Labour condemns 'watered-down' Leveson response

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Labour has condemned the government's response to the Leveson report, calling it "watered down" and an "obfuscation".

Culture, Media and Sport spokesman Lord Gardiner of Kimble repeated a statement given earlier in the Commons on 13 February 2013 in response to an urgent question from shadow culture secretary Harriet Harman.

The Conservatives plan to introduce a new independent press regulator backed by royal charter, without the need for legislation. It would be supervised by a "recognition panel".

But Labour's Culture, Media and Sport spokesman Lord Stevenson of Balmacara said he was "fed up" of "obfuscation being perpetrated by those who profess say they agree with Leveson but seem to be ready to do anything but implement his ingenious and effective recommendations".

There is "no justification for watering it down", Lord Stevenson added. "What we want is Leveson not Leveson-lite."

Further criticism came from Conservative former minister and journalist Lord Fowler, who told the government: "Perhaps your words about the victims would have more force had not the victims rejected this particular course that is being proposed."

Crossbencher and former Commons Speaker Baroness Boothroyd made the point that the BBC was governed by royal charter, and this had not prevented it from libelling Lord McAlpine.

Lib Dem Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury said her party had "always been clear that our preferred option is the implementation of Leveson".

Lord Gardiner replied that victims of press intrusion were the "number one priority" and defended the decision to introduce a royal charter rather than legislation as the "most speedy way with which we could address this matter and come to a conclusion".

"There is absolutely no suggestion this proposal is about a dilution of Leveson," Lord Gardiner insisted.

In March, the Commons will have to consider a bid by the Lords to create an arbitration service on defamation as advocated by the Leveson report, which peers voted for as part of the Defamation Bill.

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