Lib Dem conference: Coogan fears delay to press reforms

Steve Coogan Mr Coogan said the press should be "open" to what Leveson recommended

Actor Steve Coogan has said he fears any changes to press regulation recommended by the Leveson Inquiry may be delayed by "political obsfucation".

Speaking at the Lib Dem conference, Mr Coogan said he was worried politicians might "kick the ball around" rather than implement changes immediately.

Mr Coogan, a phone hacking victim, said any new press code without statutory underpinning "would not work".

Ex-Lib Dem MP Evan Harris said he expected legislation next year.

Mr Harris, a spokesman for the Hacked Off campaign, said there was no reason why legislation enabling an independent system of "backstop regulation" could not be brought forward in 2013.

'Very thorough'

This would mean reforms to the current system of self-regulation would be in place before the general election scheduled for 2015.

Mr Coogan was speaking after meeting with deputy prime minister and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg to discuss the Leveson process.

He said he had not been given any guarantees by Mr Clegg about how quickly the inquiry's recommendations would be implemented.

Speaking about the likely reaction to Leveson across Westminster, the actor said he did not believe any politicians would "overtly oppose" the inquiry's conclusions.

But he added: "What we might see is a tactic of obsfucation and delay... A lot of money has been spent on this public inquiry. It has been very thorough.

"Any attempt to kick the ball around or establish long-winded conversations about it are just political manoeuvring."

Mr Clegg has said he would be prepared to back any proposals from Leveson as long as they are "proportionate and workable".

Mr Harris said the Lib Dem leader had told Hacked Off - which campaigns for justice to hacking victims - his party was "not bound" by the coalition agreement with the Conservatives to reach agreement on future press regulation.

But, with Labour committed to implementing Leveson in full, Mr Harris said he believed there would be a majority in Parliament for enacting the inquiry's recommendations.

Some Conservative MPs have expressed concerns about any beefed-up system of regulation stifling press freedom.

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