Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act was passed in March 2013 to implement the recommendation made by the Leveson enquiry that any new regulator set up by the press should be accredited as independent and effective. The purpose of this Section is to provide costs protection for claimants and Leveson regulated newspaper publishers. It was passed in the Houses of Commons with cross party agreement including the support of SNP MPs.
Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 extends to England and Wales only. Regulation of print media is devolved to the Scottish Parliament, who have provided cross party support for the UK Government’s actions to implement the Royal Charter. The SNP Scottish Government will continue to monitor the current press regulations and work with other parties, in Scotland and Westminster, to ensure effective regulation of the media on a non-political basis.
I understand the difficulties that local newspapers face and recognise that the majority of the press, particularly the regional press, in Scotland were not involved in the sort of malpractice which prompted the Leveson recommendations. It is the view of the SNP Scottish government that any policy in this area should be proportionate. It is also our view that any policy of this type must balance both the respect for freedom of press and the public desire for high standards, accuracy and transparency.
That said the protection afforded by section 40 would be available to Scottish litigants who chose to sue newspapers based in England and Wales in the event that section 40 was enacted and we believe the UK government should keep its promise to do so. My SNP colleagues and I will watch with interest and take account of the need to support the Scottish industry whilst protecting and maintaining high standards at the same time.
In the meantime SNP MPs will support the House of Lords amendment to the Investigatory Powers Bill which will introduce a new clause 9, on the back of clause 8 which was introduced as an SNP amendment. This amendment will provide costs protection across the UK for both claimants and Leveson regulated news publishers in claims for unlawful interception of communications including phone hacking.