Ben Bradshaw: Government should pass Defamation Bill with ‘Leveson law’

 

Former Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw believes that if the Government is serious about being Leveson compliant it should pass the Defamation Bill in its current form.

Bradshaw, a former newspaper and broadcast journalist, also said he is not convinced by the Conservative Royal Charter plan and said the current Parliamentary stand-off over the future of press regulation should not be allowed to “drag on”.

The Exeter MP said he was surprised by the industry’s support of the proposals, claiming they represent more political interference than Lord Justice Leveson’s proposals – which he backs.

“I have never really seen how independent self-regulation can be effective in terms of ensuring participation and ensuring that sanctions are enforceable with some sort of statutory underpinning or oversight,” he told Press Gazette.

“I think Leveson has finessed that tension very well and I think the Government talks constantly of being committed to a Leveson-compliant solution. Which is fine.

“But I don’t yet see the evidence that the Government is serious about implementing something which is Leveson-compliant.”

Bradshaw, who started his career on Exeter’s Express and Echo, said he is not “wholly convinced”by Royal Charter plans, which he suggests are being used as a “distraction” by the Government.

“David Cameron impaled himself on a hook by coming out so soon against Leveson – on the day of publication, which I think was a very bad mistake,” he said.

“So it’s very difficult for him to get himself off the hook. And I think the Royal Charter was something that Oliver Letwin has come up with as a way of trying to find a way through.”

He is concerned that the current stand-off between political parties, if it continues for too long, could result in no effective regulation and said this would be a “gross betrayal” to the victims of press abuse.

“I don’t think we will allow it to drag on. If the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats and those

Conservatives who support Leveson feel that the Government is just dragging its feet I’m sure we’ll force a vote on something.”

He added that he sees no problem with the current formation of the Defamation Bill, which Labour Peer Lord Puttnam has amended to establish a statutory recognition body and arbiter for disputes.

Bradshaw said: “It would seem to me perfectly reasonable for Parliamentarians to try and insert something into the Bill that implements part of Leveson on arbitration.

“And if the Government is serious about reaching a Leveson-compliant solution it seems bizarre that it is prepared to risk losing losing all the benefits of the Defamation Bill by scrapping it completely.

“It doesn’t appear logical to me.”

The Defamation Bill is not currently scheduled to return to the House of Commons and the Conservatives could drop it altogether if a deal on Leveson cannot be reached.

 

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