Last year I spoke in a debate regarding The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) and I made the following comments...ahem...
9 Sep 2010 : Column 493 Nadine Dorries (Mid Bedfordshire) (Con): I congratulate the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) on enabling us to debate this issue. I also congratulate the hon. Member for West Bromwich East (Mr Watson) on an excellent speech. I felt that he stepped into the realms of poetic licence when he described journalism as "a living hell", but I thought that almost everything else he said was absolutely accurate.
I support the motion for a number of reasons, not least the fact that it is possibly our fault-the fault of the House-that the media were allowed to reach a point of arrogance whereby, in pursuit of a sensational headline in order to sell newspapers, they believed that they were above the law, could flout the law, and could adopt the unlawful procedures that have been adopted in this instance. I imagine that that does not apply only to the News of the World. The News of the World has been caught out, but how do we know that every newspaper is not acting in the same way? How do we know that our phones are not being hacked into at this moment by other newspapers?
I think that referral to the Committee is important because-I would hope-the Committee would then make a number of recommendations, including the recommendation that the media should no longer be allowed to be self-regulating through the Press Complaints Commission. It is because they have been self-regulating and we have been emasculated as politicians, afraid to say anything that condemns them, that the present situation has been allowed to arise.
Freedom of speech and the ability to hold a private conversation is the right of everyone in the land, and it has been paid for with human life. It is being paid for with human life today. Although it is almost surreal that we are discussing this matter, that is why we must discuss it, that is why the matter must be referred to the Committee, and that is why there must be a serious review followed by recommendations. Only a review and recommendations will prevent this situation from arising again, and, perhaps, curtail the actions of the media and change the way in which they behave.
During the same speech, I described the PCC as a ‘toothless tiger’.
In amongst all the sensationalism of the NOTW story today we appear to have forgotten who the PCC is there to protect. It’s not politicians like me or the celebrities who tend to use expensive lawyers anyway, but the average British citizen who is written about in local papers up and down the land on a daily basis.
The Press Complaints Commission is and has been for almost all of its existence the most incestuous and corrupt organisation. Corrupt because it takes its crust from the hands of the newspapers themselves in a banana republic manner which is glaringly out of place in 2011 Britain.
Have you ever read a newspaper report which has complained about the PCC or questioned its practice or appalling record? Has any newspaper ever considered the PCC code or in layman’s terms the list of reasons by which it will accept and act upon a complaint?
There is a strong case to be made that if the industry had been better regulated the less appalling the situation would have been today.
Over and over and over MPs stand in the House of Commons and complain about the PCC and similar organisations such as the FSA. Both are woefully inadequate and failing in their duties to protect individuals.
If we have learnt anything over the last few days it is that Parliament still matters, that what happens on the floor of the Commons can trigger a reaction which can have momentous consequences.
The doors of the PCC should close today. A new independent authority should be established with no one or anyone imbued with the old culture anywhere near.
The lack of monitoring or censure over the years has allowed a wholly unedifying method of acquiring stories and information to develop.
In the meantime, given that paper sales have fallen by as much as 20% over the last year the overall impact on all newspapers will be profound.
Whether by associated damage or as a result of the fact that if the Police were selling stories to the NOTW they were surely selling them to all newspapers, we may see the papers we all know today fall like a house of cards.