Brooke to serve on press Bill committee

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A CABINET minister has taken the unusual step of sitting on the committee examining a Private Member's Bill.

Peter Brooke, Secretary of State for National Heritage, has decided to serve on the Freedom and Responsibility of the Press Bill standing committee to 'better inform himself' about the debate over press regulation, his office said yesterday.

According to the House of Commons library, there is no known precedent for Mr Brooke's move, seen as a sign of the difficult decisions that follow Sir David Calcutt's review of press self- regulation in January.

While the Government all but ruled out Sir David's suggested high-powered statutory tribunal with powers to pre-vet and fine, it has yet to indicate its favoured alternative to what it agreed was an 'ineffective' voluntary Press Complaints Commission. The Bill, sponsored by the Labour MP Clive Soley, would give a statutory right to have inaccuracies corrected and an independent press authority to help complainants enforce it.

Mr Brooke is unlikely to be swayed from his earlier view that the Bill should not be used as a vehicle for reform.