UK & World News
Leveson: Parties Reach Deal But Row Over Clause
The three main political parties have reached a deal on how to regulate the press - but Labour and the Tories have become embroiled in a war of words over who has emerged on top from the fraught negotiations.
The details have been emerging in a House of Commons debate of a royal charter that will be used to create an independent regulator which will have more powers to deal with the press if it breaks the rules.
Prime Minister David Cameron, who applied for an emergency debate on the reforms, has been clear he is very uncomfortable with the idea of setting anything down in law because it could be seen as politicians meddling with the press.
However, it is understood a compromise has been reached to include three lines of statute - a clause in the legislation to ensure that any royal charter cannot be amended in the future without two-thirds majorities in both Houses of Parliament.
There will be no industry veto of who sits on the regulator, and judges will have the power to direct newspapers on apologies.
But the main point of contention - whether or not it should be underpinned by law - seems to be a matter of interpretation, and has triggered a dispute about the degree of statutory regulation.
The row centres on a clause being inserted into the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill in the Lords later.
It does not explicitly refer to the royal charter that will establish the new press arrangements - but Labour and the Liberal Democrats argue the effect would be the same.
Labour leader Ed Miliband and Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg claim the deal is based on their plans for a royal charter underpinned by law, so that it cannot be watered down or changed.
But Mr Cameron, who addressed Conservative MPs ahead of the Commons showdown - disagrees.
He told a meeting of his parliamentary party in Westminster that he had "called the bluff" of Mr Miliband, according to a senior Downing Street source.
The PM insisted that dramatically pulling the plug on the talks last week had forced Labour and Lib Dems to "flesh out their positions".
He has denied the new press regulations will have "statutory underpinning", and insists the agreement on a royal charter, struck in the early hours of this morning, avoids the need for a law to control newspapers.
He said: "It's not statutory underpinning. What it is, is simply a clause that says politicians can't fiddle with this so it takes it further away from politicians, which is actually, I think, a sensible step.
"What we wanted to avoid and we have avoided is a press law. Nowhere will it say what this body is, what it does, what it can't do, what the press can and can't do. That, quite rightly, is being kept out of Parliament.
"So no statutory underpinning but a safeguard that says politicians can't in future fiddle with this arrangement."
He added: "What's happened is that everyone has accepted my argument for a royal charter. Why does that matter? Well I thought it was important to avoid a press law, a law that said the press can do this, the regulator's got to do that. That would be dangerous, that's not going to happen and that's what we secured and that's why this is a good deal."
But Mr Miliband said: "What we have agreed is essentially the royal charter that Nick Clegg and I published on Friday. It will be underpinned by statute ... because it stops ministers or the press meddling with it, watering it down in the future.
"It will be a regulator, a system of complaints where the regulator has teeth, can direct apologies ... and it is independent of the press.
"For too long we have had a system where the press have been marking their own homework. There has been a lot of tough negotiation in this process, but I genuinely believe this upholds the freedom of the press ... at the same time as protecting the victims.
"People who revealed MPs' expenses, people who revealed phone hacking have nothing to fear from what has been agreed."
The Conservatives, Labour and the Lib Dems are understood to have held talks for more than five hours.
Mr Cameron was not present but was represented by Oliver Letwin, who has been the key figure for the party in recent negotiations.
Mr Clegg told Sky News that in his opinion "everybody" was a winner. "We have secured the cherished principle of the freedom of the press, but also given innocent people reassurance that they won't be unjustifiably bullied or intimidated by powerful interests in the press without having proper recourse when that happens," he said.
Hacked Off, the group campaigning for victims of phone hacking, also welcomed the cross-party deal.
London bombing hero Paul Dadge told Sky News: "This isn't to stop stories in the newspapers in the future. This is to ensure that things that happened to me, the Dowler family, the McCanns, don't happen again in the future."
But Neil Wallis, former executive editor of the News Of The World, disagreed. "What these people want to do is to control what the public is told. And if you give the state legislation, what you have not got any longer is a free press." he said.
"You can't put those words in the same sentence - 'state regulation' and 'free press'. It simply stops."
Trevor Kavanagh, former political editor of The Sun, added: "Until we've examined the fine print we will have to hold our fire, but it's a little worrying when the three political parties get together and their final verdict is welcomed so enthusiastically by Hacked Off, which is definitely seeking to shackle and gag the free press."
