Leveson Inquiry: MPs warn against press regulation law


Hugh Grant: Newspapers shouldn't be ''marking their own homework''

More than 80 MPs and peers have urged the man carrying out an inquiry into UK media standards not to recommend a press regulation law.

The cross-party group, including eight former cabinet ministers and London Olympics chairman Lord Coe, says any such move would damage press freedom.

Lord Justice Leveson is due to publish his report on Thursday.

The group, which has written to the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph, wants a stronger "self-regulatory" system.

The Leveson Inquiry was established by the prime minister in July last year and looked into the culture, practices and ethics of the press.

It was commissioned following allegations of illegal phone-hacking at the News of the World.

Prime Minister David Cameron, who has already warned politicians not to pre-empt its findings, will receive his copy of the report at lunchtime on Wednesday - 24 hours before its details are made public.

'State licensing'

Start Quote

Leveson demonstrated not a sole failure of regulation but rather of law enforcement”

End Quote Cross-party group of MPs

Lord Justice Leveson was asked to produce a list of recommendations for a more effective policy and regulatory regime for the press, which would preserve its independence while encouraging higher ethical and professional standards.

At the moment the press is self-regulated through the Press Complaints Commission (PCC).

Lord Justice Leveson is widely expected to recommend some form of statutory regulation overseen by an independent body.

But the politicians, led by former Labour home secretary David Blunkett and Conservative MP Conor Burns, argue in their letter this could be detrimental to free speech, saying: "As parliamentarians, we believe in free speech and are opposed to the imposition of any form of statutory control even if it is dressed up as underpinning."

They add: "No form of statutory regulation of the press would be possible without the imposition of state licensing - abolished in Britain in 1695. State licensing is inimical to any idea of press freedom and would radically alter the balance of our unwritten constitution.

Conor Burns MP: ''Statutory regulation should be an absolute last resort''

"There are also serious concerns that statutory regulation of the print media may shift the balance to the digital platforms which, as recent events have shown through the fiasco of Newsnight-Twitter, would further undermine the position of properly moderated and edited print journalism."

The group - which includes Commons culture media and sport committee chairman John Whittingdale, Downton Abbey writer Lord Fellowes, former Commons Speaker Baroness Boothroyd and ex-cabinet ministers Lord Tebbit, Liam Fox, John Redwood and Peter Lilley - has written to the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph,

It backs a proposal from former PCC chairman Lord Hunt and Lord Black, one-time chairman of the body that finances the commission, for a "totally new" version of the regulator.

They propose an independent body with increased powers to investigate complaints and illegal behaviour, levy fines of up to £1m and award compensation, and enforce membership by newspapers for the first time.


Start Quote

It is not often that the prime minister, his deputy and their most senior advisers clear their diaries”

End Quote

Some campaigners say the current system of self-regulation, overseen by the Press Complaints Commission, is inadequate and that tougher rules are needed to curb newspapers' excesses.

Earlier this month, 42 Conservative MPs and peers wrote to the Guardian arguing in favour of some form of statutory underpinning for press regulation.

Broadcaster Anne Diamond, who gave evidence to the Leveson Inquiry about her experience with the press, told BBC Breakfast that "self-regulation has been given its chance and it hasn't worked".

"The only way to have some real teeth behind some agreed code of conduct is to have some kind of statutory underpinning... You have to change the culture and the enforcement."

Possible options for regulation

  • Statutory regulation: Stricter regulation of the press, enforceable by law
  • Statutory underpinning: Self-regulatory body with statutory framework which enforces newspapers to sign up
  • New Press Complaints Council: Tougher self-regulation body with investigative arm. One proposal suggests body should be independent from newspaper industry
  • Newspaper ombudsman: Self-regulatory body, working alongside PCC, to deal with standards

The actor Hugh Grant, who has been campaigning for stricter press regulation, told Breakfast: "What people are campaigning for is an end to newspapers being able to regulate themselves... because that is what has resulted in the kind of abuses of people like the Dowlers, the McCanns, Christopher Jefferies."

He added: "The only industry in this country which is allowed to regulate itself is the newspaper industry... We need a proper regulator, an independent regulator, meaningful, that will need some statute to oblige newspapers to sign up to it."

Martin Moore, director of the Media Standards Trust charity, said the challenge for Lord Justice Leveson was to balance the need for some sort of redress for "ordinary people" with freedom of the press.

It is up to David Cameron to decide whether to implement Lord Justice Leveson's recommendations.

Downing Street has said the prime minister was "open-minded" about the future regulation. Previously he said he intended to implement the findings of the Leveson inquiry, provided they were not "bonkers".

But the BBC's political editor Nick Robinson says the coalition is preparing for the possibility that it may be divided by the report's recommendations, with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg less likely to be hostile to Lord Justice Leveson's proposals.


More on This Story

The Leveson report


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  • Comment number 468.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 467.

    It's very simple... "in the public interest" needs to be asserted in law. If it is genuinely in the interests of the public the press should be free to pursue it. But the press has redefined what the term means. "In the public interest" is supposed to mean issues that affect us, corruption in gov and police etc. It is NOT supposed to mean "anything that tickles us". It's not hard to fix!

  • rate this

    Comment number 466.

    464.Name Number 6

    "That letter must of cost Murdoch a fortune."

    Nah!...business as usual...he will claim it back on tax!

  • rate this

    Comment number 465.

    Does anyone think hacking into the phone of a missing schoolgirl is in the public interest or was it just a maudlin crocodile tear attempt at selling tacky nonsense?


    Does anyone think that one of the most racist newspapers in the country called the “daily mail” should stop doing Diana princess of wales related stuff just so it can sell its tacky red neck wares???

  • rate this

    Comment number 464.

    That letter must of cost Murdoch a fortune.

  • rate this

    Comment number 463.

    What the press prints is only a problem if we believe it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 462.

    "Does anyone think that MPswould have reported their own expense-scamming?"

    Does anyone think hacking into the phone of a missing schoolgirl is in the public interest or was it just a maudlin crocodile tear attempt at selling tacky nonsense?

    Should that still be allowed?

    Cos given track record without legislation that is the normal modus operandi.
    Gutter news for brain dead!

  • rate this

    Comment number 461.

    I wonder what Louis Walsh thinks about all this?

  • rate this

    Comment number 460.

    Any kind of legislation that prevents the media from reporting the news, (however trivial), could end up leading to governmental censorship of the news, and is a big no no.
    Invasion of privacy however, is another matter.

  • rate this

    Comment number 459.

    Overall we need a free press,but also a responsible one,& perhaps a change of culture too?

    Maybe instead of feeding the public such large dosages of irrelevant tripe regarding celebrity relationships etc previously,those same reporters could have directed their considerable acumen for personal investigation @ the levels of child abuse so clearly slipping under their somewhat myopic radar's then?

  • rate this

    Comment number 458.

    I trust Lord Leveson will ignore the emotional blackmail from MPs and write up his own conclusion and recommendations based on the evidence he has heard. I am shocked that the MPs have tried to do this and I question why the PM has had a copy of the paper before it is officially presented. It smacks of political interference and it should not be permitted.

  • rate this

    Comment number 457.

    1.Britain’s press, or at least it’s internationally recognised press is all based in London.

    2.The press, aka media, needs to be spread throughout the UK to ensure the UK not just London matters.

    3.The Met police should be investigated, by officers from other E&W police forces, about media its media links.

    4.The Corruption in London is destroying the UK.

    5. No to regulation

  • rate this

    Comment number 456.

    The media have had enough chances to behave responsibly. Like an unruly teenager it needs to be grounded until it displays enough maturity to be let out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 455.

    Until there is some separation between the press and the politicians, neither faction will ever be truly trustworthy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 454.

    Serious investigative journalism is a very important function for a free and open society, however, in my opinion, salacious expose of unimportant issues are not needed. At the end of the day we probably get the press we deserve and as long as we continue to support papers that carry out these practices then nothing will change. Consumer choice is a very powerful weapon but only if we use it!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 453.

    Unless there are some curbs introduced, Leveson will have been the most expensive piece of hot air since Parliament re-sat last.
    Surely we cannot allow the unfettered wild west approach to "news" gathering that led to this? And "the man in the street" cannot afford to sue in order to gain redress.
    Common sense dictates that an Ombudsman is required, one with teeth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 452.


    Does anyone think that MPswould have reported their own expense-scamming?

  • rate this

    Comment number 451.

    Never forget, the're all in it together.

  • rate this

    Comment number 450.

    i wonder how this all shall be given limitations of scope, i want free press to still be able to publish ideas and concepts which run contrary to popular opinion or majority support... opposition need be allowed and a good thing for lord cameron to consider would be empowerment of the police to investigate this, instead; bust the criminals, leave enterprising people alone; 'nuf said.

  • rate this

    Comment number 449.

    The real issue: the media, big business, central government are all based in one city, London' not that I am anti London as mums from there, but this is completely unsustainable, and un DEMOCRATIC the best way to regulate is to force the media out of London, I would even go as far as to do the same with a significant part of central government, to return democracies voice to country as a whole.


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