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Mr. Corbyn : Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there are throughout the country many people who are deeply aggrieved by the way in which the British popular press operates? Radio 4 carried an excellent item this morning about the way in which the people or Liverpool have been maligned by The Sun journalists in particular and others from the Murdoch empire. Many of those who have been maligned are looking to Parliament today to provide them with an avenue of redress. I refer to ordinary people--not wealthy people or public figures--who look to Parliament to provide them with redress against the gross misuse of power by many sections of the media, including the Murdoch empire. Many of those people who will be reading of this debate in tomorrow's newspapers will realise that the hon. Gentleman has made a crude attempt to filibuster on behalf of the Murdoch moguls and the Murdoch empire to prevent ordinary people from having redress against gross injustices by the press. Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that ordinary people who are maligned, misrepresented and lied about by journalists should have the right of redress against the media's abuse of power? Why does not the hon. Gentleman bring his contribution to an early close so that other right hon. and hon. Members may contribute to the debate and so that the House will have an opportunity to vote on this important matter?

Mr. Knight : The only crude part of my contribution was my reference to the jacket being worn by my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley, which I withdrew.

I did not notice the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) in his place when I started moving new clause 4, so I assume that he missed my opening remarks. I am sorry that he is delaying the proceedings even further, because he compels me en passant to repeat my opening comments. I am not here to defend the worst excesses of Fleet street or of Wapping. However, this is not merely a debating Chamber--we are considering legislation. Even if we accept that the press makes mistakes and that reports appear in the press that are not right, the House has a duty to ask today, "Is this the kind of legislation we want to see on the statute book?" My answer is a resounding no. Having said that, right hon. and hon. Members opposed to the Bill have a duty to be positive and not negative. That is why I seek to graft on to the Bill a right of appeal.

As to the many thousands of people throughout the country that the hon. Gentleman says want something to be done about press abuse, I will gladly let the hon. Gentleman know the address and telephone number of Mr. Louis Blom-Cooper, the new chairman of the Press Council, because the public can pursue such matters

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through the avenue of a complaint to the council. I have every confidence in Mr. Blom-Cooper, who has made it clear that he wants to revamp the council and make it more effective. He should be given a chance to do just that.

Mr. Batiste : We all share resentment of abuses by some sectors of the press. I can see how the Press Council could provide a remedy against biased or overstated reporting in the tabloid press, but I cannot see how the Bill as drafted could provide any remedy for the people of Liverpool.

Mr. Roger King (Birmingham, Northfield) rose --

Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. The hon. Gentleman cannot intervene in an intervention.

Mr. Knight : To save time, I gladly give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. King).

Mr. King : In Committee, we argued at great length in an attempt to sharpen the Bill. However, the intervention of the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) highlights one point to which we have never been given a satisfactory answer. Perhaps my hon. Friend's proposed appeals procedure will deal with this point. I refer to the criticism that the people of Liverpool are unable to seek redress. Would they be able to do so as a body of persons?

Mr. Knight : If I address new clauses 1 and 2, I am sure that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, would rebuke me. The Bill refers to

"A person or a body of persons"

--meaning an unincorporated association, or a company. One of the other fears shared by many of my hon. and right hon. Friends is that a political party would be able to seek a right of reply. As I understand it, an organisation such as the IRA would be allowed to seek a right of reply to what it regarded as an insulting article. At the end of the day, I should like to see the Bill defeated.

Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough) : All kinds of people have said all manner of things about the Hillsborough tragedy, including the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Patnick). I have tried to have my comments reported in the press, but I have not managed to do that. The hon. Member for Hallam made a disgraceful statement that was reproduced in The Sun on a major scale. The Sun maintains that its report is true. How can we enjoy any redress if moguls such as Murdoch do not allow it? The hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Knight) is making remarks on behalf of people like Murdoch.

Mr. Knight : I know that Opposition Members enjoy criticising Rupert Murdoch but it is stretching things a bit far to criticise The Sun for accurately reporting the comments of a Member of the House. My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Patnick) must answer for his own remarks. If the hon. Gentleman is upset by my hon. Friend's remarks, I hope that he will seek to clarify them. However, we cannot criticise the press for accurately reporting hon. Members' remarks.

