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

I'm not sure if my answer is going to be coherent, but I am struck both by the way in which -- I'm now talking about the evolution that we've been experiencing since the war, though I can't help remembering the famous story of the Westminster bar election in 1931, when Stanley Baldwin as Prime Minister made his famous remark about the press barons, which suggested that not all was peace and light prior to 1939.

But in the period since 1945, I observe that quite extraneous events, like a Private Members' Bill, actually have had the effect of moving the story on quite a lot. In the case of the 1949 Royal Commission under Sir William Ross, there was a proposal that the press should have a general body of their own, and they showed no sign at all of doing anything about that until a backbench MP called Mr Simmons in 1952/53 brought in a Private Members' Bill, whereupon effectively almost instantly the press came around to the original recommendation in the Royal Commission.

In the same way, in 1989 -- I noticed the text of Mr Dorrell's account of how the Calcutt 1 was set up, but its actual genesis was the report stage of Mr Worthington's bill entitled "Right of Reply" in 1989, and the government minister responding at the dispatch box on that bill basically foreshadowed Calcutt 1 in his response.

So these things happen as a result of different, frequently unrelated episodes. The other Royal Commissions and Lord Younger's Commission weren't quite so fruitful, but then there wasn't a Private Member around to help.

In the same way, another instance which I would quote from my own time, the episode of the Mirror in the first week of November 1993, when the photographs were taken of Princess Diana working out in a gymnasium, had a very powerful effect on the behaviour of the press immediately, because they had been resisting anything that in any way related to -- either to Calcutt or to ourselves and indeed others, and then suddenly changed their minds when they realised that an episode as absurd as the Mirror episode, where the chairman of the Press Complaints Commission rebuked the Mirror -- the Sunday Mirror, in fact -- rebuked the Sunday Mirror for their behaviour, first led the Sunday Mirror to walk out of the Press Complaints Commission, and then to come back, and it was clear that some of the things that were being said to them about the degree of control that they had were actually being proved by reality.

So on balance, partly because of the way in which things have happened in the past, I think that the suggestion you've made may well be very constructive.

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