Leveson: Norfolk MPs’ views on press regulation

Ahead of the publication of Lord Leveson's report into press ethics, Norfolk MPs have been giving their views on how newspapers should be regulated. JOE WATTS reports.

Norfolk MPs were in favour of reform to give victims of press abuse more protection, but many disliked the idea of statutory regulation.

Norwich North MP Chloe Smith said: 'I'm looking for a solution from Leveson which maintains our historic free and independent press whilst leaving no place for the unpleasant practices some national papers have used.

'Some actions are already outright criminal, like phone hacking, but innocent people also need ways to get redress when the media goes too far.'

South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon said: 'As a former journalist myself, I have the deepest antipathy to the very idea of government controls on the press. In a free country, newspapers must be free to write what they wish.'

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Meanwhile, Norwich South MP Simon Wright said: 'Ordinary people whose lives have been exploited by powerful newspapers need to know there is somebody prepared to stand up for them.'

North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham was among 42 MPs, along with Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman, who signed a letter calling on the government not to 'duck the challenge' of press regulation.

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He said: 'I'm not for all-out statutory regulation, but I do think the press need to accept that with the phone hacking scandal things need to change.

'The main thing that I'm concerned to do, is get a regulator on a more robust footing. The regional press, who I've always found to be fair, take the Press Complaints Commission seriously. But the national press are different.'

Mr Freeman said: 'Nobody wants to shackle the media's vital role in democracy of defending free speech or holding politicians to account. But somehow we need a mechanism to protect those unable to afford expensive lawyers to protect themselves against irresponsible journalism where it occurs.'

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said: 'We've got to absolutely ensure we've got a free and vibrant press that isn't cowed by politicians or anyone else. That's the central principle we have to hold on to.

'Secondly we also have to recognise that there have been some extreme abuses exposed through this whole hacking scandal.'

He added: 'We have to respond to that as well.'

The EDP understands that Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis is against state regulation of papers, meanwhile South West Norfolk MP Liz Truss said she believed in a 'free and robust press'.

Broadland MP Keith Simpson said: 'I'm reluctant for a massive heavy regulatory framework because I think that really would restrict what is generally a free press but would like to see something put in place that's better than the system we've got.

'There has to be something that editors and owners take notice of.'

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