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"Press Council set for big shake-up",

the media editor, Richard Brooks, said :

"A complete overhaul of the Press Council, including a two-thirds cut in membership and an ombudsman for national and regional newspapers, is being proposed by its new chairman, Louis Blom-Cooper.

Newspaper groups themselves would bear the onus of dealing with grievances under the radical plans Mr. Blom-Cooper will present next Tuesday at his first meeting as the council's chairman."

It is incorrect to infer that the Press Council is useless and that nothing is being done. Something will be done next week. Some hon. Members would say that the House should give the Press Council one last chance. Well, it should certainly be given a chance now that it has a new chairman to see whether his radical ideas can improve the situation.

The report goes on to say that

"Mr. Blom-Cooper wants working journalists, rather than managers, to serve on the council. He also believes he should choose council members himself rather than rely on the traditional outside appointments body."

That is welcome news. The House should wait to see the result. One Opposition Member made a jocular comment about the appointment of the Sun's own ombudsman. I realise that the Opposition holds strong views about the Sun, but they should wait for the outcome of that development. I have more faith in the Sun than they do, and I do not believe that it is a window dressing exercise.

Earlier, in one of my interventions, I was taken to task by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) because I referred to article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. My hon. Friend the Member for Winchester also made great play about article 8 and how it supported his Bill. I thought it only right to place on record that article 10 provides a right of freedom of information.

I doubt the wisdom of legislating in the area of privacy alone. If the law is to be changed, what about defamation? A bit-by-bit, jigsaw approach is not the best way of proceeding. We may agree that improvements must be made, but that is not the issue today. The question is whether the Bill is the right vehicle. It should be rejected because not only is it the wrong vehicle but it is incapable of improvement in Committee to the extent that it will avoid several pitfalls that I shall explain to the House.

First, I am surprised that no Opposition Member spotted that clause 1 of the Bill provides that

"proceedings may be brought by any person"--

[Interruption.]

Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd) : Order. A number of conversations are under way, which shows great discourtesy to the hon. Gentleman who has the Floor.

Mr. Knight : I am grateful for your protection, Madam Deputy Speaker. I did not regard my right hon. and hon. Friends' conversations as a discourtesy, as I believe they were considering and mulling over my earlier points. As I said, I am surprised that no right hon. or hon. Member has spotted the fact that clause 1-- Mr. John Browne rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put :--

The House divided : Ayes 98, Noes 1.


Column 1363

Division No. 59] [2.27 pm

AYES

Abbott, Ms Diane

Aitken, Jonathan

Alexander, Richard

Allen, Graham

Anderson, Donald

Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)

Banks, Robert (Harrogate)

Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)

Barron, Kevin

Beggs, Roy

Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)

Bowis, John

Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard

Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith)

Browne, John (Winchester)

Buck, Sir Antony

Campbell-Savours, D. N.

Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)

Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)

Clwyd, Mrs Ann

Cohen, Harry

Cook, Frank (Stockton N)

Coombs, Simon (Swindon)

Corbett, Robin

Corbyn, Jeremy

Couchman, James

Critchley, Julian

Crowther, Stan

Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)

Devlin, Tim

Dobson, Frank

Dunnachie, Jimmy

Dykes, Hugh

Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey

Fishburn, John Dudley

Forman, Nigel

Fox, Sir Marcus

Fry, Peter

Golding, Mrs Llin

Gordon, Mildred

Gorst, John

Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)

Greenway, John (Ryedale)

Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)

Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)

Hannam, John

Hardy, Peter

Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)

Healey, Rt Hon Denis

Heffer, Eric S.

Holland, Stuart

Hordern, Sir Peter

Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)

Hughes, Simon (Southwark)

Hunter, Andrew

Janner, Greville

Jessel, Toby

Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine

Kirkhope, Timothy

Lawrence, Ivan

Leighton, Ron

Livingstone, Ken

McCrindle, Robert

Macdonald, Calum A.

McWilliam, John

Maginnis, Ken

Maples, John

Marshall, John (Hendon S)

Marshall, Michael (Arundel)

Moate, Roger

Nelson, Anthony

Primarolo, Dawn

Quin, Ms Joyce

Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn

Rhodes James, Robert

Richardson, Jo

Rossi, Sir Hugh

Ruddock, Joan

Short, Clare

Sims, Roger

Skinner, Dennis

Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)

Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)

Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)

Stanbrook, Ivor

Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John

Summerson, Hugo

Temple-Morris, Peter

Thorne, Neil

Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)

Tracey, Richard

Tredinnick, David

Ward, John

Wiggin, Jerry

Williams, Rt Hon Alan

Winnick, David

Worthington, Tony

Young, Sir George (Acton)

Tellers for the Ayes :

Mr. William Cash and

Mr. Michael Brown.

NOES

Bottomley, Peter

Tellers for the Noes :

Mr. Greg Knight and

Mr. George Galloway.

Whereupon Mr. Speaker declared that the Question was not decided in the affirmative, because it was not supported by the majority prescribed by Standing Order No 36 (Majority for closure, or for proposal of question).

It being after half-past Two o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.


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