Belfast Telegraph

Government announces review into Northern Ireland Press standards

DUP votes secure narrow government victory in blocking Leveson 2

By Jonathan Bell

The UK Government has announced a review into Press standards in Northern Ireland.

Culture Secretary Matt Hancock announced the "named person" review as the government fought off a challenge for it to implement the second phase of the Leveson Inquiry.

Northern Ireland was excluded from the original 2012 inquiry. The government had intended to carry out a secondary process which would have examined those cases which had been subject to criminal proceedings but could not have been discussed in the original process. Instead the government now says a further review is not required given an improvement in Press standards.

Instead the government has announced a review of how media across the UK are complying with the law.

During the two hour debate in the Commons on Wednesday,  North Antrim MP Ian Paisley asked how - given Northern Ireland's was "precluded" from the Leveson inquiry - the government intended to examine Press behaviour in Northern Ireland.

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Culture Secretary Matt Hancock has announced a review into Northern Ireland press standards.

Welcoming the announcement of the review, Mr Paisley suggested the it could be characterised as a "Leveson for Northern Ireland".

Mr Hancock responded: "I would characterise it as a review aligned with the new clause 23 which we are bringing in across the whole country specifically to look into effects in Northern Ireland.

"We will make sure through the review that the future of the press is both free and reasonable. That their behaviour is reasonable yet they are not subject to statutory regulation.

"I want to see a Press that is both free and fair."

Interjecting former Labour leader Ed Miliband, who laughed as the announcement was made, said it was an "extraordinary" way to make policy asking how there could be a Leveson for Northern Ireland but not for the rest of the UK.

The minister also announced a review of how the police adhere to media guidance.

Sir Brian Leveson was appointed in July 2011 in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal that eventually led to the closure of the News of the World paper. The inquiry dealt with hundreds of witnesses, before producing an extensive and wide-ranging report in November 2012.

The inquiry did hear from journalists from regional titles across the UK including the then editor of the Belfast Telegraph Mike Gilson. Leveson did acknowledge how complaints made against regional titles were often less serious than those made against the larger national titles.

“I am determined that we have a system that is strengthened so that we have recourse to justice when things go wrong,” Matt Hancock added.

“The choice isn’t between doing something, and nothing. It is between doing something, and something better.”

Nine of the DUP MPs backed the government in winning the vote 304 votes to 295.

There were cries of "shame" as the result was confirmed.

Following the debate, the Department for Culture Media and Sport added: "We have proposed a statutory review of journalists' compliance with the new data protection regulations in four years from Royal Assent of the Bill. Within this ICO review, or aligned to it, we will make sure there is an independent named reviewer for Northern Ireland."

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