Tory rebels defy Cameron to vote against Press regulation
Three South West Conservative MPs have defied David Cameron by voting against plans for regulation that critics say will end 300 years of a free Press.
A deal has been struck between the leaders of the three main parties to create a new newspaper watchdog recognised by a body established by Royal Charter, instead of full state legislation.
In the House of Commons, 13 Tory MPs voted against adding a clause to the existing Crime and Courts Bill which could see judges award punitive damages against publications which refuse to sign up to the new regime. Among the "rebels" were Sarah Wollaston (Totnes), Richard Drax (South Dorset) and Jacob Rees-Mogg (North East Somerset).
Dr Wollaston told MPs: "There has rightly been much talk about the victims of the Press, but we forget at our peril the victims of big pharma, of big corporations and of big state. I would far rather have our two-fingers- to-the-establishment, slightly out of control Press than a nervous press, a bankrupt press or a bland press."
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Mr Drax, a former newspaper reporter, said in the Commons: "I warn everyone to think very carefully before taking too many further steps down this road, as it will in the future undermine the democracy and freedom we are in this place to defend and represent."
Mr Rees-Mogg, whose late father Lord Rees-Mogg edited The Times, warned of "the risk of increasing state power over our media leading not immediately to direct censorship, but to a self-censorship that we are already seeing, of the Press being reluctant to criticise the great and the good."
The measures voted through are intended as an incentive for publishers to co-operate with the new regulator. The exemplary damages provision, one of two pieces of statute required under the deal, was comfortably passed by a majority of 517, with backing from MPs including: Ben Bradshaw (Exeter, Labour), Oliver Colvile (Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, Conservative), Geoffrey Cox (Torridge and West Devon, C), George Eustice (Camborne and Redruth, C), Andrew George (St Ives, Lib Dem), Stephen Gilbert (St Austell and Newquay, Lib Dem), Sir Nick Harvey (North Devon, Lib Dem), David Heath (Somerton and Frome, Lib Dem), David Laws (Yeovil, Lib Dem), Oliver Letwin (West Dorset, C), Ian Liddell-Grainger (Bridgwater, C), Anne Marie Morris (Newton Abbot, C), Sheryll Murray (South East Cornwall, C), Sarah Newton (Truro and Falmouth, C), Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton, C), Dan Rogerson (North Cornwall, Lib Dem), Adrian Sanders, (Torbay, Lib Dem), Alison Seabeck (Plymouth Moor View, Lab), Gary Streeter (South West Devon, C), Hugo Swire (East Devon, C) and Mel Stride (Central Devon, C).