THE decision to set up a new press watchdog has been welcomed by local MPs.
Yesterday, a deal was struck between the three main political parties, who agreed on measures to regulate the press in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal.
Under the plans, an independent regulator will be set up by Royal Charter – which means the body answers to the Queen and not parliament.
The new watchdog will have power to dish out fines of up to £1m and demand front-page apologies.
Penny Mordaunt, MP for Portsmouth North, welcomed the decision.
She said: ‘This is the right outcome.
‘We don’t want journalists living under the sword of Damocles, but there needs to be something stronger than the Press Complaints Commission.
‘I think for local papers, it will be different.
‘National papers have extremely large resources.
‘For local media, there is no ill-intent if there is a mistake, and being sued would close them down.
‘But often a prominent apology is what people want.’
The watchdog follows Lord Leveson’s inquiry into press ethics, which found tabloid journalists had hacked thousands of phones. He called for a new, independent regulator backed by legislation designed to assess whether the press was doing its job properly.
Mike Hancock, MP for Portsmouth South, said: ‘This is the best that’s going to happen.
‘I’m delighted there is a consensus and delighted it’s not as over the top as it might have been.
‘We should defend the right of free press. I’ve suffered good and bad, but that’s the price you pay in a free society.
‘But a small minority of journalists went far beyond what is reasonable. No political party would have been right to ignore that. I hope newspapers sign up to this.
‘Regional papers have suffered because of national ones that went over the top.’
Caroline Dinenage, MP for Gosport, added: ‘This is a good way to strike a balance between making sure the terrible injustices that occurred to victims of crime of those dealing with bereavement, don’t happen again. ‘But also keep a balance so we have a free press.’
The royal charter is due to be submitted to the Queen for approval in May. A three-line clause will be written into law saying that before the charter can be changed, two-thirds majorities would be needed in both Houses of Parliament.