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A POLL released this week reveals for the first time that voters do not believe press regulation is a priority for their MPs, believing time is better spent on more important issues such as the economy.

Furthermore, seven out of 10 people believe there is no need for new laws or state regulation of the press.

The survey, by Survation on behalf of the Free Speech Network, also found two-thirds are proud of Britain’s standing in the world as a model for press freedom and free speech, which would be in peril if the UK imposed statutory controls.

Highlights of the poll are:

z Only 0.5 per cent of people think regulation of the press is a priority and nine out of 10 do not list press regulation as a ‘top 10’ issue;

z 1 per cent of people believe there is no need for new laws or state regulation of the press;

z Two-thirds are proud of Britain’s standing in the world as a model of press freedom and free speech;

z Two-thirds want to see libel laws amended to get actions settled more cheaply;

z 91 per cent support free speech.

Bob Satchwell, chairman of the Society of Editors, said: “The British people are clear that they want a free press and free speech. We agree. This is why the industry supports a new system, independent of both government and the newspaper industry, to ensure the highest standards in the press without undermining its capacity to hold people such as politicians to account.

“We have established a free press in this country over 300 years – we don’t want to reverse this trend. It would send a terrible signal to emerging democracies around the world if this were to end.

“How can we encourage the freedom of the press and free speech abroad if we are threatening it at home?”