Gavin Williamson: Section 40 Backers Want To Kill Off Local Press

The Defence Secretary has become the latest Cabinet Minister to voice his opposition to proposals to restrict press freedom, warning MPs that a vote for Section 40 is a vote “to get rid of their local newspaper.”

Following a House of Lords vote for Section 40-style costs sanctions in the Data Protection Bill, Gavin Williamson told the Express & Star that Section 40 would “destroy the local press and take away a local voice for so many people around the country.”

Prime Minister Theresa May, Culture Secretary Matt Hancock and Environment Secretary Michael Gove have all stated their intention to ensure that the vote, which included backing for a wide-ranging inquiry into the media, would be overturned.

Mr Williamson said: “All Section 40 is going to do is destroy the local press and take away a local voice for so many people around the country.

“That is why it is vital we get rid of Section 40 and ensure we give local newspapers the opportunity to dig out the facts that need to be revealed.

“Anyone who voted for Section 40 is voting to get rid of their local newspaper.”

Following the vote, Theresa 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.”

Culture Secretary Matt Hancock said:  “House of Lords have just voted to restrict press freedoms. This vote will undermine high quality journalism, fail to resolve challenges the media face and is a hammer blow to local press. We support a free press and will seek to overturn these amendments in the Commons.”

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: “Matt is absolutely right – free media is vital to democracy and local press should not be fettered in this way.”