NORTH Herefordshire MP Bill Wiggin, a critic of our country’s Free Press, has explained why he abstained on a parliamentary vote into a new sweeping inquiry into the news media.

He said that while he believed it would have exposed “dishonesty and criminality” in the Press, it did not deliver the low-cost arbitration scheme for people with a complaint against newspapers that he wanted.

Former Labour leader Ed Miliband’s amendment to the Data Protection Bill was defeated 304 votes to 295 after a heated debate in the House of Commons last week.

A vote on a second amendment proposed by Tom Watson was pulled after it became clear he did not have the numbers to see it passed.

The so-called Section 40 clause Mr Watson and Mr Wiggin supported would have forced newspapers to pay legal costs even if they won a complaint, and the industry warned it would have forced many smaller newspapers to close.

The News Media Association, which represents newspapers, said: “We are pleased that MPs have recognised the importance of press freedom to our democracy.

“Both these amendments represented a dangerous threat to press freedom. The industry can now focus upon the important task of ensuring that the business of producing high quality news media journalism has a sustainable and healthy future.”

During the Commons debate, Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg said: “The freedom of the Press is so overwhelmingly precious that we should preserve it even if sometimes the Press upsets us.

“It is amazing how many people who have had run-ins with the Press have suddenly found that they think it should be more tightly regulated.

“Fascinatingly, the Daily Mail carried out a survey of their lordships’ house and discovered that more than a third of those who voted to shackle the Press had been embarrassed by the Press.”

Mr Wiggin recently criticised the current system of independent press regulation in the House of Commons after it ruled against him in his case against the Hereford Times. He also railed against the newspaper’s publisher and its editor. Shortly before the Data Protection Bill debate he met actor Hugh Grant, who also objects to a Press free of state-sanctioned regulation.

He said: I was very disappointed that the Labour party failed to bring commencement of Section 40 to a vote. This is not the first time Labour have failed. I would have voted for low-cost arbitration because that is what my constituents need. At the moment, only the very wealthy can afford to sue.

“I abstained from supporting a second Leveson inquiry amendment because whilst exposing dishonesty and criminality in the Press could be helpful, it does not deliver the low-cost arbitration which is necessary for my constituents. As the recommendations of Lord Leveson have been ignored, I doubt the Government would implement recommendations from Leveson 2.

Hereford Times editor John Wilson said: “Both these amendments, if passed, would have been an affront to democracy.

“Calls for a second inquiry into the Press have been driven by those with a grudge against newspapers, and it would have been a waste of public money.

The Independent Newspaper Standards Organisation, by whose rulings the Hereford Times abides, will launch its own a low-cost arbitration scheme in July. It will offer quick and cheap justice to people with complaints against newspapers.