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By Peter Hoskin
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Ahead
of the release of the Leveson report tomorrow, various MPs and peers are rushing
to speak out against state regulation of the press. Both David Davis and
Dominic Raab have articles defending press freedom in the newspapers today, but
more eye-catching still is the letter — organised by Conor Burns and David
Blunkett — that has been sent to the Daily Telegraph and the Guardian by 86
parliamentarians from all three major parties. In it, they argue against “the imposition of any form of statutory
control even if it is dressed up as underpinning.”

I have pasted the
full letter below, as well as the list of all its signatories. There are 42
Tories in total, including Liam Fox, Graham Brady, Lord Coe and John
Whittingdale.

With
the publication of the Leveson Report on Thursday it is clear that the central
issue will be whether the press should, for the first time, be subjected to
statutory regulation or have the opportunity to put in place a new system of
binding self-regulation.

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. It is redress that is vital not broader regulation.

The prospect of drafting legislation may have the dual
benefit of exposing the dangers of the statutory regulation and at the same
time focus the minds of those seeking to further strengthen the existing tough
independent proposals.

No form of statutory regulation of the press would be
possible without the imposition of state licensing – abolished in Britain in
1695. State licensing is inimical to any idea of press freedom and would
radically alter the balance of our unwritten constitution.

There are also serious concerns that statutory regulation
of the print media may shift the balance to the digital platforms which, as
recent events have shown through the fiasco of Newsnight broadcast prompted by
Twitter, would further undermine the position of properly moderated and edited
print journalism.

The press abuse chronicled at Leveson was almost wholly
about actions which were against the law. It demonstrated not a sole failure of
regulation but rather of law enforcement.

However the status quo is not an option. We cannot
countenance newspapers behaving as some have in the past. The solution is not
new laws but a profound restructuring of the self-regulatory system.

Lords Hunt and Black have come forward with a detailed
proposal for a much improved, genuinely independent regulator with the power to
intervene proactively, to levy substantial fines, and to enforce membership for
the first time through a system of civil contracts. They need to deliver on
this promised reform.

We agree with the report of the Joint Parliamentary
Committee which came out against any form of statutory regulation – not least
because of the signal it would send to emerging democracies around the world.

Public debate will necessarily follow publication of the
Leveson report and will be needed to provide confidence in a rigorous tough new
system of self-regulation. Such a debate will lead to a speedy way of
establishing a new self-regulatory regime that can restore confidence in the
press.

David Blunkett

Conor Burns


Stuart Andrew


Steve Baker


Lord Bell


Bob Blackman


Nick de Bois


Baroness Boothroyd


Peter Bottomley


Peter Bone


Graham Brady


Angie Bray


Julian Brazier


Andrew Bridgen


Alun Cairns


Baroness Chalker


Bill Cash


Douglas Carswell


Lord Cavendish


Geoffrey Clifton-Brown


Therese Coffey


Damian Collins


Earl Courtown


Tracey Crouch


David Davis


Glyn Davies


Philip Davies


Lord Dobbs


Brian Donohoe


Stephen Dorrell


Lord Eden


Lord Fellowes


Liam Fox


Frank Field


Lord Flight


Lord Forsyth


Mike Freer


Lord Glentoran


James Gray


Robert Halfon


John Hemming


Gordon Henderson


Kate Hoey


George Hollingbery


Lord Howell of Guildford


Margot James


Eleanor Laing


Phillip Lee


Peter Lilley


Pauline Latham


Julian Lewis


Karen Lumley


Jason McCartney


Karl McCartney


Stephen McPartland


Baroness Morris


David Morris


Stephen Mosley


Baroness Neville-Jones


Brooks Newmark


Lord Norton


Mark Pawsey


Christopher Pincher


Mark Reckless


John Redwood


Lord Renton


Lord Risby


Baroness Shephard


Lord Skelmersdale


Graham Stringer


Julian Smith


Gisela Stuart


Graham Stuart


Lord Swinfen


Justin Tomlinson


Lord Trimble


The Lord True


Andrew Turner


Martin Vickers


Lord Wakeham


Heather Wheeler


John Whittingdale


Sarah Wollasto


Tim Yeo


Lord Coe


Lord Tebbit

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