MPs criticised over press curbs

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The Independent Online
LORD McGREGOR, chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, accused MPs yesterday of seeking to introduce wide- ranging controls on the press simply because they wanted

to protect their own personal privacy.

He said: 'The intrusions which politicians emphatically dislike are those upon themselves, where their private behaviour is reported because it's relevant for the electorate to assess the conduct of public office. In my experience there are very few instances of that sort of improper intrusion upon so-called ordinary people.'

Lord McGregor was commenting on a government Green Paper, published yesterday, which suggested that people should have a right to keep secret details of health, personal communications and personal relationships.

Victims of harassment - including those whose telephone conversations were recorded or whose pictures were taken by long-lens cameras - would be able to sue, although newspapers could plead public interest as justification in certain cases.

The Green Paper also suggests that newspapers should voluntarily appoint an ombudsman as the final arbiter on complaints against the press. This call is likely to be reinforced in a White Paper on press regulation due to be published next month by Peter Brooke, Secretary of State for National Heritage.

Lord McGregor, 71, speaking in Glasgow at the opening of an exhibition about the work of the Press Complaints Commission, said the Government's proposals were 'a combination of danger and storm signals' that had been inspired by 'a hard-core group of authoritarian-minded MPs of all parties'.