Education secretary Michael Gove has said that Rupert Murdoch "should be applauded" for setting up the Sun on Sunday, and warned that the debates surrounding the Leveson Inquiry were creating a "chilling atmosphere" which threatens the diversity and freedom of the British press.
In a speech to parliamentary journalists at Westminster, Gove said that inquiries could "create cures worse than the original disease", involving setting up of knee-jerk quangos and "law-making entities" which made matters worse. He questioned whether the Leveson inquiry was really necessary, saying that most of the behaviour by journalists which caused it to be set up could have been handled by existing laws.
The former journalist - who spent a decade working for the Murdoch-owned Times newspaper - said there was a danger of celebrities taking over the regulation of the press, and criticised some of the editorial agendas of some newspapers and politicians who had bemoaned the creation of the Sun on Sunday.
With heavy sarcasm Gove singled out the Labour MP Tom Watson, who has said that the establishment of the new Sunday newspaper was premature. "Tom Watson manages to pursue a cause without the slightest hint of self regard, no ego whatsoever," said Gove.
In a wide-ranging speech in Westminster, Gove also made a jab at former Energy Secretary Chris Huhne, joking that he'd heard that Alex Ferguson was thinking of replacing Wayne Rooney with his wife Colleen in the front three of the Manchester United team, "because it's the wife that takes the penalties."
He also made an impassioned defence of the union between Scotland and the rest of the UK, saying that arguments for greater English representation, including the West Lothian question, was "entirely the wrong attitude."
Scotland-born Gove also rejected suggestions that David Cameron's trip to Scotland last Friday would only help the nationalist cause. Gove claimed the PM "augments any argument he makes,' adding that the PM's speech in Edinburgh last week had been "thoughtful and gracious.'