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Wednesday, June 17, 1998 Published at 21:48 GMT 22:48 UK

UK Politics

Press Commission covered by rights bill

Jack Straw: striking a balance between press freedom and privacy

The Home Secretary, Jack Straw, has confirmed that the Press Complaints Commission will be treated as a public authority under the human rights legislation currently passing through Parliament.

The government's Human Rights Bill will see the European Convention on Human Rights incorporated into UK law.

Bringing judgments home

Under the terms of that bill those bodies named as public authorities may be sued for infringements of individual human rights in UK courts instead of in Brussels - as is presently the case.

By making the PCC such a body the Home Secretary may leave that open to privacy suits, as a right to privacy is covered by the European Convention.

Freedom of the press

But Mr Straw said the government would provide for the future protection of the freedom of the press, another area covered by the Convention.

The Home Secretary said there was a delicate balance to be struck between the right for privacy and the freedom of the press, but rejected suggestions that one right was more important than the other.

He said: "One cannot assert that one part of the convention will trump another."

Mr Straw added that newspapers must never be stopped from printing the truth. Procedural safeguards needed to be given so individuals could not take out an injunction if an accurate story was going to be printed about them.

Amendments withdrawn

Mr Straw's shadow, Sir Norman Fowler, welcomed the government's confirmation that it would be bringing forward amendments at a later stage on press freedom.

Earlier, Sir Norman had argued strongly against placing the PCC within the bill's remit fearing it would eventually undermine the PCC as a self-regulating body.

But Sir Norman agreed to withdraw his amendments following Mr Straw's reassurances on press freedom and the bill's committee stage was adjourned.

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