Mr. Tebbit : The hon. Members for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) and for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) make extremely important points. There is undoubtedly a great deal of hurt and indignation felt on all sides about reports that have appeared in may sections of the press about the Hillsborough tragedy. An inquiry into

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that disaster has been commissioned, and it will eventually produce a report and set out what it believes to be the facts. The Bill will require the press commission, within 28 days of receiving a complaint of the type that the hon. Member for Hillsborough might strongly feel justified in making, to reach a conclusion as to the facts of the matter. It would have the power to force a newspaper to publish "facts" that subsequently might be found to be not the true facts. This is a perfect example of the dilemma that I put to my hon. Friend earlier.

Mr. Knight : There is not one hon. Member who regards Hillsborough as anything but a disaster. We are all upset about those who lost their lives, and feel sorrow for their families. There is a good case for maintaining a dignified silence about that tragedy until the inquiry has reported. If it reveals that the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Hallam--who is not in his place--were incorrect, I am sure that he will be the first to clarify the position.

Mr. Watts : Can my hon. Friend tell me from his reading of the Bill whether a disputed opinion reported in a newspaper, such as the comments attributed to our hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Patnick), could be considered a factual inaccuracy affecting a person or body of persons, which could include the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery)? My understanding is that it could not. If the newspaper had reported accurately what our hon. Friend said, it cannot be guilty of a factual inaccuracy. Other hon. Gentlemen may have a different opinion, but I cannot see that the Bill would give any redress to the sort of grievance raised by the hon. Member for Hillsborough. Perhaps a sponsor of the Bill would like to seek your indulgence, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to intervene and clarify the point. It is of considerable interest as two hon. Gentlemen have intervened on the misunderstanding that the Bill would provide redress in those circumstances.

11 am

Mr. Knight : I accept the concern of hon. Gentlemen about the Hillsborough tragedy and it is shared by my hon. Friends. My hon. Friend the Member for Slough is right. The Bill would not help in those circumstances. As I said in my first reply to the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery), if The Sun accurately reported what an hon Member said, there would be no remedy under the Bill. It is for hon. Members to argue in the House about the opinions expressed.

I am being waylaid into irrelevancies. The Bill is not relevant to that tragedy. I hope to convince the House that if we must have the Bill, we should have an appeals procedure included in it. I know that I have convinced the promoter but that some of my hon. Friends are uneasy about having the Bill at all. I ask them to agree that, if the Bill is to become law, we shall improve it by adding an appeals procedure to it.

Mr. Roger King : I shall welcome some clarification. My hon. Friend's new clause suggests that the claimant would have to go through the right of reply adviser and the press commission, and that if he was not satisfied with the result, he could take his case to appeal. If the applicant had gone to the adviser who had said that he did not have a case, but, as in the recent football tragedy, that person or body

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of persons felt that they had a case and went to the press commission, which would not accept the case, could they go through the appeals procedure? If those two bodies ruled against his case, could a claimant make an appeal?

Mr. Knight : My hon. Friend is under some sort of misapprehension about the role of the right of reply adviser. I do not see him as an adjudicator. Clause 5 makes it clear that he is there in the capacity of a sort of Official Solicitor to give advice on how to present a complaint and to assist with it. I do not envisage his having a role in telling someone whether he may pursue his complaint for a right of reply. I think that the intervention was somewhat misplaced. The right of reply will exist and it will be for the person who makes the complaint to prove that a factual inaccuracy has occurred that has damaged his good standing. If the commission rejects his complaint, although he has had the advice of the right of reply adviser, he would still be at liberty to pursue an appeal. The right of appeal should not be fettered in any way. Perhaps my hon. Friend is thinking of the need for leave to take a case to the House of Lords. This appeals procedure would not work in that way. A complainant, whether a member of the public or a newspaper, will have an absolute right to appeal to the appeals tribunal. Nothing should fetter that right and nothing does fetter that right as the new clause is drafted.

I would expect the rules to provide that, where a frivolous appeal was pursued, there would be power to order costs.

Mr. Stevens : Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Knight : I want to draw my remarks to a close, but I give way for the last time.

Mr. Stevens : My hon. Friend is talking about factual inaccuracies. The Bill seems to be limited to factual inaccuracies, but part of the problem may be an omission. Selective reporting of facts or a speech causes the same difficulties, but my hon. Friend does not seem to cover that.

Mr. Knight : My hon. Friend is absolutely right. He has pinpointed a defect in the Bill. An omission could not be called a factual inaccuracy, so there would be no right of complaint.

