The transcripts of the official inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press. More…

As you've heard from James Harding, I would have very serious doubts about some sort of statutory body that's been set up by Parliament for some of the reasons he said, but also, I think -- and I do think that in future politicians would be tempted to intervene. If you just think back on the BBC and the dodgy dossier, the huge furore that burst out over that and the resignation of the Director General. I think it was because Number 10 thought they had some stake and some control in the BBC, and if you had, in future, a row -- and the press is far more partisan and polemical than the BBC can be -- I think they would be sorely tempted in a similar sort of row to take some action because they already had a beachhead, in a sense, and a stepping stone towards amending it. So I broadly agree with that.

I also think that Britain, when it -- as a kind of beacon for liberty and freedom of the press, has to consider its position. We already know our reputation because of -- our libel laws have created quite a lot of controversy around the world, the fact that scientists can be sued here. I think if Britain were to move towards some sort of statutory body, it would send a message worldwide that we were -- however much well-intentioned it was, that we were prepared to take a tougher line with the media.

When you look at freedom of expression -- there's a body called Reporters Without Borders that track freedom of expression. Of the top 25 countries that are most free, 21 of them have self-regulation and two have the equivalent of the first amendment: the United States and Jamaica, I think it is. I think only one has a proper statutory control, Hungary, and I'm not sure if that's the sort of message Britain wants to send out to the world.

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