Cameron defends stance on Leveson
British prime minister David Cameron has stood by his opposition to statutory regulation of the press despite the Labour Party’s publication of draft legislation that would see a press regulator reviewed by judges.
Saying most of Lord Justice Leveson’s reform recommendations were “pretty good”, Mr Cameron accepted the judge’s recommendation that a press regulator should itself be reviewed by a state body was “not the end of the world”.
However, he said he had looked at the arguments on both sides. “Once you start drafting a law that is a statutory underpinning, what you find is that you have effectively created a press Bill.
“It may not have that much that is frightening in it, but it becomes a very easily amendable piece of work, which is why we should try and avoid it. And I think we can,” Mr Cameron told journalists in Westminster.
Mr Cameron is faced with a non-binding Commons vote on Leveson in January, which could be embarrassing if Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative MPs favouring regulation were to all vote for it.
Labour accepted Leveson’s findings, though it said the independent regulator should be reviewed every three years by a panel headed by the lord chief justice – though press freedom would be written into law.
Newspapers would not have to join, but would face lower libel costs if they did. Faced with attack about involving the UK’s highest judge, Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman said: “There needs to be some guarantee in law so it won’t slip back.”
The proposal to involve the judge is a significant change in Labour’s position, since it agreed with Lord Justice Leveson’s lukewarm preference that the review of the regulator should be carried out by the broadcasting regulator, Ofcom.
Mr Cameron met with deputy prime minister, the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, and Labour leader Ed Miliband on the day of Leveson’s publication, though Mr Clegg and Mr Miliband have met together since.
Under Labour’s proposal, the judge would head a panel that would monitor to ensure that the regulator was doing its job, though the judge-led panel would not deal with individual conduct complaints.