Prescott ‘interested’ in press regulation role

By Alex Stevenson

John Prescott has admitted he "wouldn't mind" becoming the next press watchdog.

The former deputy prime minister, who was told by the Metropolitan police that his phone had been hacked 44 times, did not rule himself out when asked if he was interested on BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show.

"An interesting point," he said. "I would be throwing the cat among the pigeons… I wouldn't mind the thought of it!"

Lord Prescott praised Labour leader Ed Miliband's "leadership" of the phone-hacking scandal and said "fundamental reform" was already underway.

He dismissed the Press Complaints Commission's last two bosses as being "pretty useless", citing their failure to address the problem after the information commissioner's 2006 report.

"The information commissioner's office looked at all this tapping, found there were 30 papers, 300-odd journalists and many hundreds of thousands of pounds being paid out," he said.

"We ignored that evidence and now we're living with the consequences."

The PCC was only permitted to be self-regulating after New Labour's proposals that it become an independent body in 1997 were "fought bitterly against" by newspaper editors, he claimed.

"We compromised and said 'if you can do it over self-regulation, let us see'. We've got the answer now… they need to have a form of regulated body."

Lord Prescott said he wanted to see a newly empowered PCC which is able to enforce "some sort of sanction" over errant publications and be properly independent of newspaper influence.

The PCC's current board consists of seven editors and ten 'ordinary' people.

"What we can't have is the one that was totally controlled in the self-regulatory manner," Lord Prescott said.

"We need to go back to what was proposed in 1997 so we get a proper balance between public interest and private interest which the editors of this country… have totally ignored."