UK Politics

Cameron warns MPs against regulation 'revenge' on media

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Media captionDavid Cameron: "We must not be seen to be gleeful to over-regulate the media"

David Cameron has warned MPs not to be too "gleeful" about regulating the media as some sort of "revenge" for the MPs' expenses scandal.

He told a committee of senior MPs he wanted "tougher independent regulation that is not government controlled".

The scandal, which ended careers and resulted in several prosecutions, began when claims were leaked to the press.

Lord Justice Leveson is to look at media regulation as part of his inquiry into the phone-hacking scandal.

Mr Cameron was quizzed about politicians' relationship with the media, and tighter media regulation, in a question session with the Commons liaison committee - made up of the chairmen of all select committees.

The prime minister conceded that he personally may have been too close to media bosses in the past, both from News International - the focus of the hacking scandal - and other organisations, including the BBC.

But he insisted there would be a "more healthy relationship" in future.

'Vital'

The PM said concerns about the power of media outlets could be addressed through competition - and misbehaviour through better regulation.

"I do think we need to be extremely careful though... if this is any way seen as revenge for expenses I think it would be a disaster for Parliament," he said.

"The expenses scandal was just that - it was a scandal. We must not be seen to be gleeful, in leaping on this opportunity to over-regulate the media.

"It's a vital industry for Britain, it's a very important part of our democracy. We want it to be free, vigorous, able to uncover wrongdoing.

"There's a danger of the pendulum swinging too far the other way."

Mr Cameron said whatever the Leveson inquiry came up with, MPs would have the responsibility to legislate and put it in place.

Asked whether proposals would have to be in statute, rather than self-regulatory, the PM said: "Let's wait and see. What you don't want is government regulation of the media, we see that in other countries and it does not lead to a free media."

The Press Complaints Commission - a voluntary self-regulatory body funded by the newspaper industry - has been widely criticised following the hacking scandal and is facing calls for it to be scrapped.

Mr Cameron said self-regulation had not worked and independent regulation might work better, set up through statute but "properly removed from the government", pointing to similar examples in the advertising industry.

He said it must make it "more painful" for newspapers and broadcasters when they made mistakes.

He also said that "regulatory issues" to do with the media - notably reports by the information commissioner on the misuse of personal data, and by the culture, media and sport committee - had not been taken seriously enough by successive governments.

He said this Parliament had an opportunity to "reset the clock" on the relationship between politicians and the media.

'Practical Eurosceptic'

During the hearing, Mr Cameron was also questioned about the ongoing financial crisis in the eurozone and his attitude toward greater fiscal integration among other European nations.

He called himself "a practical Eurosceptic", but said it was in Britain's own interests to help the euro survive, and while the UK could be pleased about not deciding to join, it would be unhelpful to simply "stand on the sidelines saying: 'We told you so.'"

The prime minister told the committee he supported greater EU expansion, including giving Turkey membership - despite opposition from France and Germany.

And he rejected calls for a referendum on European Union membership made by Conservative MP Bill Cash, saying: "I don't favour an in/out referendum, because I don't actually think that is the question most people in Britain want answering.

"It is about what sort of Europe [people want]."