By Paul Goodman
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Mr J.A.Prufrock (Grummidge West) (Con): The amendments tabled by the Prime Minister reconcile two key principles. The first is total solidarity with the victims. I am not afraid to say, Mr Speaker, that I am on their side. We need to keep before us at all times what the victims have been through. Gross intrusion of privacy. The harrassment of family members. Doorstepping. The theft of documents. Paparazzi. Details of their most private, personal and intimate affairs splashed across the papers for all to read. I refer, of course, to the treatment of honourable and right honourable members of this House during the so-called expenses scandal –
Greg Hands (Chelsea and Fulham) (Con) – Sit down, you bloody fool.
Mr J.A.Prufrock: I am extremely grateful to the Whip on duty on the front bench, who reinforces my call for total solidarity with the victims, by which I of course really meant Mr Hugh Grant, who was so splendidly portrayed by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister in Love Actually, and Sir Oswald Mosley, who as the House knows was spanked by Hitler. This brings me to the second key principle at stake – namely, unwavering support for press freedom. I yield to no-one in my total condemnation of censorship. Many newspapers are rightly opposed to the ECHR. It follows that they must appeal to it against these measures if they feel so inclined –
Mr Speaker: Order. Without wishing in any way to discombobulate the honourable member for Grummidge West or interrupt the Demosthenesian flow of his eloquence, may I ask him kindly to return to the matter of the amendments under discussion?
Mr J.A.Prufrock: I am much obliged to you, as ever, Mr Speaker. The point I am making is that press freedom was, as the House knows, written into the Bill of Rights as well as the Prevention of Terrorism Act. This is where the Prime Minister's amendments to this bill come in, which will itself, of course, be a noble addition to the distinguished acts of Parliament that I have just named. What he proposes is best described as non-statutory statutory regulation. The regulation will be non-statutory, in that it will be undertaken through a Royal Charter. But it will also be statutory, in that the Royal Charter will be underpinned by statute. This solution –
Mr John Spellar (Warley): What's this bloke on? (Laughter)
Mr J.A.Prufrock: As I was saying, Mr Speaker, this solution is characteristic of my right honourable friend's ingenuity. The newspaper industry will also appoint a member to sit on the appointments panel of the regulator. This is a vital safeguard for press freedom. However, it will no longer be a requirement that a proposed member of the regulator have the unanimous support of the panel. This removes the newspaper industry's right of veto of regulator membership. This was a key demand of the victims. What we have, therefore, is press freedom operating simultaneously with victim consent – a tribute to the creativity of my right honorabe friend.
Mr J.A.Prufrock: I apologise to my honourable friend, but time is short, and other members will wish to speak. Next, may I say it is inconceivable that Parliament would seek to control the press, which is why a two-thirds majority will be required for them do so. Finally, may I commend the Prime Minister for, first, pulling the plug on the all-party talks on Friday before, next, resuming them over the weekend before, finally, making concessions of his own to match those made by the other party leaders. To those who ask what this brilliant manoevering has achieved, I answer: well, at least he won't lose the vote in this House today. In the Faroe Islands –
Mr Speaker: Order. The honourable member has exceeded the time limit. I call Mr Chris Bryant.