Leveson: Totnes MP Sarah Wollaston opposes statutory control of Press
Westcountry MP Sarah Wollaston is among 80 politicians pressing David Cameron to reject statutory regulation of newspapers, as he prepares for the publication of the Leveson report today.
MPs and peers from all three main parties have signed a letter warning the Prime Minister that accepting such a recommendation would undermine free speech.
The letter was organised by Labour former Home Secretary David Blunkett and Tory backbencher Conor Burns.
Dr Wollaston, Conservative MP for Totnes, was the only Member from Devon and Cornwall to sign it.
Conservatives make up the overwhelming majority of the signatories, including "big beasts" Liam Fox and David Davis, as well as media select committee chairman John Whittingdale and 1922 committee chairman Graham Brady. "As parliamentarians, we believe in free speech and are opposed to the imposition of any form of statutory control even if it is dressed up as underpinning," they argued.
"No form of statutory regulation of the press would be possible without the imposition of state licensing – abolished in Britain in 1695.
"State licensing is inimical to any idea of press freedom and would radically alter the balance of our unwritten constitution."
The intervention highlights the deep divisions on the key issue, after a group of 42 Tory MPs urged tough new laws to keep newspapers in check.
Among those were Gary Streeter (South West Devon), Oliver Colvile (Plymouth Sutton and Devonport), Sheryll Murray (South East Cornwall), Geoffrey Cox (Torridge and West Devon), Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) and George Eustice (Camborne and Redruth). Mr Cameron yesterday received his copy of Lord Justice Leveson's conclusions. In the Commons, he issued a plea for political consensus on reforming newspaper regulation ahead of the judge's conclusions being published.