I support freedom of the press while wanting to ensure that redress is available when mistakes are made, and I will welcome representations from a range of stakeholders who have an interest in the matter. My meetings will, of course, be a matter of public record through the Cabinet Office in the usual way.
I also welcome the right hon. Gentleman to his new job. I think it is probably the best job in government, and I hope he enjoys it.
I was not quite sure from the right hon. Gentleman’s answer whether he will meet victims. I hope he will, because as he will be aware, they are not happy with what has happened since the Leveson report and they are certainly not happy with attempts by some newspapers to set up a replacement for the discredited Press Complaints Commission. Does he agree with the Prime Minister, who said on oath to the Leveson inquiry that the test is
“not: do the politicians or the press feel happy with what we get? It’s: are we really protecting people who have been caught up and absolutely thrown to the wolves by this process”?
I know that the right hon. Gentleman feels passionately about the issue, and I am sure he recognises that since Lord Leveson’s report was published, we have made significant progress on the issue on a cross-party basis. As he knows, the royal charter has now been granted, and it is now for the press to decide what they wish to do next.
On the issue of meeting alleged victims, if they were to make a formal request, I would give it serious consideration.
I confess that, like many Members, I am occasionally a political anorak and watch political campaigns. Over the past few weeks I have watched the Indian elections, and particularly the media coverage over there. May I impress upon my right hon. Friend the point that although the British press is far from perfect, we have to be mindful of throwing out the baby with the bathwater?
My hon. Friend makes an important point. As I have said before, a number of industries have bad apples and make mistakes, but we must recognise that the freedom of the press is a cornerstone of our democracy.
But it was not just one bad apple, was it? It was not one rogue reporter, it was systematic abuse of people who were the victims of crime themselves or had lost family members in Afghanistan. I hope the Secretary of State will understand that those victims of crimes and unethical conduct are deeply troubled by the creation of the Independent Press Standards Organisation, because it has been cobbled together by two Conservative Members of the House of Lords and is still a case of the press marking their own homework.
The hon. Gentleman will know that the industry and the Government agree, as I believe do all parties in this House, that self-regulation is the way forward. That was at the heart of the Leveson principles. As I said, the royal charter has been granted and the press have responded by setting up a self-regulator, and it is now for them to decide how they wish to take that further.