Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Cameron ponders next Leveson move

Lord Justice Leveson has called for the establishment of a new independent regulatory body
The findings of Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press have been published

David Cameron is facing one of the toughest challenges of his premiership as he wrestles with the political fallout triggered by Lord Justice Leveson's proposals to reform the press.

The Prime Minister is on a collision course with his Coalition partners, the Opposition and victims of press intrusion after indicating he will spike recommendations for a muscular new independent regulatory body, backed by legislation.

Lord Justice Leveson condemned the "culture of reckless and outrageous journalism" that dominated sections of the press for decades as he unveiled the findings of his 16-month inquiry.

The Appeal Court judge called for a new watchdog with statutory underpinning to be given the power to require prominent apologies and impose fines of as much as £1 million.

Mr Cameron immediately voiced "serious concerns and misgivings" about legislative action, and said the press should be given "a limited period of time" to show it could get its house in order.

But Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said he believed Leveson's model could be "proportionate and workable" and insisted Parliament should push ahead "without delay".

Labour leader Ed Miliband urged MPs to "have faith" in Leveson and said he would move for a vote in the Commons by the end of January to approve Leveson's proposals in principle, with the aim of getting the new system in place by 2015.

The three party leaders held talks and the negotiations will reconvene "soon". But the prospect of the consensus Mr Cameron says he wants to achieve appeared distant with Labour party sources insisting they will not negotiate on whether the recommendations go ahead only how to implement them.

Labour claimed a concession after the PM said he would ask the Department of Culture to do some work on a draft bill to implement Leveson, but Downing Street insisted Mr Cameron had not "given an inch" and expected the exercise to make clear how complicated and far-reaching any new law would be.

Lord Justice Leveson's 16-month inquiry was prompted by the disclosure that News of the World journalists hacked the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, and his verdict pulled no punches in condemning the behaviour of elements within the newspaper industry.

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