearance 'from the highest level' before complaining.

In a separate development, the editor of the Sun, Kelvin MacKenzie, is believed to have lodged an offical complaint against his rival newspaper, the Daily Mirror. Mr MacKenzie, whose office declined to discuss the issue, is thought to have complained about coverage of the evidence he gave to the all-party Commons Select Committee on National Heritage on 21 January.

The cases will raise the profile of the Commission at a time when ministers are considering the Calcutt report's recommendations, and possible changes to the composition or powers of the Commission, chaired by Lord McGregor of Durris. Although the Commission hopes the Aitken complaint will be resolved successfully this month, ministers will be watching closely its handling of the case.

The test for the Commission comes as ministers appeared to be cooling towards some of Sir David's proposals. The Prime Minister has already indicated that he does not favour statutory regulation of the press, although ministers are pressing ahead with plans to outlaw bugging and tresspass.

While the prospect of introducing a privacy tort - also recommended by Sir David - is being investigated by the Lord Chancellor's department, senior ministers increasingly believe that it is not practical.

Doubts have been raised about the possibility of producing a new tort which could allow people of modest financial means a method of redress. With the cost of legal actions limiting those able to make use of the libel laws, ministers are anxious that any new law should not prove as restrictive. But the Government is also certain to rule out any scheme which would lead to a large increase in legal aid.

Last week, newspaper editors announced guidelines warning journalists not to use bugging devices or tap telephones, except in special cases in the public interest.

The editors added an anti-bugging clause to the profession's voluntary code of practice, defining public interest as detecting or exposing crime, serious misdemeanor or seriously anti-social conduct, as well as protecting public health and safety and preventing the public from being misled 'by some statement or action of an individual or organisation'.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy