Leveson report: Labour publishes press standards plan

Harriet Harman on Labour's 'independent and effective' press regulation plan

Labour has published details of how it would like to see the press regulated in the wake of Lord Justice Leveson's report on press standards.

Under the plans, a panel of senior judges headed by the lord chief justice would certify that the press had set up a robust form of self regulation.

Labour also says freedom of the press would also be written into law.

Government sources dismissed it as "a series of top lines which would not stand up to parliamentary scrutiny".

BBC political correspondent Norman Smith said sources had said the legislation lacked details and therefore would not be workable.

It will be discussed, along with the government's own draft bill, during the next round of cross-party talks on Thursday.

Earlier, Mr Cameron told a meeting of journalists that it "won't be the end of the world" if a new law is introduced against his wishes.

In his report, commissioned in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal, Lord Justice Leveson recommended an independent self-regulatory body for the newspaper industry, backed up by legislation to ensure its independence and effectiveness.

All the main parties agree that the press needs to introduce a more robust form of self-regulation, but Mr Cameron has argued that it would be complex to write a new system into law.

Labour has produced a short draft bill of its own in an attempt to prove him wrong.

Its measures include:

  • a requirement that ministers and public agents protect press freedom
  • the creation of an independent press standards body
  • the setting-up of a panel, headed by the Lord Chief Justice, which recognises this body and conducts a "health check" every three years
  • criteria by which the judiciary would determine whether the body has shown it is carrying out its functions
  • a list of incentives to encourage the press to join the body

Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman said the press had vowed to change its complaints system after seeing the "horrific effect" of its behaviour on people such as the families of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.

"But what Lord Justice Leveson said is that in the past, when the press have shown good intentions, what has happened is after a few years the press have slipped back. So what this does is put a guarantee that the good intentions the press are now showing will be stuck to," she said.

Speaking later on BBC Radio 4's The World At One, she added: "It's not so short that it wouldn't have legal effect. It's properly drafted, it would have exactly the effect that Lord Justice Leveson put forward.

"It's disappointing for the government to be rejecting it out of hand."

Labour has also dropped its initial support for broadcasting regulator Ofcom to have any say over the written media.

It has also made an attempt to tackle the issue of defining what constitutes the press - covering not just newspapers but periodicals and their online content.

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