Former Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson has spoken out strongly against state regulation of the Press, saying: “There is absolutely no need for it and the Government should leave well alone.”
The North Shropshire MP launched his defence of a free Press in his local newspaper ahead of the publication of the long-awaited Leveson report into media standards on Thursday.
More than 40 Tory MPs are now preparing to publish a letter calling for a tougher system of self-regulation by the Press rather than a statutory framework.
Mr Paterson, now Environment Secretary in David Cameron’s Cabinet, told the Shropshire Star: “I’m reminded of the words of Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States, who said in 1787: ‘Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter’. I go along with that wholeheartedly.”
He said he could not think of “anything that would discredit politicians more” than to bring in State regulation.
Downing Street said Mr Cameron is keeping an open mind and would make no decisions before he has seen Leveson's report.
Labour is arguing for a system of regulation independent of the Press and the Government, but with “statutory underpinning”.