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Labour could force vote on draft Leveson bill

10 December 2012

Labour will discuss its draft Leveson Bill with the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats at the next tranche of cross-party talks on Thursday. The Bill (which you can read here) is short and sweet, replacing Ofcom as the regulatory backstop recommended by Leveson with a panel headed by the Lord Chief Justice, and a press regulator called the Press Standards Trust.

The party hopes to use the Bill as the basis of discussion for Thursday’s talks, and has sent it to Culture Secretary Maria Miller, as well as Tory MPs who are spearheading calls within their party for statutory underpinning of press regulation including George Eustice, and Lord Wallace, who has been attending the cross-party talks on behalf of the Liberal Democrats.

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Ed Miliband has also held talks with Nick Clegg about the draft legislation, although sources close to the Lib Dem leader stressed that this was not dissimilar to the discussions Clegg has been having with the Prime Minister about the future of press regulation.

But what happens if the government continues to reject the legislation, citing its own draft bill as proof that the statutory underpinning won’t work? Labour hopes to use the cross-party talks as the first resort, but a senior party source tells me:

‘If it does not get anywhere through the cross-party talks, we will force a vote on it so that MPs on all sides of the House can express their view.’

The pro-statute Conservatives are currently reading the draft legislation, but there could well be a good number of them supporting Labour in the vote, which the party would expect to schedule as an Opposition Day vote, probably in the new year. This would also make life pretty awkward for the Liberal Democrats as the vote would force them to decide whether to move from Nick Clegg’s separate statement on Leveson to a separate party position on a vote. So it’s not surprising that the party is a little more reluctant than Labour to talk about its forward planning on this issue. A senior Liberal Democrat source tells me:

‘Let’s not get ahead of ourselves: Labour produced a measured bill which is an important contribution to this debate and the government is also going to produce a draft bill. Let’s take these into the cross-party talks and let’s take things from there, moving forward with cross-party talks.’

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Show comments
  • Colonel Mustard

    Here is the sting in the tale:-

    “The board must maintain a complaints scheme binding on the body’s members under which the body receives and determines complaints about non-compliance with the standards code from the public (including persons not directly affected by the alleged of non-compliance), without charge to the complainant.”

    The qualification in paratheses opens the door to any pressure group to raise a complaint in order to further their agenda, either by attracting publicity or by seeking to shut down things it does not approve of. This is wrong. Redress, whether by law or through press complaints, should rest with the victims of tangible harm only.

  • Colonel Mustard

    Having watched Harriet Harmon defend this stuff and nonsense on the Daily Politics my blood ran cold. The last thing we want is the judiciary exercising any control over the press except by the way of cases brought to the courts in the normal way. The fact that Harmon is involved should send an alarm about freedom under threat loud and clear.

    How impertinent and arrogant of Labour to act as though they are still in government.

  • William Blakes Ghost

    Nice to know that as ever Westminster is obsessing about the irrelevent. How else could they prove that they are a complete waste of time?

    Will Leveson fix our Broken Economy or Broken Society or our Broken Political System? No, no and no. Ed Miliband ~ a complete waste of space……

    • telemachus

      No it will not fix these things
      But it will remove the influence of Murdoch and his like

  • DavidDP

    Section1, (2) a, b and c, seems to involve very subjective terms, without any definition apparently given.
    Fallen at the first hurdle, really.

  • Andrew SW18

    And the leading candidate to be the next LCJ – why, Brian Leveson. This will be like asking the dog to guard the sausages.

  • Reconstruct

    They should be encouraged to table the bill, as a useful reminder of just a bunch of statist authoritarians they are, and how, given the chance, that will extend to muzzling the press etc.

    • Thick as two Plancks

      They should indeed be encouraged to propose the bill (not table it, that is UK/US ambiguous). It should remind people there is no such thing as absolute freedom for the press. We as individuals have a conditional freedom contingent on not being caught breaking the law: the same should apply to press, broadcasters, and internet promoters.

      Some of us continue to suggest that a new press council should make its rule book, but under a constitution imposed by statute. As Leveson emphasised, this is certainly not legal control of the press.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        Yes, it is legal control of the press.

        It will drive serious commentary to the internet, which will then come under statist siege.

        • Colonel Mustard

          The internet is already under statist siege. Politics is rapidly polarising into those who want to control everything and those who want to defend freedom, breaking across traditional lines of left and right.

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