Labour conference: Lewis denies 'reporter ban' U-turn

Ivan Lewis Ivan Lewis insists he is not in favour of a state-regulated press

Shadow culture secretary Ivan Lewis has denied Tory claims he was forced to do a U-turn over a call for rogue journalists to be "struck off".

The call - in Mr Lewis's speech to the Labour conference in Liverpool - sparked an angry backlash on social networking website Twitter.

He was accused of wanting to set up a state register of journalists.

But the Labour MP insisted that was not what he had in mind when he used the phrase "struck off" in his speech.

Asked if he regretted his choice of words, he told the BBC News website: "I regret the fact that there has been a response to something that I didn't say."

'Half-baked idea'

Pressed on how journalists would be "struck off" without some kind of official register, he said it would be up to the industry to decide.

And he said he wanted to stimulate debate about how media organisations deal with journalists who are found guilty of gross malpractice.

He stressed that he was not in favour of a state register of journalists: "I don't favour state oversight of the press."

Conservative MP Louise Mensch, a member of the influential culture, media and sport select committee said: "Ivan Lewis must be going for the record for the fastest U-turn in history.

"This is another half-baked idea from a weak Labour leadership - we need a free, fair press, not some state registry for journalists.

"It's a little scary that this is the man Ed Miliband entrusts with Labour's media brief."

Labour MP Tom Harris, who is standing to be the party's leader in Scotland, also joined the criticism.

He tweeted: "If a journalist commits a serious misdemeanour, they can already be sacked.

"Why would any government or party want to get involved with this?"

And Lib Dem media spokesman Don Foster said the plan was "deeply flawed".

'Redress'

"It is muddled, completely unworkable and has worrying implications for Labour's view of a free press. From your cousin's occasional blog to some of the most respected journalists, all would be at risk of censure."

He said his party had set out a "sensible plan for the future of media regulation" which would put the media back on a "sure footing".

In his speech, Mr Lewis called for a new system of independent press regulation and promised new laws on cross-media ownership.

He also demanded "proper like-for-like redress" which could see newspapers being forced to print front page apologies.

Mr Lewis said Labour would bring forward proposals for tougher media ownership laws, saying "never again can one commercial organisation have so much power and control over our media".

In a direct message to News Corporation chief Rupert Murdoch, he said "never again think you can assert political power in pursuit of your commercial interests or ideological beliefs".

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