Regulation of the press

Written evidence submitted by Sir David Bell [ROP 007]

It has been drawn to my attention that Mr Peter Wright, Editor Emeritus of the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, Metro and Mail Online, gave evidence to your committee on 11th June 2013.

The Right Honourable Ben Bradshaw MP asked Mr Wright about articles which the Daily Mail ran about me as an Assessor to the Leveson Inquiry over some 12 pages on 16th November 2012. Mr Wright noted that I had made no legal challenge to these articles and went on, "it would not have been worth his while [to make a legal challenge] because it’s all accurate."

In his evidence on 18th June 2013 Mr Lionel Barber, Editor of the Financial Times, under questioning from two members of your Committee, also noted that there had not been a "legal challenge" following the coverage in the Mail.

I would like to make the following points:

1. I have never commented on any of the things that the Daily Mail has said about me since the Inquiry began. This does not mean for a minute that I accept their accuracy.

2. As an Assessor I could not comment on these articles at the time they were published because the final Leveson Report had not been issued. And I still consider myself bound by the agreement which all six Assessors made before the Inquiry began which precludes us from making any public comment while the outcome of the Inquiry is still unclear.

3. I started in journalism on the Oxford Mail 44 years ago. I believe passionately in a press which has the right to write what it wants, comment as it likes and criticise whomever it chooses for whatever reason as long as it meets the standards set out in its own Editorial Code. I do not want to take legal action against a newspaper and have never done so.

4. The Royal Charter approved by Parliament provides for the successor to the Press Complaints Commission to set up a simple arbitration system. If that had been in place when the Daily Mail articles appeared I would have used it and been content to abide by whatever conclusion it reached.

June 2013

Prepared 10th September 2013