Examination of Witness (Questions 640-659)|
TUESDAY 25 MARCH 2003
Chairman: Sir Harry, I would very much
like to apologise for keeping you waiting like this. Mr Fabricant
640. Sir Harry, you were listening earlier on,
I think, to the evidence that was being given and you heard the
Chairman of the PCC talk about the PCC being a small organisation.
I rather thought that he was using that as an excuse for not being
proactive, for not taking up the issue that Frank Doran talked
about, namely not dealing with that which can be dealt with legally.
If that is the case should you not be giving some more money?
(Sir Harry Roche) The budget for this
year is £1.7 million. Since the PCC was set up the industry
has met the cost of a total of £17 million. The PCC has never
said to Pressbof, "We do not have enough money, we need more".
Pressbof has never said to the PCC you are not spending the money
wisely. I do not think it is a question of money. On the question
of proactivity I think you have to remember that the PCC predecessor,
the Press Council, the public, Government and the industry lost
confidence in the Press Council, money was running away from the
industry's point of view. That was a proactive body that instigated
their own investigations and produced reports. They had a very
large council. Complainants did not get their cases resolved sometimes
for literally months. I think it was very much in Calcutt's mind
when he made his recommendations in his first report that the
industry should set up of system of self-regulation which focused
very much on satisfying complainants and doing that quickly and
at no cost to the complainant.
641. You quite rightly point out that it should
be dealt with quickly, in privacy and dealt with cheaply but then,
of course, where there is legal redress they say, "We do
not get involved". I just want to pursue this, Guy Black
said, "We are not complacent. We know that we not perfect".
Professor Robert Pinker echoed that and then said, "I say
it again, we are a small organisation".
He went onto say, we have to use the limited
resources in ways in which we can maximise our return. What if
this Committee were to make certain recommendations which would
involve the PCC maybe being more proactive, maybe saying it would
take-up issues that are currently dealt both in the criminal and
civil courts and might even make a recommendation, I do not what
conclusions it would come to, to deal with third party complaints.
Then, what if Guy Black were to say to you, "To do that we
would need considerably more money because we cannot do this as
a small organisation". How would you react?
(Sir Harry Roche) I sat and listened to the evidence
this afternoon and I do not think he ever said that the Commission
suffers from a lack of resources. He was not giving that as a
642. "Small organisation".
(Sir Harry Roche) It is certainly a small organisation.
I think in that sense he was talking about a head count rather
than anything else. The way the model has been built, as I say,
on the proposals in the Calcutt Committee that is what was required.
643. If he wanted more head count he would need
more money, how would you react if there was such a request?
(Sir Harry Roche) If the request came then obviously
the industry by using Pressbof would have to evaluate that request
and make a decision. Over the 12 years or so that the Commission
has been running the Commission has come back and said we need
more money because there has been a judicial review and large
legal expenses that were not anticipated and Pressbof has accommodated
that and we have never had a problem. In terms of asking for money
to deal with third party complaints or become more proactive I
think that is something that the industry would have to consider
very carefully. It is my personal view that the industry would
not be happy because we reacted to the first Calcutt Report, then
the second one, and we all argued, and it was said this afternoon,
and I was very pleased to hear that members of the Committee agreed,
that standards have improved over that time. We are moving in
the right direction all of the time. In a sense it is almost a
philosophical thing about how you run this self-regulation process.
644. Why do you think the industry would be
unhappy if it were to be more proactive with third party complaints?
(Sir Harry Roche) The industry would say it was unhappy.
645. Why do you think it would say that?
(Sir Harry Roche) A lot of people in the industry,
including me, remember what happened with the Press Council. In
the end the Press Council lost all credibility because it was
spending lots of money on proactive activities, reports into football
stadium disasters with nobody asking them to do it, of its own
volition and then people saying, that is all very interesting
but that is not what this is all about. The whole focus of the
PCC from the start has to been to resolve complainants' complaints
as quickly as possible and as fairly as possible. The industry
believes, as the Commission believes, that the progress that is
being made on that basis since it was introduced has been considerable.
646. 1.7 million of the budget you say, what
percentage is that of the total turnovers of the organisation
who help fund your organisation?
(Sir Harry Roche) It is very, very small, I could
not tell you, obviously it would be very small.
647. Could I just follow up one of the points
that Michael Fabricant has made to you, you made a fair point
about the old Press Council and the way it got involved in all
kind of things which were on the margins of its remit, if you
care to put it that way, it is rather like the Electoral Commission,
I am a member of the Speakers' Committee on the Electoral Commission,
I obviously cannot go into the proceedings of that Committee,
but what I can say is that I am concerned that the Electoral Commission
is involving itself in a lot of things which the statute does
not require it to do but it may say that the statute enables it
to do. I certainly go along with you in the point that you put
to Michael Fabricant, that if an organisation is set up for one
purpose that is what it ought to get on with. There is proactive
and proactive, is there not? To start getting involved in the
kind of things you mentioned certainly they could be regarded
as extraneous for the purpose. I must say, I do not know if you
were here, I think you were, I found it somewhat baffling that
Mr Black was so resistant to the idea that it might have been
a good idea when the war broke out for the PCC to send a note
round to editors reminding them of the provisions of the code
in the sadly inevitable eventuality of some of our servicemen
being killed in the war.
(Sir Harry Roche) This is purely a personal view,
that rather came out the way the question developed. I do not
think anybody would argue that it is not the sensible thing to
do if that is the situation. Often the Commission has. I can remember
Lord Wakeham when he was Chairman circulating to editors his guidance
in terms of the royal princes and their education. It has been
proactive in the past. I do not want to make Guy Black's case
for him, or argue that, but I think it is a question really of
how proactive you are going to be. Certainly there are instances
where it has been proactive and it has been very proactive in
publicising its activities. As Guy said, and he speaks all over
Europe and so does Professor Pinker and indeed internationally.
Professor Pinker lectures abroad in terms of self-regulation and
is invited to do so by many bodies. Word is being spread in a
proactive sense about the Commission and the way it conducts its
648. Could you tell us a little bit about the
Pressbof finance and how many colleagues you have and how often
they might chop and change, because you seem to have been there
(Sir Harry Roche) I am about to step down at the end
of this year.
649. How will your successor be chosen?
(Sir Harry Roche) First of all Pressbof is a board
of directors composed of the representatives of the trade organisations
in the newspapers and magazine publishing industry, there are
12 altogether, including the secretary and treasurer. The trade
organisations elect their own representatives to sit on Pressbof.
When I informed the Board some months ago now that I wished to
stand down at the end of this year I proposed that the directors
of the trade organisations should form a committee to make recommendations
to the Board as to who would be a suitable candidate to replace
me. I think the announcement was made either yesterday or today,
I am not sure.
650. Is yours a remunerated position?
(Sir Harry Roche) Yes, it is. It was not originally.
I was Chairman and Chief Executive of the Guardian Media Group,
so I was actually Chairman of Pressbof in the Guardian's
time. When I retired from the Guardian the Pressbof Board,
I did not ask them, they voted me for a remuneration.
651. All good committees have a very strong
Chairman, this one is no different. The reason for raising that
is one of your most important tasks is to choose the Chairman
of the Press Complaints Commission, can you take us through how
Sir Christopher Meyer was chosen. Did I not here the Prime Minister
saying, "Leave him where he is at the moment".
(Sir Harry Roche) As I understand it he starts next
week, unless the Prime Minister
652. He has already left Washington.
(Sir Harry Roche) He has left Washington, yes.
653. We can go through his application.
(Sir Harry Roche) One of the responsibilities of the
Chairman of Pressbof is to think about the succession of the Chairman
of the Commission. When Lord Wakeham announced he wished to stand
on one sidePressbof
decided that position was not tenable so we negotiated the cessation
of his contract. What happened then was Pressbof elected a sub
committee of the Board. The trade organisations were asked to
make proposals in terms of who they thought may be a good successor
to Lord Wakeham.
654. How many were on that short-list?
(Sir Harry Roche) In the end there were 16 or 17 people.
We also asked the lay commissioners and I think, I will not swear
to this, the mechanics were dealt with by headhunters, and they
came up with a list of 16 or 17 people. The Pressbof selection
sub committee met with the headhunters and with the headhunters
we graded out of those 16 or 17 six names and we put them in the
order of what the headhunters and we felt were the people we would
like to look at first. We decided to interview on a sequential
basis because we were dealing with pretty high profile figures,
this is exactly what we did with Lord Wakeham when Lord McGregor
stood down. The sub-committee met and interviewed Sir Christopher
Meyer, reported to the Pressbof Board, went through the reasons
why and we unanimously agreedit is yet to be provedwe
think that he is going to be a good chairman of the PCC. That
report was accepted unanimously by the Pressbof Board. We then
655. I am glad you brought up the subject of
using headhunters. I was worried when Miss Hepworth earlier said
she was there because she knew Guy Black.
(Sir Harry Roche) I think she has given the wrong
656. Could you therefore help us?
(Sir Harry Roche) I understand why you are asking
the question. I have been on the Appointments Commission of the
PCC as Chairman of Pressbof since the Appointments Commission
was constituted and I am the only industry member. The Appointments
Commission meets a couple of times a year. We have a panel of
names that we look at, I am responsible for feeding through to
the other members of the Commission the editorial people that
have been put forward to sit on the Complaints Commission. By
and large the other three lay members of the Appointments Commission
bring up names for lay members. That is the way the process works.
What we try to do is to have people in our minds, as it were,
so that we can keep the membership of the Complaints Commission
rolling over so that people do not serve too long or too short
a period on the Commission. That is the way that it works. She
may well know Guy Black and it may be that Guy may have suggested
to one of the lay members of the Appointments Commission this
was a good person. I should say to you this is the first time
I ever met her, I have gone through her CV and
657. You can see where we are coming from in
terms of cosy cartels
(Sir Harry Roche) I agree with you absolutely. I say
quite categorically to you that that is not the case. I know the
way that question and answer came out it may have sounded like
that. That is not the case. On the very first Appointments Commission
the present Lord Chancellor was a member and he and I never had
any differences on how the Appointments Commission worked, we
had differences on one or two other things, that is another matter.
I would argue the Appointments Commission works very well, it
is independent, I am the only industry member, it is not cosy,
although that answer may have made it appear that way.
658. Can you say a bit more to me about Pressbof.
From your own submission it was not clear how you are constituted
and what your relationship is.
(Sir Harry Roche) It is a company limited by guarantee.
Calcutt said that the industry should fund the self-regulatory
body he was recommending, the way we came to that was the all
of the trade bodies met, decided that it had to be one central
body, we did not want different trade bodies trying to influence
a regulatory process in the way that they saw.
659. When you say trade bodies it is not just
(Sir Harry Roche) It is NPA, the National Newspapers,
the Regional Press and Newspaper Society, the Periodical Publishers
Association, magazines, the Scottish daily newspapers and the
Scottish national newspapers. We came together and we had to work
out how we were going to arrange to finance it. Obviously we had
to produce a first shot budget. What we did was we took the proportions
of contribution to the old Press Council and applied them to the
trade bodies, so the newspapers pay much more overall of the bill
than the magazines.
119 Footnote by witness: due to the ENRON situtation. Back