Miliband urges new press watchdog

 Ed Miliband Mr Miliband says there is a “crisis of trust” in British newspapers Labour leader Ed Miliband has called for the Press Complaints Commission to be scrapped in the wake of the phone hacking scandal at the News of World.

He said the PCC was “a toothless poodle” and a new body with “proper investigative powers” was needed.

While backing self-regulation, he said the press faced a “crisis of trust”.

Mr Miliband said the impending closure of the News of the World was “not the answer” to restoring trust and senior executives must “take responsibility”.

The Labour leader also said David Cameron had made “an appalling error of judgment” in employing former News of the World editor Andy Coulson as his ex-director of communications and should apologise for having done so.

The News of the World is to close on Sunday following allegations crime victims and bereaved families may have had their mobile phones hacked into.

There have been claims that murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler’s phone was hacked when she went missing in 2002, and that the families of the Soham murder victims Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman and relatives of British armed forces personnel killed in action may also have been targeted.

The Metropolitan Police say they are seeking to contact 4,000 possible targets whose details have been found during the Operation Weeting investigation into phone hacking at the newspaper.

The government plans to announce the remit of two inquiries into the issue before Parliament’s summer recess but Mr Miliband and other senior politicians have said the prime minister should go further and set up a judge-led inquiry immediately.

‘Wholesale reform’

In a speech in London, the Labour leader said: “For too long, the political class have been too concerned about what people in the press would think and too fearful of speaking out.

“We must all bear responsibility for that, my party has not been immune from it, nor has the current government.”

Continue reading the main story
It was established to be a watchdog. But it has been exposed as a toothless poodle. It is time to put it out of its misery”

End Quote Ed Miliband on the PCC He said politicians must now lead “the call for change”.

“Our newspapers are part of our way of life. But they must reform in order to protect and restore their reputation.”

Mr Miliband has already called for a judge-led inquiry into events and for Mrs Brooks – who was editor of the News of the World at the time it is alleged murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler’s phone was hacked into – to resign.

But he said in his speech that “wholesale reform of our system of regulation” was now needed.

“The Press Complaints Commission has totally failed. It failed to get to the bottom of the allegations about what happened at News International in 2009.

“Its chair admits she was lied to but could do nothing about it. It was established to be a watchdog. But it has been exposed as a toothless poodle. It is time to put it out of its misery.

“The PCC has not worked. We need a new watchdog. There needs to be fundamental change.”

Coulson role

He said that his “instincts” were that self-regulation should continue but with a new body with board members with “greater independence” from those they regulate, proper investigative and enforcement powers”.

He said the change does not need to wait for the inquiry and called on the press to “take the initiative and start to make this happen”.

The Labour leader has said the prime minister has “serious questions” to answer about his decision to hire Mr Coulson – who resigned as NoW editor in 2006 after the paper’s royal editor and a private investigator working for the paper were jailed for phone hacking.

Mr Coulson, who left his No 10 role in January, has always denied he sanctioned or was aware of the practice while he was editor.

In his speech Mr Miliband said: “Putting it right for the prime minister means admitting the appalling error of judgement he made in hiring Andy Coulson, apologising for bringing him into the centre of the government machine and coming clean about what conversations he had with Andy Coulson before and after he was appointed about phone hacking.”

The Labour leader has urged the government to “think again” about its review of News Corporation’s proposed takeover of BSkyB, saying the deal could not be simply be waived through and the public must be confident that “the right decisions were being taken in the right way”.

In a BBC interview on Thursday, Mr Miliband was also asked about an e-mail sent out by his own head of strategy Tom Baldwin – another former News International journalist – who in January urged the shadow cabinet and not to link hacking to News Corp’s bid to fully takeover BSkyB.

Mr Miliband said: “I am comfortable with the position we have taken – which is to speak out on the hacking issues but also to say that the Competition Commission is the right body to make its rulings on BSkyB and I think that is absolutely right.”


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