UK

Leveson reform discussions continue

Lord Justice Leveson with his report
Image caption Lord Justice Leveson's report on press regulation was published in November

Discussions between the leaders of the three main political parties over the Leveson press reforms are continuing, the prime minister's official spokesman has said.

The leaders held 45 minutes of talks on Wednesday on proposals for a new system underpinned by a royal charter.

David Cameron's spokesman described the talks as "good", but would not say whether an agreement was near.

MPs are expected to debate the proposals on Monday afternoon.

It is understood the party leaders have still to agree whether a watchdog needs legislation - one of the report's main recommendations.

The government says it is not needed, as it can be agreed by privy councillors and signed off by the Queen. But Labour and the Lib Dems want it to be incorporated into law to ensure it cannot be abolished or changed by future governments.

Earlier, BBC political correspondent Norman Smith said government sources dismissed suggestions the talks were deadlocked or had broken down.

They said the leaders would not have opted to continue with a further meeting unless they believed a deal could be done.

'Difficult place'

Culture Secretary Maria Miller, shadow culture secretary Harriet Harman and Lib Dem Jim Wallace had been meeting over the past few days, with the aim of putting a package together and once an agreement was reached it was understood the party leaders would be called in to sign it off.

The deal will involve the press, a self-regulating body, and a watchdog organisation set up by royal charter.

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Media captionHacked Off campaigner Hugh Grant admits he flounders in the details of a plan for the Leveson proposals to go before MPs.

Lord Justice Leveson's report - which was published in November - called for a new independent watchdog for the press, which he said should be underpinned by legislation.

The 2,000-page report into press ethics found that press behaviour was "outrageous" and "wreaked havoc with the lives of innocent people".

Hacked Off campaigner and actor Hugh Grant told BBC Two's Daily Politics that cross-party negotiations over the report had "ground into a difficult place".

He added that the idea of a royal charter was "not ideal" and "pretty meaningless" the way it was currently drafted.

Lib Dem pensions minister Steve Webb said the goal was to introduce Leveson's recommendations in full.

"But the other goal which Leveson was in favour of is all-party agreement, because the last thing we want is Labour and the Lib Dems to gang up and get something through in this Parliament and then you have a future Tory government that comes in and says, 'we never signed up to that'. Then the regulation of the press becomes a political football, and we don't want that."

Meanwhile, the government has agreed that MPs will be given time to discuss the way ahead on the Leveson proposals on press freedom during the passage of the Crime and Courts Bill.

Home Office minister Jeremy Browne said the government would make way for a debate on Leveson, regardless of whether talks between the party leaders reached a deal or not.

Labour have said they will table amendments to the Crime Bill next week to force votes on Leveson if there is no agreement between the leaders.

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