Press regulation: Reaction to royal charter announcement
- 14 March 2013
- From the section UK
Prime Minister David Cameron has announced he is to publish long-awaited plans to establish a tougher press regulator on Monday.
Mr Cameron wants to introduce a royal charter to create the world's "toughest" regulatory system. He has urged parliament to support his scheme.
Labour believe the prime minister is making an "historic mistake", while coalition partners the Lib Dems said the situation was "extremely regrettable".
Press campaigners and the industry themselves have been extremely vocal in their response, positive and negative.
Executives of major newspaper publishing groups and press bodies issued a joint statement in support to Mr Cameron's rejection of statutory regulation.
They said: "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 £1m fines and the toughest system of regulation in the western world."
They added the industry was "ready to move with speed" to establish the new system, which they claim "delivers fully on the Leveson principles and will provide real protection for members of the public".
Signatories included Paul Dacre of Daily Mail Group, Murdoch MacLennan, chief executive of the Telegraph Media Group and John Witherow of News International.
The Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has said he does not agree with Mr Cameron's approach, insisting he doesn't think the charter would "deliver on the central recommendations of the Leveson report".
He told the BBC: "There was a middle-ground and a solution we could have arrived at. We were making real progress.
"David Cameron decided, for reasons he will have to explain, to turn his back on those cross-party talks.
"I am determined that we should maintain a cross-party approach and I am very keen to work with [all] MPs to get this important issue right. It is not an issue I believe that should be the subject of party-political points scoring."
Labour leader Ed Miliband also expressed his surprise that Mr Cameron decided to "walk away" from cross-party discussions.
"I told him I thought he was making a historic mistake which would not serve the victims, and that we should carry on working to serve the victims of the abuses that took place in the past and to see whether we could find a solution together.
"I think we should hear from the victims - the Dowlers and McCanns and others - whether they believe that the Prime Minister's solution serves them."
Mr Miliband said he feared ministers would have the power to water down the new regulation system without reference to Parliament if they came under pressure from the press, therefore giving newspapers too much clout.
During a press conference Hacked Off director Prof Brian Cathcart insisted the prime minister was allied to a system of regulation that would simply allow the creation of a body similar to the current Press Complaints Commission.
"The failed regulation system of the past... would have passed into the system that David Cameron wanted to introduce.
"This would represent an appalling betrayal of the victims of press abuse who gave evidence to the Leveson inquiry in the hope that they would see real change."
He was joined in the press conference by members of the campaign who had given evidence at the inquiry.
Baroness Sheila Hollins, mother to stabbing victim Abigail Witchalls, said press freedom should allow newspapers "to act in an ethical responsible way".
She added: "It is not freedom for them to continue to work in a way which intrudes on people's lives, which harasses them, which intimidates them, which misrepresents them.
"I don't think a freedom which allows the press to continue to behave in such unethical ways is a freedom I want to know anything about."
Jackie Hames, former police woman and phone-hacking victim, said a self-regulator would still allow "press and media moguls [to] bully and harass the public".
"We cannot go on like this. All of us paid a huge personal sacrifice by giving evidence and its not been easy standing here talking about it," she added.
Meanwhile, campaigners Justice Across Borders have complained that Mr Cameron was putting important legal safeguards at risk, by using the Crime and Courts Bill for a showdown on Leveson.
A spokesperson said: "The Bill currently carries amendments to introduce domestic safeguards for the European arrest warrant (EAW) that would mean a significant improvement in the protection of the rights of British citizens subject to EAWs.
"We understand the need for implementation of Lord Justice Leveson's recommendations, but we believe the Prime Minister has misjudged which Bill should include such recommendations."
Anne Diamond, the broadcaster who gave evidence to the Leveson inquiry about press intrusion following the cot death of her baby son, Sebastian, in 1991, said she felt "desperately hurt and disillusioned".
"We've been through the mill already," she said.
"We were promised by David Cameron that unless Lord Leveson's recommendations were barmy, they would be implemented, and what are we seeing now? It's being brought right down to the level of being a party political squabble."
Tory MP John Whittingdale, the chair of the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee, has backed Mr Cameron's decision but warned that he may lose the vote on Monday.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4, he said a "fundamental difference" over the need for legislation led to the inevitable break down of cross-party talks.
He added: "It's a gamble which, one would have to say on the immediate face of it, it looks as if he may lose.
"It looks as if the overwhelming majority of the Labour Party will vote for legislation and the fact that talks have collapsed demonstrates that the Liberals [overall] are still supporting legislation.
"I would hope that people who are concerned about civil liberties and our constitution would see that there are dangers in Parliament legislating over the press."
Labour MP Chris Bryant, a victim of phone-hacking, meanwhile, has branded Mr Cameron's decision "a shame".
He told the BBC News Channel: "We need a body that is completely independent both of politicians and of the newspapers and it has to have statutory underpinning so you can't just have some government minister coming along and changing it at will."
"The prime minister... said that if Lord Justice Leveson came up with proposals which weren't bonkers then he would implement them.
"That's certainly what the victims have been looking for, that's what a lot of people have been campaigning for."