This is a bad Bill and I should like to see it defeated, but if we must have it there should be a right of appeal in it. Surely that is reasonable. I hope that the House will reject amendments Nos. 33, 91 and 100. Resort to the courts is superficially attractive, but it would be too slow and too costly. If we include an appeals procedure, the appeals tribunal would specialise and would gain expert knowledge of the matters relating to the Bill. As I said at the outset, I hope that the tribunal will be composed of people with a genuine interest in seeing a healthy press.

I hope that the House will support my new clause, which is reasonable. I notice that the promoter had the good grace at the outset to accept this change, so I hope that we shall not divide and that the House will accept the new clause.

Mr. Worthington : This morning it has been disappointing to see the tactics used by the opponents of the Bill. Many people are sick of the excesses perpetrated by some sections of the press and look to the House to tackle the

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issue seriously. It is most disappointing that those who are being obstructive are acting on behalf of people who are virtually journalistic thugs.

Mr. Batiste : Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Worthington : I will not play the same games as the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Knight). I want to advance the debate. I freely accept that there could be a good case for introducing an appeals procedure. What is most important is that the procedure is quick and deals with relatively simple issues. The Bill provides redress for factual inaccuracies in order to deal with some of the excesses.

I am aware of the risks of interfering with press freedom, but if the press lie, that is a diminution of freedom. If someone with a megaphone shouts, his view will be heard and the person with only his own voice will be drowned out. Rupert Murdoch with a megaphone would be a menace, but Rupert Murdoch in control of large sections of the press is a considerable threat to freedom.

Mr. Batiste : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Gentleman has made it clear that he does not intend to take interventions during his speech, as is his right. That being the case, many of us may wish to make speeches in order to deal with points that might otherwise have been dealt with in questions to him. I sincerely hope that in those circumstances, Mr. Deputy Speaker, should any requests be made to you by the sponsors of the Bill artificially to terminate the debate, you will bear that point in mind.

Mr. Deputy Speaker : The whole House knows that the Chair does not anticipate hypothetical situations.

Mr. Worthington : I am grateful, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

The issue of freedom is important. The Bill is centrally concerned with the wrongful exercise of power by the press, but it is my belief that, if we could lay down a yardstick or a benchmark of accuracy, many of the other faults--perhaps of distortion or of bullying--could also be dealt with. Almost every story about which people have complained has had within it that essence of inaccuracy.

I know full well that the Bill does not tackle everything that is wrong with the press at present. That is why I hope that during the debate Conservative Members will allow the Minister to speak, but by their tactics they are denying the Minister that opportunity. I hope that the Minister will respond to what has been the great success of the Bill, which is that it has brought the issue of press abuse of power into the centre of politics. Conservative Members who have spoken are aligning themselves with some very dubious characters, who are abusing their constituents, who are at present subject to the unfettered use of power. The disgraceful thing is that this country is supposed to be a democracy, but, to me, democracy means equality before the law. A feudal state is one in which there are different laws for different classes of people. When it comes to defamation and abuse of the people we have a feudal state, because there is no chance of the ordinary person getting redress from the law. The Minister and Conservative Members have ignored that. Conservative Members have not attempted in this Bill, or at any other time, to address that fundamental denial of civil liberties.

Mr. Waller rose--

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Mr. Worthington : I shall not give way. It is time for Conservative Members to listen. [ Hon. Members :-- "What about our right of reply?"] The right of reply will come to Conservative Members in due course.

What Conservative Members are ignoring and are giving no appeal against are the kinds of abuse that have been occurring in recent years. In recent times we have heard a lot about how there should be investigative journalism. I would accept that fully, but one of the things that has not happened is investigative journalism by the press of the press. There has been a concealing of some of the outrages that have occurred. One can take as an example the tragic case of Russell Harty. When he was on his death bed window cleaners were being bribed so that cameramen could take pictures of what was happening.

Mr. Roger King : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) is giving us his views on why we should pass his Right of Reply Bill today, but, in fact, we are debating new clause 4, which is about a press commission appeal tribunal. The hon. Gentleman's points have nothing to do with the new clause. I should have thought that, having heard my hon. Friend from Derby, North (Mr. Knight) and if he approves of the clause, he would be anxious to conclude.

Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. The hon. Gentleman is the promoter of the Bill. I am giving him the opportunity to paint the picture before he comes to the new clause, which I am sure he is about to do. 11.15 am

Mr. Leigh : Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. My hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Knight) dealt specifically with the new clause, which concerns a narrow issue, and much of the debate has been about the legal implications. What we have now is a crude attempt by the promoter of the Bill to get into the tabloid press by talking about Russell Harty. Are we to have a serious debate on the new clause or not?

Mr. Deputy Speaker : I have given the hon. Gentleman a hint, and I am sure that he is now about to come to the new clause.

Mr. Worthington : I am trying to establish why, in the kind of cases we are dealing with, a right of reply to a matter of factual inaccuracy is important, why we do not have that right at present and why we accept the case for there to be an appeal within the framework of the press commission. We should look at the kinds of cases that have occurred and see that behind them is the fundamental issue of inaccuracy. I was referring to the case of Mr. Russell Harty, when window cleaners were bribed to allow photographs to be taken of a ward, attempts were made to steal doctors' records, there were impersonations of doctors and nurses and there was a hounding of suffering relatives and friends. Conservative Members are defending people who take such action. They are failing to set up a procedure, through the press commission, that would allow an appeal against such press behaviour.

Mr. Batiste : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman brings it on his own head, because he will not give way. The hon. Gentleman appears to be speaking to an entirely different Bill from the one that I have in front of me. I wonder whether there has

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been a procedural error and he has a different document. None of the circumstances he has mentioned is relevant to the Bill in front of us.

Mr. Flannery rose --

Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. I hope that the House will leave matters of order to the Chair. The hon. Gentleman is now addressing himself to the new clause.

Mr. Flannery : Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Member for Elmet (Mr. Batiste) has intervened repeatedly, as, indeed, have other Conservative Members. They are filibustering. They are trying to stop the democratic procedure in the Chamber by hounding my hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington), who has introduced the Bill. That is entirely in line with the way in which Conservative Members are defending the people who own the press.

Several Hon. Members rose --

Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. What has been said so far is in order. It is my job to ensure that the rules of order are observed. The hon. Gentleman has assured me that he is about to address his remarks more closely to the new clause.

Mr. Worthington : Once again, I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Certainly, I want to demonstrate why I think we should have, as the new clause proposes, a better appeals procedure. The Press Council, which is the present appeals procedure, is inadequate because its methods are extremely faulty. What I am proposing--aligned with the proposal of the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Knight)--would be infinitely better. At present, about 1,700 or 1,800 appeals against press misconduct go to the Press Council each year and of those about 4 or 5 per cent. are upheld. About 850 to 900 simply disappear each year, because people see that there is no point in taking their cases to a body that is so steered towards the needs of the press. A press commission would be a much fairer and more open system of appeal. I am happy to add to that proposal the further tier proposed by the hon. Member for Derby, North. When one considers the kind of bias that is implicit in the Press Council's judgments, it is clear that we must have a better system of appeal.

One Press Council judgment, which I cited to the Committee, illustrates the need for a better system of appeal. A school felt that it had been abused by a local newspaper and the head teacher refused to talk to the paper because her experience was that its reporters distorted what she said. The Press Council judgment, against which there is no appeal, stated :

"the Press Council deplores the practice of some schools, education authorities and local authorities in refusing to speak to particular newspapers or answer their inquiries. Organisations which do so have little ground for serious complaint if inaccuracies are published in good faith as a result of their absence."

In other words, if someone's experience is that a paper distorts what he has said and he therefore decides not to speak to that paper, any subsequent inaccuracies are his fault. That is an outrage. There is no appeal against such judgments and that is why we need a less biased approach.

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Another example of the present lack of appeal procedures and the biased practices of the Press Council may amuse some hon. Members. My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Brown) appealed to the Press Council about an article in the Sunday Express, which said :

"Three times in the previous 14 days Mr. Brown, Labour MP for Leith, telephoned the home of Chris Moncrieff, political editor of the Press Association. Each time he reversed the charges from Kabul in Afghanistan at £9.37 a time. Twice Mr. Moncrieff was out and his wife answered, but the third time Mr. Brown got through. He asked Mr. Moncrieff to tell the Labour Whips the weather was bad in Afghanistan and that he might not be back in time for Monday's vote on the Scottish Housing Bill. Mr. Moncrieff was as speechless as he must now be penniless."

