David Cameron hails deal on Leveson as defending free press without 'fundamentally wrong' legislation for regulator

 

David Cameron has insisted the cross-party deal reached in the early hours of today on a royal charter on press regulation defends the principle of a free press.

The Prime Minister, who was granted an emergency Commons debate on the proposed new system in response to Lord Justice Leveson's report on press standards, said the new regulator would not be set up by legislation - an approach he claimed was “fundamentally wrong in principle”.

The approach of using a royal charter to back the new regulator was agreed by Mr Cameron, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Labour leader Ed Miliband in a last-ditch deal to avert a Commons showdown.

But Mr Cameron acknowledged that legislation was necessary to establish a system of exemplary damages for newspapers that did not sign up to the regulator.

He also confirmed that the need for two-thirds of parliamentarians in the Commons and Lords to change the royal charter would be enshrined in law.

But he insisted: “It is legislation to protect the royal charter, it is not legislation to recognise the royal charter.”

Mr Cameron said the royal charter would be submitted to the Queen for approval at the May meeting of the Privy Council.

He said: "What happened to the Dowlers, to the McCanns, to Christopher Jefferies and to many other innocent people who have never sought the limelight was utterly despicable. It is right that we put in place a new system of press regulation to ensure that such appalling acts can never happen again. We should do this without any further delay."

The Prime Minister added: "As Lord Justice Leveson recommended, we need a system of tough, independent self-regulation that will deliver for victims and meet the principles set out in his report.

"This system will ensure upfront apologies, million-pound fines, a self-regulatory body with independence of appointments and funding, a robust standards code, an arbitration service that is free for victims and a speedy complaint handling mechanism.

"We can put all of this in place without the need for statutory regulation."

The three main political parties today reached the outline agreement on the new system for regulating the press after last-ditch talks which went on until the early hours of this morning.

The dramatic twist headed off the threat of an embarrassing Commons defeat for David Cameron tonight.  The Prime Minister ended the three-party  negotiations last Thursday when he rejected Labour and Liberal Democrat demands for a Royal Charter setting up a new regulatory system to be underpinned by law, and said the issue would be resolved by MPs today.

But the talks were restarted over the weekend and the differences between Mr Cameron on the one hand and Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg on the other were gradually whittled away. The crucial breakthrough came in a marathon session in the Labour leader’s Commons office  which ended at 2.30am today. It was attended by Mr Miliband, Mr Clegg and Oliver Letwin, the Conservatives’ policy chief who produced the Royal Charter option after Mr Cameron rejected the statutory underpinning recommended by Lord Justice Leveson in his report last November. The Prime Minister did not attend the talks but was kept informed throughout.

Today the Tories and Labour both claimed victory as they  put a different gloss on the outline agreement before MPs were given the details in the Commons and Lords this afternoon.

Maria Miller, the Conservative Culture Secretary, said the Tories had “stopped Labour’s extreme press law.” She insisted: “This is not statutory underpinning. I think now there’s a very clear acceptance from Labour, from the Liberals that the Prime Minister’s Royal Charter is the right way forward and we should stop the extreme version of press law that has been tabled, and I understand the Labour party would be voting against that if it were pressed to a vote in the Commons today.”

But Mr Miliband insisted that the  Royal Charter proposed by Mr Clegg and himself on Friday would be “underpinned by statute.”  He said the new system would protect both a free press and the victims of the abuse of press power, who would have proper redress and a complaints system with teeth under an independent body that would ensure the press  no longer “marks its own homework.”

A Labour source said: “This is not a little bit of statute, this is not a dab of statute, this is statute pure and simple.”

Liberal Democrats hailed Mr Clegg’s pivotal role in brokering a deal and standing firm with Mr Miliband when Mr Cameron called the bluff of the two other leaders last week. Lib Dem sources said the Deputy Prime Minister’s goal all along was an all-party consensus, so that any agreement would last and not be changed by a future government.

It remains to be seen whether the newspaper industry as a whole will sign up to the deal reached by the politicians. The owners of the Mail, Telegraph titles and Rupert Murdoch’s News International, which owns The Times and The Sun, have considered setting up their own regulatory system and may take legal advice on the three-party agreement.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
News
i100
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown, daughter of the late singer Whitney Houston, poses at the premiere of
people
News
people
News
The frequency with which we lie and our ability to get away with it both increase to young adulthood then decline with age, possibly because of changes that occur in the brain
scienceRoger Dobson knows the true story, from Pinocchio to Pollard
Voices
The male menopause: those affected can suffer hot flushes, night sweats, joint pain, low libido, depression and an increase in body fat, among other symptoms
voicesSo the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Life and Style
health
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen