Leveson report: Cameron tells editors to sort out regulator
- 4 December 2012
- From the section UK
David Cameron has met newspaper editors and told them to "urgently" draft plans for an independent press regulator in the wake of the Leveson report.
The prime minister is resisting calls to adopt the findings in full and change the law to underpin a new body.
But he said the "the clock is ticking" and the press's proposals "absolutely" had to meet the report's requirements.
Editors will hold talks on Wednesday, and the culture secretary said their plans had to have public "credibility".
In his report into press standards and ethics last week, Lord Justice Leveson recommended an independent self-regulatory body for the press, backed up by legislation.
Labour and the Liberal Democrats both support statutory underpinning, but the prime minister, many Conservative MPs and parts of the press are against it.
The Downing Street meeting was organised by the culture secretary, Maria Miller. She said the industry had "responded positively" to the challenge of establishing a new regulator.
She said she expected the timescale of the plan to be presented to the government within two days.
In a statement, the Department of Culture added: "There is still a huge amount of work for the industry to do, and it must not drag its feet.
"She is clear that, while she has very grave concerns about legislation, if the industry fails to deliver then it will be the only option left."
The Society of Newspaper Editors said it would hold a meeting on Wednesday to see if it can reach an agreement that can be put to the government.
The chairman of the existing Press Complaints Commission, Lord Hunt, who also attended the Number 10 talks, has been leading the industry's attempts to draw up a replacement for his own body.
He claims 120 publishers, representing 2,000 editors, are supporting his plan and believes legally-enforceable membership contracts could be used to avoid the need for statutory backing.
But the department's statement said the editors at the meeting had been reminded that Lord Justice Leveson had found Lord Hunt's model "unconvincing".
Among editors attending were The Sun's Dominic Mohan, The Guardian's Alan Rusbridger, the Daily Telegraph's Tony Gallagher, James Harding from The Times, Lloyd Embley from the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and The People and The Spectator magazine's Fraser Nelson.
Mr Gallagher tweeted: "19 editors and industry reps, 9 mandarins, 3 ministers and 1 PM. We got coffee and still tap water. No beer and sandwiches."
Spectator editor Mr Nelson tweeted: "Distance between Leveson's proposed regulation and what press is prepared to sign up to v small. Statute should not be needed to close gap."
Mr Embley said there was "a firm belief that papers can deliver Leveson principles far more quickly without legislation. Better for public and free speech".
Chris Blackhurst, editor of the Independent newspaper, said there was "broad agreement" in many areas, but "one sticking point" concerned the independence of the watchdog.
Mr Cameron said the industry had to take action and added: "They have got to do it in a way that absolutely meets the requirement of Lord Justice Leveson's report.
"That means million-pound fines, proper investigation of complaints, prominent apologies, a tough independent regulatory system. And they know, because I told them, the clock is ticking for this to be sorted out."
Labour leader Ed Miliband said he had spoken to victims of press intrusion, who wanted to see "more than good intentions" from newspaper editors.
He said: "What those victims are saying is that... those good intentions have essentially drained away. We have ended up back to where we've started.
"They want to see real legislation which can ensure that we have independent self-regulation guaranteed in law, so that other people don't find they are victims of abuse by the press."
An online petition in favour of statutory underpinning, launched by campaign group Hacked Off and supported by many victims of press intrusion, has collected more than 138,000 signatures.
Cross-party talks are ongoing and the government is drawing up draft legislation to enact the Leveson recommendations . Labour says it is drafting its own bill in case no agreement can be reached.
The BBC's political editor Nick Robinson says ministers are prepared to offer the use of the civil service to help the press establish an independent regulator.
He says some ministers hope a judge may lead the process of forming the new watchdog - "that, goes the argument, should silence those demanding legal underpinning".
In Scotland, MSPs are also debating press regulation and whether to take a UK-wide approach or create a separate system.