My hon. Friend the Member for Leith legitimately appealed against that press story on the grounds that he had not reversed telephone charges three times from Kabul. The Press Council, however, found against him and upheld the report. It was only because my hon. Friend forced the Press Council to reconsider its decision and forced Mr. Moncrieff to produce his telephone bill, which showed no report of any reversed charges from Kabul, that his appeal was upheld. Currently, there is no right of appeal on a Press Council decision, but somehow my hon. Friend got his case reopened. It is necessary to have a right of appeal in such cases.

Mr. Waller rose --

Mr. Worthington : I shall give way just to give myself a breather.

Mr. Waller : The hon. Gentleman has quoted from the Press Council report. It is clear from that report that only 10 per cent. of complaints relate to matters of accuracy. The hon. Gentleman said that most cases have something to do with inaccuracy, but that is not correct, because far more cases refer to matters of taste and decency.

Mr. Worthington : For the past few months I have gone through the annual reports of the Press Council. I have only been able to look at a limited number of adjudications and in the majority of cases it is clear that the press report has been built upon inaccuracy. From that basis issues of distortion, taste and privacy follow.

If I had introduced a Bill that gave a right of reply on reports relating to distortion, taste and so on as well as inaccuracy, Conservative Members would have said that it was unworkable. I believe that things have reached such a state in the press that it is necessary to demand that the press be accurate--that is a minimal demand. If the press is not accurate, there should be a statutory right of reply, because, at present, the press has gone too far. Because of the present inadequate system it is necessary to establish a press commission and an appeals procedure. The Government have asked us to trust the Press Council to reform itself. The very people who have stood by while press standards have plummeted are now to be entrusted with the job of pulling the press up by its boot straps. I have immense respect for Mr. Louis Blom-Cooper, but even he is rather daunted by the messianic powers that are now being attributed to him.

It is regrettable that the representatives of the press proprietors have not given the type of undertakings that would make it possible to withdraw the Bill. What have we heard from News International? There is an interesting

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leader in The Daily Telegraph of this morning which says that standards of modern journalism rest overwhelmingly in one or two people's hands :

"Mr. Murdoch and Mr. Maxwell, who own most--though not quite all--of the newspapers which give rise to most offence, could change the scene tomorrow, if they chose. The power lies with them." Mr. P. Rack is the representative of News of the World and News International on the Press Council, but what has he said about what that group will do in future to ensure the achievement of higher standards? He has said absolutely nothing. There is no credibility in the belief that the Press Council will be able to reform itself, because we have had no such undertakings from our major newspapers. The most cynical thing that has happened recently has been the appointment of an ombudsman by The Sun --he is its managing editor. Some of my hon. Friends may think that that is a joke, but it is no joke because that man represented The Sun when the Press Council investigated the infamous Ealing rape case story.

Mr. John Browne rose --

Mr. Worthington : No, I will not give way.

What happened with the Ealing rape case demonstrates why it is necessary to have a better appeals procedure. The Press Council said :

"four days after the attack, this front view full length, photograph occupied three full columns on the front page. It showed her leaving church after a service the previous day. On the photograph her features had been obscured by a black line or label masking the eyes. The story with it began by identifying but not naming her and went on

raped in her home prayed yesterday'

Its second paragraph described her as a pretty, dark-haired girl, identified the vicar's church precisely, and defined their relationship."

Mr. Greg Knight : It was accurate, then.

Mr. Worthington : I will come to that point in a moment. 11.30 am

The managing editor of The Sun said

"that the paper did not consider use of the picture tasteless and would not have published had it had thought so. Rape was a sordid and callous crime which The Sun believed it was its duty to present in a way that illustrated contempt for these savages'. The letter said that the picture was published to show the victim's ordinary, girl-next-door qualities'. It was never their intention to upset, annoy or cause offences to the victim or their readers, and if they had they were sorry."

That is what was said by The Sun's ombudsman. What undertaking has been given by its representatives on the Press Council that it will abide by the findings of the Press Council in the future? The Press Council's code on privacy is broken daily and repeatedly, and a reformed Press Council would be acting on that. Intrusions into privacy occur every day in the press. There must be a better system than the Press Council, which cannot deliver : there must be an appeal procedure.

The Government's silence on the issue has been disturbing. As a result, abuses of people in the press have been allowed. A fortnight ago a leaked report appeared in two newspapers, The Guardian and The Independent :

"Minister backs press law review".

