Leveson report: Hacked Off publishes draft bill

Lord Leveson with his report
Image caption Lord Leveson's report was published in November but it is not clear how it will be implemented

Campaign group Hacked Off has published a draft bill which it says would implement the recommendations of the Leveson report in full.

The group, which represents victims of phone hacking, claims newspaper publishers are trying to water down Lord Justice Leveson's plans.

Lord Leveson's inquiry called for a tough new press regulator, backed by statute.

David Cameron's office said cross-party talks on the report were continuing.

In November a report on press standards by Lord Justice Leveson produced after hearings lasting eight months recommended an independent self-regulatory watchdog for the press that would be backed by legislation.

The plan has the support of the Liberal Democrats as well as Labour.

But the prime minister has said he does not believe a bill is necessary to set up the new regime.

On Monday, David Cameron's official spokesman said: "Cross-party talks [on press regulation] are ongoing. There will be regular contact in the days and weeks ahead."

Editors and publishers hope to set out their own plans later this week.

Since the Leveson Report was published, politicians and the press have been holding separate discussions on how to implement its findings, with - or without - some form of legal backing or "underpinning".

'Closed doors'

The talks will resume this week, but Hacked Off claims they are happening "behind closed doors" and the proposals would distort Lord Justice Leveson's recommendations.

Hacked Off is supported by the parents of missing girl Madeleine McCann and murder victim Milly Dowler, as well as celebrities including the actor Hugh Grant.

Hacked Off's chairman, Hugh Tomlinson QC, has drafted a short bill for England and Wales designed to implement the report's findings in full, and is publishing it for consultation. It is unlikely to

Mr Tomlinson says it would specify standards for the new self-regulatory system, to satisfy public demand that it was effective and independent of government, MPs and the newspaper industry - and also incentives to encourage publishers to join the system.

The draft bill, produced in consultation with victims of press abuse, was drafted by Mr Tomlinson and specialist Parliamentary Counsel Daniel Greenberg.

It includes:

  • Enshrining the freedom of the press in statute for the first time
  • Sets out the standards for an independent press self-regulator, which would have to ensure the "privacy and dignity" of individuals.
  • Create a whistleblowing hotline for journalists who feel under pressure to act unethically
  • Set up a Recognition Commission which would check the self-regulator is doing its job
  • An agreement that those who abide by the rules of the new watchdog would face fines of no more than 1% of turnover, or up to £1m

The bill was given to Culture Secretary Maria Miller and Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Letwin last week, but is unlikely to progress without government support.

Mrs Miller has said she is reluctant to legislate but ministers have floated the idea of a Royal Charter to monitor the operation of the new press watchdog.

Professor Brian Cathcart, Director of Hacked Off said: "The right thing to do now is to implement the judge's recommendations on press regulation in full and without delay.

"Our draft Bill - the Leveson Bill - offers a plain and straightforward way of doing that. This is not a bill for press regulation as Hacked Off or anyone else would wish it: It is a bill to underpin voluntary press self-regulation in the way Lord Justice Leveson wanted it."

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