Parliament and Politics: MP planning Press Bill hearings

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Indy Politics
THE REVIEW of press self-regulation by Sir David Calcutt QC is likely to be paralleled by public hearings in Westminster involving editors and groups aggrieved at their treatment by newspapers.

The views expressed at the hearings will be used by Clive Soley, a Labour frontbench spokesman, in drawing up his Freedom and Responsibility of the Press Bill, which will come before the Commons in January - about the time Sir David is due to report. Mr Soley said a senior Conservative MP was interested in chairing the hearings.

The main purpose of Mr Soley's Private Member's Bill is to beef up the Press Complaints Commission, replacing self-regulation with a statutory body. The announcement on Thursday of the appointment of Sir David to look at how self-regulation and the editors' voluntary code of practice has worked, in effect extended the press's 'probation' for another six months.

Mr Soley wants the Bill to cover inaccurate reporting, but believes the problem of impartiality could be dealt with outside legislation by statements from the commission when a newspaper handles an issue 'unfairly'. This could be on the lines of the recent statement by Lord McGregor, chairman of the commission, criticising sections of the press for their 'odious' treatment of the Prince and Princess of Wales, he said.

Among the groups Mr Soley intends should give evidence are the 'dissenters' who he said had been badly treated by the press, such as campaigners against miscarriages of justice.