Press regulation deal struck by parties


David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband all claim victory in Leveson deal

A deal has been struck between the three main political parties on a new press regulation regime in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal.

An independent regulator will be set up by royal charter with powers to impose million pound fines on UK publishers and demand upfront apologies from them.

Party leaders told MPs the charter would preserve press freedom and protect victims of press intrusion.

Many of the major newspapers said they needed time to study the details.

Press reform campaign group Hacked Off has welcomed the deal.

It follows Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry into press ethics, which found that journalists had hacked thousands of phones. He called for a new, independent regulator backed by legislation designed to assess whether it is doing its job properly.

'Without delay'

Prime Minister David Cameron said the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Labour had agreed on a new system of "tough independent self-regulation that will deliver for victims and meet the principles set out in (Leveson's) report".

Christopher Jeffries on a new regulator

He said a new system would ensure:

  • upfront apologies from the press to victims
  • fines of 1% of turnover for publishers, up to £1m
  • a self-regulatory body with independent appointments and funding
  • a robust standards code
  • a free arbitration service for victims
  • a speedy complaints system

The charter defines publishers as newspapers, magazines or websites containing news-related material.

But there was confusion over how the plans would extend to the rest of the internet - with one Downing Street aide telling the BBC it would not cover blogs such as Guido Fawkes' political commentary.

While the charter is intended to cover organisations publishing in the UK, the Scottish government has asked Westminster to clarify the Scottish impact of plans for press regulation, which is a devolved matter.


To anyone outside Westminster this must all sound like not so much a dance, but more an enthusiastic disco on the head of a pin.

The political songs the leaders are playing demonstrate the shimmying under way over the ownership of this deal and the deft moves over the language to describe it.

It all revolves around a horrible phrase you would brace yourself for encountering on the instructions to a piece of flatpack furniture: "statutory underpinning".

It means a reliance on the law; an assault, many newspapers have long argued, on long-held freedoms of the press.

In the Commons, the prime minister was categoric: the royal charter that will oversee the new regulator will not be underpinned in law.

Labour leader Ed Miliband and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg were equally categoric too. It will, they said.

And if second best is the twin of compromise, victims of the press and lobbyists for its freedom appear to be meeting in the middle, but newspapers remain nervous.

Announcing the draft royal charter, Mr Cameron told MPs: "What happened to the Dowlers, to the McCanns, to Christopher Jeffries and to many other innocent people who've never sought the limelight was utterly despicable.

"It is right that we put in place a new system of press regulation to ensure such appalling acts can never happen again. We should do this without any further delay."

Labour leader Ed Miliband said the agreement satisfied the demands of protection for victims and freedom of the press.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said he hoped newspaper groups would see the logic of the deal and back it.

The charter will not be passed by MPs, but will need to be approved at the May meeting of the Queen's Privy Council - advisers to the Queen, mostly comprising senior politicians.

Meanwhile, a clause in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, which will mean that the charter cannot be amended without a two-thirds majority in Parliament, was approved in the Lords on Tuesday evening.

And a separate bill, the Crime and Courts Bill, will have amendments ensuring that newspapers who refused to join the new regulatory regime would be potentially liable for exemplary damages if a claim was upheld against them.

Brian Cathcart, Hacked Off: "An artfully crafted piece of legislation"

The three main parties differed over whether this amounted to bringing in a new law.

Mr Cameron said a press law had been avoided - although he conceded the clauses were "two very important but relatively small legislative changes" that needed to be made.

Mr Miliband said there was statute underpinning the charter, "which is actually protecting it from being changed".

BBC political editor Nick Robinson said the press had been informed over the days and months of wrangling, with key players being Telegraph's Lord Black, Associated Newspapers' Peter Wright, the editor of the Times John Witherow and the editor of the FT Lionel Barber.

'Deeply contentious'

In a joint statement, the Mail and Telegraph groups, Northern and Shell, News International, the Newspaper Society and the Professional Publishers Association said the industry had not been represented in Sunday night's talks.

It said early drafts of the charter had contained "several deeply contentious issues" which had not been "resolved with the industry".

"We are not able to give any response on behalf of the industry to this afternoon's proposals until we have had time to study them," the statement concluded.

The Sun and others have previously said they would accept everything recommended by Lord Justice Leveson - except statutory legislation.

Evan Harris of campaign group Hacked Off was at the overnight talks with three other pressure group members. The group later said it believed the deal "can effectively deliver" Lord Justice Leveson's recommendations.

But the idea of a charter was criticised by free speech campaign group Index on Censorship. Chief executive Kirsty Hughes said the decision was a "sad day for press freedom in the UK".

She said: "Index is against the introduction of a royal charter that determines the details of establishing a press regulator in the UK - the involvement of politicians undermines the fundamental principle that the press holds politicians to account."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 211.

    I cannot work out why my 184 gets a negative score is it because I wished for both the Cons and Labs to return to their real values and therefore give us real choice. Or is it because I made the true statement that Labour were in power while the bulk of this scandal was going on. Please enlighten me.

  • Comment number 210.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 209.

    El Tel @ 181

    Paul is living on that planet which contains people who have not been brain(?) washed like you have by the constant miserable propaganda which drives down the spirit of people by constantly taking the negative view of anybody or anything that doesn't live on your street. Get a life instead of being a little Englander.

  • rate this

    Comment number 208.

    How about selling Newspapers in plain packaging a bit like Cigarettes abroad?

    That will discourage tasteless attention grabbing headlines.

  • rate this

    Comment number 207.

    We must not forget what has brought us to this point. Self-regulation by the press clearly did not work. The shocking tale of poor Milly Dowler's phone being hacked shows us how bad things got. And remember this was not a one-off, it was systematic, endemic, and done in a toxic culture. So, for all the hand-wringing, the press should be grateful to get this watered-down compromise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 206.

    Lets hope the McCanns can now spend hundreds of thousand of pounds looking for their daughter rather than using the money to sue newspapers who question their version of events.

  • rate this

    Comment number 205.

    When one of the worst insults you can throw at someone's intelligence,is to say 'they believe everything they read in the papers'. You know something is wrong with the press.

  • rate this

    Comment number 204.

    The fact is that the laws are already in place. Just needs someone to exercise them, no more legislation is needed

  • rate this

    Comment number 203.

    So do we have a system underpinned by law or not? How can Clegg, milliband and Cameron agree to deal when they can't agree on what the fundamental platforms of the agreement are?

    As for Kirsty Hughes (Index) et al, the press wields huge power- often very destructively, and in a very partisan way. Someone has to hold them to account too. You seem to have forgotten that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 202.

    One quick way to sort out the newspaper barons is for everyone to just stop buying their newspapers. I could not tell you when I last bought a paper it was so long ago. The only thing they understand is money and they would soon change if the newspapers were not selling .... unless of course people buy these tacky newspapers because they want to read the rubbish.

  • rate this

    Comment number 201.

    In any transparant dealing a honest leader would have declared an interest, like being pals with the culprits.

    Why have Labour never made anything of the blatantly obvious politically motivated phone hacking dozens of Labour Ministers and MPs hacked but no Tories ? why ?.

  • rate this

    Comment number 200.

    How do you stop the Ggutter-Press?

    Don't buy its trash!

  • rate this

    Comment number 199.

    Just like the bank levy and bank reforms this "deal" is nothing more than a stitch up. Milliband has already fallen at the 1st hurdle if he wants to be a real game changer in Politics, he has given Murdoch and co what they want a compromise instead of real change. Labour have not changed at all, still the same grubby paler version of the Conservatives.

  • rate this

    Comment number 198.

    180.Visiting Alien

    If I might translate your rant into plain English:

    Right wing loons sppend hours spamming any forum they percieve as left wing (regardless of whether it actually is or not) with libellous, hate filled bile that as to be romved for legal reasons.

    Then the very same people who spout illegal nonsense claim they are being denied free speech.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 197.

    @ 152.mark

    This has nothing to do with political persuasions of different newspapers, that will never change. But if a newspaper concocts a story from lies in order to push their political affiliation then that needs to be dealt with especially when it hurts the type of people who can't fight back by using the courts in expensive libel actions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 196.

    Re 179. Associated Newspapers owned by Rothermere - non-domiciled for tax, and Conservative Party funder. Where does the Mail stand on tax dodging. Time that no representation without UK taxation was applied to the press barons.

  • rate this

    Comment number 195.

    181 el tel I live on the planet that likes fairness

  • rate this

    Comment number 194.

    This is a violation of the rights of those in the press.

    Oh wait, that's right, none of you give a sod about their rights. You had your overblown emotional reaction to the misdeeds of some, and so now the government is giving you want you want by violating the rights of all, just so that your sensibilities can be assuaged.

    A little emotion, and you'll let government do anything.

  • rate this

    Comment number 193.

    25. Artemesia
    11.Daryll - "...Apologies MUST be placed on front pages and not hidden away when they get it wrong..."

    And in the same sized Font as the original?

    And for the same number of pages and same number of days.

  • rate this

    Comment number 192.

    @189. hello

    whats that I smell a leadership challenge


    Which one? Clegg, Cameron, Miliband or all three?


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