Ministers have clarified the terms of a proposed review into the issue of the unlawful use of data by journalists.
Culture Secretary Matt Hancock, pictured, announced the review after MPs voted down a series of press regulation measures, including the planned reopening of the Leveson inquiry, on Wednesday.
He has now made clear that the planned four-year review by the Information Commissioner’s Office will cover all areas of the United Kingdom, after earlier confusion about the scope of the inquiry.
It is intended to look at the media’s compliance with new data protection legislation and could see a new statutory code of conduct introduced for journalists to adhere to when processing personal data.
During Wednesday’s debate on a series of amendments to the Data Protection Bill, Democratic Unionist Party MP Ian Paisley asked how the government intended to examine press behaviour in Northern Ireland.
Announcing the review, Mr Hancock responded: “I would characterise it as a review aligned with the new clause 23 which we are bringing in across the whole country specifically to look into effects in Northern Ireland.
“We will make sure through the review that the future of the press is both free and reasonable. That their behaviour is reasonable yet they are not subject to statutory regulation. I want to see a press that is both free and fair.”
Mr Hancock’s comments led Séamus Dooley, NUJ assistant general secretary, to call for “absolute clarity” on the scope and nature of any inquiry in the belief that Mr Hancock had announced a specific review into the press in Northern Ireland.
But DCMS has since clarified its position, making clear the review will cover the whole of the UK.
A DCMS spokesperson said: “As in the Government amendment, we have proposed a statutory review of journalists’ compliance with the new data protection regulations in four years from Royal Assent of the Bill. Within this ICO review, or aligned to it, we will make sure there is an independent named reviewer for Northern Ireland.”