Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Rules 'must err on side of freedom'

David Cameron and some senior Government figures will have access to Lord Justice Leveson's report on Wednesday
David Cameron and some senior Government figures will have access to Lord Justice Leveson's report on Wednesday

Future regulation of the press should "err on the side of freedom", William Hague has warned, before Lord Justice Leveson's eagerly anticipated reform proposals are published.

The Foreign Secretary said he was a "big supporter of press freedom", but stressed that he wants to read the Leveson report before giving his verdict on it.

He dismissed suggestions that Prime Minister David Cameron had already made up his mind to reject state regulation, pointing out that "none of us" had yet seen Lord Justice Leveson's recommendations, which are to be published on Thursday.

"Although I'm a big supporter of the freedom of the press, I'm also a big supporter of actually reading something before you pronounce on it," he told BBC1's Andrew Marr Show.

"We will have to do that, but in my case, from the philosophical viewpoint that you have to err on the side of freedom."

Downing Street said Mr Cameron is keeping an open mind and would make no decisions before he has seen the report, which follows the Leveson Inquiry which he set up in the wake of last year's phone-hacking scandal.

The Mail on Sunday newspaper reported that the Prime Minister would back a new, tougher model of self-regulation to replace the Press Complaints Commission, but with the threat that a statutory system could be brought in later if matters do not improve.

But Number 10 played down any suggestion that the Prime Minister had already made up his mind on the Leveson report. "The Prime Minister is open-minded about Lord Justice Leveson's report and will read it in full before he makes any decision about what to do," a spokesman said.

Mr Cameron and some other senior Government figures will have access to it on Wednesday so that he can make a substantive response when it is released.

He faces a tricky dilemma balancing the demands of victims of press intrusion for tighter controls without alienating media and even members of his own Cabinet, including Michael Gove, Eric Pickles and George Osborne, who have signalled their opposition to statutory regulation.

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