The Scottish Newspaper Society today welcomed the defeat of amendments to the Data Protection Bill which would have introduced a punitive costs regime against UK news publishers and launched a new Leveson-style inquiry into the British news industry.
The call for another inquiry, tabled by former Labour leader Ed Miliband, was defeated by 304 votes to 295, while the costs proposal was dropped when it became clear the SNP was withdrawing its support.
The proposal would have meant publishers having to pay the costs of both sides in any court action involving allegations of data protection breaches, even if they won.
SNP media spokesman Brendan O’Hara told the House of Commons that although Press regulation was the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament the costs proposal “took no cognisance of devolution”.
Scotish Newspaper Society director John McLellan said: “Setting up a Leveson-style inquiry would have cost millions of pounds, and dragged many people cleared of any wrong-doing through yet another judicial process. The express intention was to produce even tighter regulation of news provision in a country already slipping down the World Press Freedom league and MPs were right to reject it.
“The proposal to introduce punitive costs against news publishers in court cases even if they won was little more than an attempt to blackmail news companies into joining a state-backed regulator and the decision to drop this illiberal move is as sensible as it is welcome.
“One of its supporters, Edinburgh West MP Christine Jardine, let the cat out the bag when she told the house that journalists should be accountable to politicians and thank goodness a majority of MPs realised just what a threat to our system of open democracy this represented.”
Watch the debate on the amendments here.