Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 558-559)



  Chairman: Mr Doran?

Mr Doran

  558. Welcome. We have had a huge amount of paper from you and various missives and we have interviewed, as I am sure you are aware, five editors. We put the two broadsheet editors to one side and I have to be honest that, when reading your evidence and your various missives and listening to the evidence of the three particular editors, the thought that went through my mind was that perhaps the lady protesteth overmuch. It seemed to me a very aggressive approach to what seems a very straightforward problem and at times very defensive. Would you like to comment on that?
  (Professor Pinker) We do have a good track record to defend, and we have set out that track record, and certainly on the experience of my time on the Commission which goes back to its beginnings there has been a substantial improvement.

  559. I think the Committee has accepted that and certainly when, for example, we listened to Mr Morgan I acknowledged that fact when he made the case that over the last ten years there have been huge improvements, and the press we saw ten years ago is very different from the press now and I have certainly been impressed by the amount of evidence about the way in which journalists are now trained and the way in which the Code forms part of the contract. I do not think anybody disputes that but it is a question of whether or not it is adequate for the present day, and issues are raised about the fact, for example, that the PCC is not proactive. You heard a discussion earlier about perhaps the alleged intrusion into the families of servicemen who may be lost or killed in the Gulf War, for example. We do not see the PCC taking a position on that; it sits and waits for a complaint, and if you want to comment on that I would be happy to hear from you.
  (Mr Black) There are three separate points that you have dealt with there. The first is the nature of the work that we put in our submission for you, partly because we welcome this opportunity to showcase our service to ordinary members of the public, to showcase the way in which the Code has changed, and also to highlight some of those issues which are difficult to grapple with—the implementation of the Human Rights Act, on-line material and so forth, where there are big challenges for the future, and we have gone into those in some detail. So we welcome this opportunity and that is why we put so much effort in to setting out what we see are the achievements over the course of the last 10 years. I am glad you raised the issue of proactivity because it is one of the most important things to come out of all this. Firstly, I would challenge the notion that the PCC is not a proactive body. We spend, as section D of our literature sets out for you, a huge amount of time going round vulnerable groups of people—public authorities, schools, hospitals, whatever you might care to name—talking to them about how to make a complaint and empowering them to raise their own complaints under the Code. There is a huge amount of empowerment that goes on. In the course of the last few months I have spent time at the Scottish Police College talking to family liaison officers, public sector workers in Northern Ireland, and Ashworth hospital talking to people there about mental illness—

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2003
Prepared 16 June 2003