Thursday, 6 December 2012

West Briton column 6 December 2012

Last week the inquiry set up by the Prime Minister and undertaken by Lord Justice Leveson reported its extensive findings. The inquiry had the power to see any document and summon any witness to be examined under oath by a barrister in public. It was the most thorough look at the press and relationships with police, politicians and the public ever seen in our country.

Over the next few months the detailed recommendations will be debated widely so that a way forward can be agreed for independent regulation of the press. Broadcast media are already regulated by OFCOM. Our press is subject to criminal law, civil law and requirements for data protection, but there should be a proper regulatory system as well to ensure that standards are upheld, complaints are heard, and that there is proper redress for all those who have been wronged. Not just for those who can afford a lawyer.

A free press nationally and locally is vitally important to our democracy as it can hold people with power to account. During the debates in Parliament, I will be representing the views of my constituents, including those that work in our local media. A very fine balance needs to be struck as we make decisions about the independent regulation of the press. We should not forget that it was a newspaper that uncovered the phone hacking scandals that caused so much harm to innocent people such as the Dowler family.

As with politicians it is all too easy to tar everyone with the same brush, when in fact it is usually a minority who let the rest of us down.

Like many local people I grew up reading the West Briton and the local Packet. These local newspapers and others around the country are really important sources of local information and make a significant contribution to our community life. I value the opportunity that this column provides me.

One improvement I would like to see consistently and voluntarily implemented in all newspapers is where a story is printed reporting allegations of wrong doing by a member of the public and the allegations are subsequently found to untrue, that both stories are reported and given equal prominence in the paper. This is an issue I have raised with this newspaper’s editor.

Finally, after much behind the scenes work I am pleased that my colleague, Dr Dan Poulter MP and Minister of Health has responded to my calls to speak out about the SW Cartel of NHS employers who are exploring the possibility of regional pay and conditions. While I am very supportive of the considerable improvements the management and staff are delivering at the RCHT during what is a challenging time I do not think it is right to balance the books by reducing the terms and condition of employment of modestly paid staff. I hope the board of the RCHT will look at again at the proposals and work with partners to make efficiencies not pay cuts.

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