The Royal Bugging Row: Press body viewed as too weak

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PUBLICATION of the transcript of the alleged row between the Prince and Princess of Wales would be banned under legislation to be proposed by Peter Brooke, Secretary of State for National Heritage, writes Colin Brown.

A White Paper proposing statutory rights against bugging and intrusion of privacy by photographers will be published at the end of June.

The reports of the private conversation between Prince Charles and the Princess, including references to their children, confirmed the views of MPs on all sides that the existing Press Complaints Commission is too weak.

The White Paper follows the report by Sir David Calcutt QC, which recommended a statutory tribunal on the press, with wide-ranging powers for dealing with complaints.

Mr Brooke told the Commons in January: 'The Government would be extremely reluctant to pursue that route.' But he added: 'The Government agree with Sir David that the Press Complaints Commission as at present constituted is not an effective regulator of the press.'

A backbench Bill sponsored by the Labour MP Clive Soley, to introduce a statutory code of conduct for the press, was blocked last week.

The Commons Select Committee on National Heritage, chaired by Gerald Kaufman, the former Labour spokesman on foreign affairs, recommended a Press Commission with powers to fine newspapers where there had been a breach of the code of practice.