Lord Stevens claims politicians want to regulate newspapers in revenge for expenses scandal
Former chairman of Express Newspapers and peer for the UK Independence Party, Lord Stevens of Ludgate, has said that politicians and celebrities with “dubious private lives” had questionable motives for joining the campaign for press regulation.
During the latest debate on the merits of introducing the recommendations made by Lord Justice Leveson, Lord Stevens said a “Leveson act” would give politicians the “entry point” to restrict journalistic investigations.
“Since the press holds the Government to account, the Government clearly must not regulate newspapers,” he said.
“I’m sure that some politicians want to get back at the press for disclosing all their shenanigans over expenses.”
In response to Hugh Grant, who claimed that “history shows the need for state-backed regulation”, Lord Stevens said: “My history is not very good but, as I recall history, it has been a fight to free the press from legal restraints.”
During the debate, Baroness Boothroyd, the former Commons speaker, called for a “cultural revolution” in the press and its proprietors not bot state-backed regulation.
Lord Lester said that the use of exemplary or punitive damages would hit smaller publications hardest, while the Earl of Caithness, said some collateral damage was the price to pay for a free press.
Meanwhile, the Government said that if the newspaper industry did not succeed in drawing up a system of independent regulation that stopped malpractice, ministers would not “shy away” from press laws.
Viscount Younger of Leckie, a business minister, said: “The Prime Minister has said he does not believe that statutory legislation is necessary to achieve the principles outlined by Leveson.
“However, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport has been equally clear that she will not shy away from statutory legislation.
“This would be the only option left.”
However, Lord Prescott, the former deputy Prime Minister and advocate of state-backed press regulation, said: “The industry have used the same old trick, you delay it in discussion and get near the election and avoid doing anything about it.”