Peers in fresh attempt to pass 'Leveson law' with changes to Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill

Peers are to make a fresh attempt to get the statutory basis for press regulation recommended in his report by Lord Justice Leveson with a new amendment to a new Bill.

Late in February Lord Puttnam led a move by peers which inserted into the Defamation Bill a new clause which would, if it becomes law, set up a statutory oversight body for press regulation.
 
But the move seems to have halted the Defamation Bill's progress through the legislative process.
 
The Bill has not been listed for its final stages in the Commons, and Prime Minister David Cameron is reportedly prepared to let it fall rather than allow it to pass with the so-called Leveson provisions intact, because the
 
Government is reportedly unsure that it would be able to get sufficient support in the Commons to remove the Puttnam amendment.
 
Now cross-bench peer Lord Skidelsky has tabled a fresh set of amendments – this time to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill (ERR) – which also are intended give effect to the majority of Lord Justice Leveson's recommendations.
 
The Hacked Off campaign group website reported: "The amendments, creating a 'Recognition Body' for an independent self-regulator for the press, including a free arbitration service, have cross-party support and the backing of victims of press abuses."
 
Hacked Off said the amendments adhere as closely as possible to the wording of Lord Justice Leveson's proposals, were based on published and consulted-upon Leveson bills, and drafted with the assistance of Hacked Off chair
 
Hugh Tomlinson QC, and former parliamentary counsel Daniel Greenberg.
 
The campaign group's website said: "Hacked Off regards these amendments as a serious, carefully considered attempt to introduce an effective system of self regulation for the press, after seventy years of failure and six inquiries into press standards.
 
"Hacked Off believes that if the amendments to the ERR Bill are passed, the Defamation Bill amendments on Leveson would become redundant and could be removed to facilitate the continued passage of the Defamation Bill, which Hacked Off fully supports."
 
The group said it was possible that some elements of the Leveson Report could not be brought into the ERR Bill, but that it was "confident that other legislative options are available to incorporate these parts of the Leveson package".
 
Hacked Off executive director Professor Brian Cathcart said: "We now have to face the prospect that talks to improve the Royal Charter and remedy its many faults are likely to fail.
 
"The Charter as published falls far short of a regulatory system that is sufficiently independent of the newspaper industry or the Government.
 
"If the Government cannot abide by the recommendations of Lord Justice Leveson, the victims of press abuses for whom we speak believe that the will of Parliament should be heard."
 
The ERR Bill is currently at Report Stage in the House of Lords. It is thought that Lord Skidelsky's amendments, which are also being backed by the Bishop of Wakefield, will be debated in the House of Lords on Monday March 18.
 
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