Britain’s Cameron warns press regulation must change

November 28, 2012 3:08 pm
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He is not obliged to follow the report’s recommendations but they are likely to present him with a dilemma amid splits in his Conservative party over the need for statutory regulation.

More than 80 lawmakers from the three major parties said in a letter published Wednesday that any introduction of statutory regulation would be the biggest blow to media freedom in Britain for 300 years.

“As parliamentarians, we believe in free speech and are opposed to the imposition of any form of statutory control even if it is dressed up as underpinning,” said the letter published in the Guardian and Daily Telegraph newspapers.

It added: “No form of statutory regulation of the press would be possible without the imposition of state licensing – abolished in Britain in 1695.”

London 2012 Olympics chief Sebastian Coe was among the senior Conservatives who signed the letter, as well as former defence minister Liam Fox and former Europe minister David Davis.

One MP from the Liberal Democrat coalition partners, John Hemming, also signed along with several Labour lawmakers, including Kate Hoey, a former sports minister, and Frank Field, a former welfare minister.

But 42 MPs from the centre-right Conservatives – who are the senior partners in a coalition government with the centrist Liberal Democrats – have previously written a letter calling for strong new press laws.

Hollywood actor Hugh Grant, who has spoken out on behalf of victims of phone hacking, also called for new laws.

“What people are campaigning for is an end to newspapers being able to regulate themselves, marking their own homework,” the “Four Weddings and a Funeral” star told BBC television.

The Leveson inquiry heard eight months of testimony from hacking victims, politicians and media figures.

Cameron set up the inquiry after it emerged that the News of the World had hacked the phone of Milly Dowler, a murdered schoolgirl, as well as targeting dozens of crime victims, celebrities and politicians.

British police have launched three linked investigations into misdeeds by newspapers, while Cameron’s former spokesman Andy Coulson and ex-Murdoch aide Rebekah Brooks have both been charged with phone hacking and bribery.

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