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News: Conservatives pull out of cross-party Leveson talks, Parliament will decide

image1The Prime Minister has told a press conference that the Conservatives are pulling out of cross party talks about the implementation of the Leveson report.  He said that regulation would not work without the consent of the press.  He accepted that, as a result, the matter would be decided by Parliament on Monday 18 March 2013, when there would be a vote on “Leveson amendments” to the Crime and Courts Bill.

He said that Conservative ministers would “publish the royal charter proposals again” – although, in the absence of cross-party consensus, these appear to be dead.  He said that the Government would table amendments to the Crime and Courts Bill to implement the Leveson proposals in conjunction with a Royal Charter.  In answer to questions David Cameron said that on Monday he is bringing matters to a head and that if MPs vote for a different approach, they will have that chance.

There is an account of the press conference on the Guardian Politics Live Blog and a video on the Telegraph website.

Campaigners have drawn attention to a number of inaccuracies in his statement

  • He said that, in some areas, the press have accepted measures not originally proposed – in fact, the latest version of the Royal Charter included a series of concessions by the Conservatives to the press – giving them a partial veto over appointments to the new regulator, control over the “Standards Code” and removing the power to “direct” apologies.  The press made no concessions which went beyond Leveson.
  • He said that his opponents had tried to hijack other legislation to bring in a statutory form of regulation and that he did not think full statutory regulation would work.  In fact, Lord Justice Leveson did not recommend statutory regulation and none of the proposed amendments to other legislation proposes “statutory regulation” – they provide statutory underpinning for voluntary press self-regulation.

In response to David Cameron’s comment that “A deal was there to be done”, the victims campaigning organisation Hacked Off commented

“This is not a ‘deal’.  It is a unilateral attempt by Cameron to impose a watered-down version of Leveson that lets the industry keep up its old practices.  The industry will be able to veto the people on the regulator. They will write their own rules. They will be able to use the funding to control the body, as they have in the past. They will be able to rig the investigations process so fines never happen. In short, they would be able to get recognition for a regulator that, like the one they proposed to Leveson, would in his judgement ‘make no practical difference whatsoever’.

1 Comment

  1. Andrew Scott


    We share the Prime Minister’s frustration at the way in which talks about the future of press regulation have broken down and legislation has been hijacked.

    The Prime Minister is right to reject statutory regulation of the press – free of political control for 300 years – as fundamentally wrong in principle and unworkable in practice.

    The industry has spent many weeks in negotiating a new independent system of self regulation, based on the Leveson principles, which provides £1 million fines and the toughest system of regulation in the western world. We have made major concessions in order to reach agreement, although there are elements of the proposed reforms – such as exemplary damages – to which we remain opposed. However, this need not stop a new regulator being put in place.

    We agree with the Prime Minister that matters cannot be allowed to drift on and that we need now to deliver real change.

    The UK’s newspaper and magazine publishing industry will rise to the challenge. We are ready to move with speed to establish a new system of tough, independent, effective self regulation which delivers fully on the Leveson principles and will provide real protection for members of the public. We will aim to get the new regulator up and running as soon as possible.

    Paul Ashford Northern and Shell
    Guy Black Press Standards Board of Finance
    Tim Blott Scottish Newspaper Society
    Paul Dacre Daily Mail Group
    Barry McIlheney Professional Publishers’ Association
    Murdoch MacLennan Telegraph Media Group
    David Newell Newspaper Society
    John Witherow News International

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