The Minister, to his credit, admits that the tabloid journals have reached a very low level. But two weeks ago he was considering a comprehensive review of press law, including such issues as right of reply, confidentiality, defamation, the abuse of press power and other matters that currently

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concern us. It was wrong of him to leak that to the press, and I hope that he will now make a statement about the Government's present proposals.

Mr. Renton : The silence of the Government is about to be broken yet again.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Knight) on the eloquent way in which he spoke to new clause 4. I also thank my hon. Friends the Members for Elmet (Mr. Batiste), for Slough (Mr. Watts), for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. King) and for Nuneaton (Mr. Stevens) for their useful interventions, which, I think, helped my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North to elaborate on a number of points. It is a pity that the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) did not include the idea of an appeals tribunal in the first draft of his Bill, but we have had a useful discussion about it this morning.

My hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North talked about "misunderstood Ministers". I should confess that I have a personal interest in ensuring that the Bill, however flawed I may think it, passes into law. I was promoted from Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs to Minister of State some four years ago. The next day I picked up The Times expecting to read a glowing description of this meteoric rise in my career, the Prime Minister's perceptiveness in promoting me, and so forth. The larger part of the article about my promotion, however, concentrated on the fact that I had once portrayed Great-Uncle Bulgaria in "The Wombles of Wimbledon Common".

Unfortunately, The Times had got the wrong Tim Renton. I was never Great- Uncle Bulgaria in "The Wombles of Wimbledon Common". I therefore telephoned Julian Haviland, whom many of us remember as an extremely good, unbiased political editor of The Times , and told him what had happened, in tones of great indignation. He was extremely apologetic and assured me that the matter would be put right. Sure enough, the next day, tucked away at the bottom of page 23 or 27, was a tiny passage of three lines, saying something like "The report of Mr. Renton's career in the pop industry was inaccurate."

Under the Bill, I would have had an obvious claim to take to the press commission. I decided, in fact, that what the paper had said was not damaging to my career ; indeed, I thought that it probably enhanced my prospects. There was, however, a sidelight. Among my new responsibilities at the Foreign Office was the post of Minister with duties relating to Hong Kong.

Those in Hong Kong always regard the Minister involved simply as "their man" : he is the Hong Kong Minister. Some weeks later I discovered that papers such as the South China Morning Post had run headlines stating "New Hong Kong Minister ex-pop star". Perhaps they went even further and stated "Ex-Great-Uncle Bulgaria new Hong Kong Minister"--which must have puzzled the Chinese a good deal. Moreover--here is the rub--the Hong Kong papers never noticed the tiny correction in The Times. Throughout the two years for which I had responsibility for Hong Kong, it was assumed that I was, indeed, an ex-Great-Uncle Bulgaria. That may have caused some of the difficulties in the subsequent relations between the United Kingdom Government and Hong Kong : I do not know. Clearly, however, I had a good case for the press commission, and one that could go to the appeals tribunal

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suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North--and what a lovely can of worms that would have opened.

My hon. Friend argued his case very well. As has been pointed out, one of my other responsibilities at the Home Office is immigration and nationality. In that context, there is an extensive system of appeals, run not by the Home Secretary but by the Lord Chancellor. Decisions made by the immigration authorities can, as we know, have a profound effect on individuals and their families, and for that reason it was considered appropriate to introduce and continue an appeals framework.

It could be argued that decisions made following a complaint to the Press Council also have a profound effect on the lives of individuals, families and organisations. I can well understand that, given the potential importance of the council's decisions, an appeals machinery to review such decisions would be appropriate.

Let me give an example from immigration records to illustrate why the appeals tribunal is so helpful. It is an instance of fact blurring into interpretations of an event by parties who are in disagreement. A Member of Parliament rings my office and complains that a young lady carrying certificates of hairdressing qualifications has been refused entry as a visitor at the airport. The immigration officer has decided, on the basis of the certificates, that she has come to this country not as a visitor but to work. The Member of Parliament has been told, however, that the certificates are simply being carried by a visiting relative to be proudly displayed to her hosts as proof of her qualifications in the country from which she has come. That is just the sort of case in which an immigration appeals tribunal that could have a further and second look at the executive decisions of immigration officers can be a valuable safeguard.

Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton) rose --

Mr. Renton : I see the hon. Member rising to his feet and I know that he wants to ask me a question about the immigration appeals tribunal. I would much rather get on and talk about the press, but I shall give way.

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