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Monday, November 9, 1998 Published at 21:30 GMT

UK Politics

Brown bids to end 'outing' row

Brown on the farm: Nick Brown (centre) visiting Devon on Monday

Downing Street and Agriculture Minister Nick Brown have moved to defuse the growing row over media coverage of his "outing" as gay by saying he has no intention of lodging a complaint about his treatment by the media.

A spokesman for the minister added that Mr Brown be not be making any further comment on his private life.

[ image: John Prescott: Attacked media coverage of his colleague's
John Prescott: Attacked media coverage of his colleague's "outing"
The attempt to draw a line under the episode came at the end of a day when the cabinet minister sought to conduct a business-as-usual tour of farm areas in the West Country, while controversy raged about coverage of his weekend statement that he was a homosexual.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott had turned angrily on newspapers, accusing them of acting like "judge, jury and executioner" and describing the whole affair as a "proper matter for the Press Complaints Commission".

The Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party Clive Soley demanded the PCC take a more pro-active stance by warning newspaper editors about privacy breaches before waiting to receive a formal complaint from their alleged victims.

But by Monday evening Downing Street was saying it was unlikely Mr Brown would even pursue a complaint to the PCC.

[ image: Nick Brown:
Nick Brown: "I just want to get on with my job"
A spokesman for Mr Brown later confirmed there would be no complaint - despite the commission Chairman Lord Wakeham having earlier said he was only awaiting word from Mr Brown before launching an investigation.

The agriculture minister's spokesman said: "Mr Brown has been very touched by the support he has received from close colleagues and from members of the public, including the farmers.

Nick Higham: "The government has no intention of tightening media restrictions"
"He is determined to get on with the job that the prime minister has entrusted him to do and has no intention of making a complaint about the press coverage or of commenting further on his private life."

While on an official visit to a farm in Devon Mr Brown had said he had no intention of making any further statements about his private life, and that he just wanted "to get on with being farm minister".

Jon Sergeant: "Senior ministers are still not convinced of the need for a new privacy law"
Downing Street also confirmed it does not plan to bring in new privacy laws for the press, saying the current self-regulatory system was best.

Sun defends 'gay mafia' claim

Mr Brown's decision not to pursue any complaint pours cold water over a row that had been further inflamed by the decision of The Sun newspaper to print a front page editorial on Monday asking if the UK is run by a "gay mafia".

Another front-page splash last week had borne the giant, one-word headline "Outed" over photographs of two cabinet ministers.

Political Editor of 'The Sun' Trevor Kavanagh talks to Ed Stourton
The tabloid's political editor, Trevor Kavanagh, rejected the suggestion the paper was taking a homophobic stance.

He said: "I cannot see how you reach that conclusion. We have said all along that there is nothing wrong with being homosexual.

"But those who make decisions relating to our lives and laws should be more open about whether they are homosexual."

He insisted there was a risk gay ministers would work together and the public had a right to know their sexuality before they voted on subjects such as the lowering of the age of consent.

Mr Kavanagh claimed one in four cabinet ministers are gay: "There would be a story in the same way if you had four members who were all Etonians."

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