Labour seeks cross-party agreement on Leveson - and Harman tells Cameron to 'man up'

Harriet Harman today signalled Labour's willingness to reach an all-party agreement over Lord Justice Leveson's proposals on press regulation, but warned David Cameron that "watered down" plans would not be acceptable.

The shadow deputy prime minister and shadow culture secretary said the Opposition would "definitely look at a Royal Charter" but stressed any arrangement could not be one that "drives a coach and horses through Leveson".
 
Earlier this month, the Conservatives outlined their plans for creating a body to verify a new regulator set up by the industry, as the main parties attempt to reach a consensus on press regulation.
 
Harman told BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show hosted by Jeremy Vine that Labour had "bent over backwards to try and reach agreement" and said she hoped the Prime Minister would not be "lent on" by some aspects of the press.
 
She said: "We have said because we want to reach all party agreement, we don't want to have a political argument about this. Lord Leveson said it's very important that we go forward on the basis of all political parties agreeing and indeed that is what the victims of press abuse have also said, don't have a political fight about it, try and reach agreement and we have bent over backwards to try and reach agreement.
 
"We thought Lord Leveson's proposal of having a statute to set it all up was sensible, but the Conservatives said they don't agree with that."
 
She added: "We've said we'll definitely look at a Royal Charter but it can't be one which drives a coach and horses through Leveson, it's got to be actually delivering the standards that Leveson set forth.
 
"So we will look at a Royal Charter, we are prepared to reach agreement on it, but not if it waters Leveson down because some aspects of the press don't agree with Leveson and have been leaning on the Prime Minister.
 
"It's now time for him to man up, step forward and actually say yes we're going to do it, and then we'll agree with him and we'll support him."
 
Harman said there needed to be some way to prevent ministers tampering with any Royal Charter and that the press were not involved in appointing the body that was going to be auditing them.
She said: "We have said we are prepared to instead of going through the statutory route, look at a combination of Charter, Royal Charter and statute, we've said we are prepared to do that, but actually it's got to be Leveson compliant not watered down."
 
Harman said Parliament was growing impatient on this and the House of Lords had already voted to put it all in statute.
 
She said: "I think there would be a majority in the House of Commons as well, but it would be better not to have a vote, and push it through with a divided vote, it would be better to reach agreement.
 
"So really it's for the Conservatives now to really take this historic opportunity to sort out what has been wrong for decades and we'll support them if they do that."
In a separate interview on Sky News' Murnaghan programme Harman branded the Royal Charter plan a "Byzantine idea", adding: "I think really the Government have got to stop being pushed around by some aspects of the press."

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