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
Sport
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins win the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor