Pickles ‘not troubled’ by deal over Press regulation

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A Government Minister who last year warned against state regulation of the Press said he is not troubled by news that an agreement had finally been reached by the three main parties to control journalists’ conduct.

Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles said he did not share the reservations recently expressed by his departmental Minister, Nick Boles, and that sometimes compromises were necessary.

He said: “I accept the compromised agreement that we’ve put together.”

Speaking on the BBC’s Sunday Politics, he said: “If the Press want to have an additional protection that the Royal Charter operates, then they can move into the system, but if they want to continue independently, that’s perfectly acceptable.”

His junior departmental colleague, Mr Boles, said of the new deal earlier this week: “There’s nothing we’ve done that troubles me as much as this.”

Asked if he felt the same, Mr Pickles replied: “No, it’s not my view.”

However, evoking American Founding Father Thomas Jefferson in October 2012, Mr Pickles said: “The British Press is good at exposing corruption and it is good at going to places where other press wouldn’t.

“I think it was Thomas Jefferson who said that for a free society to operate, the river of a free Press had to flow without restriction.”

Culture Secretary Maria Miller announced earlier this month that the main political parties had agreed rules for regulating the Press and dealing with complaints, a year after the Leveson Inquiry into wrongdoing by journalists.

Two proposals were put forward, one by newspapers and one by politicians. The newspaper industry’s plans, which involve a system which is independent of government and would require newspapers to pay fines of up to £1m, were rejected by the subcommittee of the Privy Council.

The proposals backed by the three main parties, on the other hand, involve statutory underpinning. These plans have now been put forward to the Privy Council for final approval, expected on October 30.