Derbyshire MPs divided over Leveson's plans for new press regulation laws
COUNTY MPs have clashed over the findings and recommendations of Lord Justice Leveson into press standards.
A tougher form of self-regulation backed by legislation should be introduced to uphold press standards, according to Leveson's long-awaited report which was unveiled yesterday.
The report's recommendations divided the coalition government, with David Cameron saying he had "serious concerns" over statutory regulation and Nick Clegg stating he supported some form of legal underpinning.
The differences in opinion were evident among the county's MPs last night.
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First, Derby North MP Chris Williamson said he agreed with Lord Leveson that new laws should be introduced to back-up a tougher form of self-regulation.
The Labour politician said: "Without that statutory underlining, a new form of self-regulation is meaningless.
"Self-regulation without statutory intervention has been an utter failure.
"We need state intervention to restore people's faith again in the national press.
"It is clearly the national press that have been the main culprits; I have no beef with local media.
"However it's difficult to see how any changes to the regulation of the press could be apportioned to the national media and not the local media."
But Conservative MP for South Derbyshire, Heather Wheeler, said she disagreed with Mr Williamson.
She said the British press must be allowed to remain free.
Mrs Wheeler said: "I would be uncomfortable with any sort of statutory regulation.
"I would not vote for legislation that regulated the press. If you don't have a free press, you are no better than Zimbabwe – and that is not a country I would want to live in."
Derby South MP Margaret Beckett, of Labour, said she wanted more time to digest Lord Leveson's report before making her views known.
Mid-Derbyshire MP Pauline Latham and Erewash MP Jessica Lee were unavailable for comment.
Meanwhile, Derby Telegraph editor Neil White said a free press must be retained.
He said: "We note the findings of the Leveson report with interest and will be digesting them over the next few weeks.
"In the regional press, we have been irritated, however, that our journalists have been lumped in with those that have been involved in malpractices at national newspapers.
"For years, we have had sensitivity in our reporting, which national tabloids seem to have lacked.
"We are unimpressed that politicians have not recognised that we operate with a different agenda and that we are aware of what our community demands of us.
"A free press is essential for democracy and it is important that there should be no limitations on what papers like the Derby Telegraph should be able to uncover, if this is in the public interest."