PM vows to overturn Lords votes for tighter regulation of media


Prime Minister Theresa May has said the Government will overturn House of Lords votes for tighter regulation of the media.

Peers inflicted a double defeat on the Government's Data Protection Bill on Wednesday, passing two amendments to tackle alleged media abuses and backing the launch of the second phase of the Leveson Inquiry into press standards.

But Culture Secretary Matt Hancock said the proposed changes would be a "hammer blow" to the local press and quickly made clear he would seek to overturn the changes in the elected House of Commons.

Answering questions following a speech in London, Mrs May said: "I think that the impact of this vote would undermine high-quality journalism and a free press.

"I think it would particularly have a negative impact on local newspapers, which are an important underpinning of our democracy.

"I believe passionately in a free press. We want to have a free press that is able to hold politicians and others to account and we will certainly be looking to overturn this vote in the House of Commons."

Following a lengthy and impassioned debate on Wednesday, the House of Lords voted for an investigation to be held into alleged data protection breaches by the media.

Supporters of the move argued it was needed amid claims of ongoing press abuses while opponents said it amounted to "harassment" of the media.

The unelected chamber also backed a controversial measure which would see newspapers not signed up to a state-supported regulator pay their own and their opponent's legal costs in relation to alleged data protection breaches, even if they were successful in court.

The Government argued the amendments were not appropriate given the head of the original independent inquiry, Sir Brian Leveson, was reviewing responses to the Government's consultation on a second inquiry into the conduct of the British press.

The call for a public inquiry into data protection breaches by national newspapers was tabled by independent crossbencher Baroness Hollins, whose family was the victim of press intrusion after her daughter Abigail Witchalls was stabbed and left paralysed in 2005.

Criticising the Government consultation, she argued it should be "simply a matter of good faith that an inquiry promised to victims of crime should be completed".