Industry leaders have called for talks with the Information Commissioner’s office after ministers announced it would carry out a review of the use of personal data by journalists every five years.
The two amendments to the Data Protection Bill were inserted by the government yesterday afternoon in an apparent bid to head-off another Commons revolt over press regulation.
MPs voted by 301 to 289 to reject fresh calls to re-open the Leveson Inquiry and impose costs sanctions on newspapers who refuse to sign-up to a state-approved regulator after the House of Lords had once again pushed for the two measures.
Following the vote, industry trade body the News Media Association said: “We welcome the Commons’ clear decision to reject Leveson 2 and punitive costs sanctions and look forward to the early repeal of Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act.
“Yet another costly statutory inquiry into the news media inevitably would have demonized the entire press for the past failings of a few and led to more recommendations damaging for freedom of speech.”
But the NMA sounded a cautionary note about the new powers announced by Mr Hancock.
It said: “The ICO’s increased powers will need to be carefully assessed and we will seek an early meeting with the Information Commissioner. Together with IPSO and its compulsory arbitration scheme, these mean that newspapers – local, regional and national – are subject to greater accountability in the UK than in any other western democracy.”
Mr Hancock’s move will ensure a report on the “use and effectiveness” of IPSO’s arbitration scheme will come before Parliament every three years.
He said: “I think that the low-cost arbitration they brought in is good for the press and good for ordinary people who want redress from the press. I want to see it continue and this report will consider whether it does.”
He added: “I supported the original Leveson Inquiry and I’ve met victims of press intrusion and I’m fully aware of the distress that has been caused and how lives have been affected by false allegations and how hacking was used to access the most intimate of messages and how personal information was obtained through blagging and deception.
“But much has changed since the inquiry and while our press is not perfect the culture that allowed phone hacking to become the norm has gone and with the newly strengthened IPSO this country now has the most robust system of redress for press intrusion that we’ve ever had.”