General Election 2017: St Albans Conservative candidate welcomes commitment to scrap press regulation

Anne Main at St Albans election night

Anne Main at St Albans election night - Credit: Archant

A Conservative manifesto commitment to scrap greater press regulation has been welcomed by St Albans Tory candidate Anne Main.

The manifesto, unveiled by Conservative leader Theresa May last week, says the party will repeal Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act.

The section meant press bodies would have had to either join a government-approved regulatory body, or face having to pay both sides’ cost in any libel action.

Mrs Main said: “The burdensome Section 40 threatened that fierce, critical journalism that pursues truth over populism or currying favour with the wealthy and powerful.

“By using the historic wrongdoing of some in the press to suppress all inquisitive journalism was wrong, and if we had continued down this path of muzzling the press then we would have lost a precious asset and had a press cowed by the threat of heavy legal fees and silenced by the strident voice of Hacked Off.”

In January, Mrs Main tabled a motion in the House of Commons warning of the consequences of section 40 for the press, and arguing the state should have no role in regulating publications.

The manifesto also said a Conservative government would not proceed with the second stage of the Leveson Inquiry, which would have examined press ethics.

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Media pressure group Hacked Off called the Conservative commitment a “wholesale betrayal both of victims of press abuse and ordinary members of the public” in a statement released on their website.

Joint-CEO of Hacked Off, Daisy Cooper, who is also the Liberal Democrat candidate for St Albans, said: “Victims of press abuse were promised a two-part inquiry, and all political parties signed up to it.

“It is effectively a betrayal of victims of press abuse that the Conservatives have backtracked on this promise.”

The Labour candidate for St Albans at the General Election, Kerry Pollard, said: “It is an irresponsible move by the Tories, and will give some sections of the press a free hand rather than helping to protect individuals.”

Green candidate Jack Easton was also asked for a comment.

Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have said in their manifestos they would progress with stage two of Leveson.