I want briefly to say three things.
First, I have brought four successful libel actions against the media. I hope not to have to repeat that. There are many other times that I could have taken action, but chose not to.
Secondly, this House has to choose whether it wants to be Lord Ellenborough, a prosecutor, or William Hone. Their exchanges were well-illustrated in Ben Wilson’s history “The Laughter of Triumph”. In 1817 Hone was prosecuted for seditious blasphemy when he was actually exposing abuse. If given that simple choice, it is right for those in this House, and in the House of Lords, to defend the press—not to say they are in the last-chance saloon, but to back them to hold themselves to the standards they have voluntarily accepted.
Thirdly, I want to make one small point to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on the data protection issue. We must find a way for journalists under the IMPRESS code to have the same data protection rights as those under IPSO. I hope he will remark on that either today or very soon.
We must try to bear it in mind that not every journalist remains consistent. Some of us might today have received a letter from Sir Harold Evans, who was editor of The Sunday Times when Jonathan Aitken and I were the only Conservative MPs to say that John Biffen was wrong to allow the takeover of The Sunday Times to go ahead.
Harold Evans said at that time that he would supply me with information demonstrating that what we were saying was right, but three days later he went in with Rupert Murdoch and we heard no more from him until he wrote his own book saying how he did not really enjoy working with Rupert Murdoch. I would take consistency from many people, but I do not expect it of Sir Harold Evans.