Mr Cameron, who last week pulled out of talks about implementing Lord Justice Leveson's recommendations, previously warned that legislation would endanger press freedom.
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what do you think?
I understand that hacking into some phones just to get a salacious story is just not on but will the new regulations be a backdoor to kill off even more what little freedom of speech we have left
Hacking into someone phone is Illegal. The private detective who did it went to prison as should all those who put him up to it A raft of new regulation just to keep the rich and famous happy will not change anything - but will cost those who pay tax a fortune If the press were prepared to break the law and risk prison -what will change
Cameron has failed again, and is now looking to the opposition to help him out. He has lied his way into a corner, like his half wit partner did with bs promises. High profile celebs are making it known how badly he has let people down, and not just plebs. Bad publicity by the shed load, is following him around. Just another indicator to show who will not be running the country after the next election. Let's just hope Maggot is still around to see her vile party and it's pathetic leader taken to the cleaners. They never won the last one , they definitely won't win this one !!!
And the alternative is??
The 3 main parties are happy, the press are happy so you know what that means - the public wont be happy.
Thats one more reason we need Nigel Farage in Downing Street
WHy do we need NF - to make sure the politicians and teh press are also unhappy??!
We need Farage like we all need another armpit.
Today we`ll find out whether Britain is on the slippery slope to a dictatorship where corrupt individuals, criminals and the wealthy can get away with any degradation without being exposed. A very sad day in our history if we lose the very thing that thousands have died for.
This is the beginning of the end for what little free speech is left. Welcome to soviet Britain 2013
No it's not and unhelpful to pretend it is. We've got enough problems - but not through State oppression.
It's not freedom of speech hacking peoples phones nor putting a chaps photo on the front pages of the papers depicting him of a woman's murder only to find out it was another bloke who did it.. The press needs curbing because they obviously didn't curb themselves before they got caught out.
You pair of clowns. If you were turkeys you'd both vote for xmas as clearly neither of you have any idea of the severity of press regulation by force of government law.
The press are meant to be there to protect the public from the government and you sheep are falling for the orchestrated and carefully executed phone hacking to have the walking dead call for their own freedoms to be eroded. Problem. Reaction. Solution. And you pair are a sublime product of that.
George it is illegal to hack phones - always has been always will be what will change - people will still break the law for money
This jedi character is the same one that accuses people of being sheep because they read the free press. He has spent months ranting to us all that everything we read is lies and that we should all go to militant Islamic sites for unbiased news. Now he defends the same press he previously slated. The usual double standards from the voice of anarchy.
strange that the Sun newspaper whilst screaming about censorship and intrusion managed to omit anything about their reporters bunging a police inspector and a prison officer for information which led to a scoop story and the officers successful prosecution. I know it's a tabloid rag but also sells a great many copies whilst carrying out its very own form of censorship.
You did not expect the press to shine a light inwardly on it's own murky misdeeds, did you? The media offers it's very own brand of hypocrisy, dressing it up as "your/the public need to know" about wrongdoing which fits it's remit, and at other times remaining silent on the same topics which it highlighted previously as "newsworthy" Now, where did I put my scissors for cutting out those Holidays for 9:50p Coupons :)
Cameron caves in. Again! Can't get any big vote past his backbenches at the moment
Laws are observed by the law-abiding amonst us, and broken by those who don't give a dam. This won't change. Gun law doesn't prevent Atrocities. These new press laws can only prevent honest reporters from reporting Eg MP'S expenses. The old aditch " becareful what you wish for "
The three main parties cosy up to one another again. They have proven, yet again, they are three wings of the same capitalist party that only divides itself up at election times to see which gang of crooks are going to dictate policy on the rest of us. Miliband and Clegg had a prime opportunity to further weaken Cameron and possibly force a leadership contest with a vote of no confidence and maybe a general election. A new Tory leader would have sought a pact with the dire UKIP then Clegg would be forced to sidle up with Labour for another disastrous coalition by which time most people would know, if they didn't already, that we need a new party of the left based on the trade unions, to implement policies to benfit the millions not the millionaires.
Typical it is not about the result but who can claim it was their doing
Seen on TV this afternoon, all three leaders agree to underpin the press regulation by law, three minutes later Milliband and Clegg say this is right, Cameron says it isn't. Who's frightened of the reaction of the press Barons out of the three.
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Of course political parties want the press reigned in. The press have revealed scandal after scandal over the last few years with politicians involved with more than their fair share. This is nothing more than blatant curtailment of free speech.