Editors back non-statutory Leveson principles

National newspaper editors are reported to have signed up to all of Lord Justice Leveson’s “non-statutory recommendations” at a meeting this morning.

According to The Guardian, the editors “of every significant Fleet Street title” signed up to 40 of Leveson's first 47 recommendations, in a move that could see a new independent regulator set up with powers to fines newspapers up to £1m.

Leveson's recommendations include:

  • The creation of a new regulator governed by an independent board appointed in an independent way
  • Appointments panel to have a substantial majority of independent 'lay' members from outside the industry
  • Regulator to provide an arbitration service for civil legal claims
  • Establishing a whistle-blowing hotline
  • A conscience clause to appear in journalists'  contracts

The paper reported: "The editors did not sign up to seven recommendations that proposed a role for Ofcom or some other statutory body in auditing the work of the regulator, and editors agreed to wait to see what non-statutory proposals Downing Street would have to offer in the coming days."

It added:

Lord Hunt, the chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, will continue his work in setting up the new regulator and liaising with politicians. But it is understood he will be asked to work to the Leveson proposals agreed by the editors, rather than the old Hunt/Black framework. Hunt will no longer appoint the chair of the appointments panel which will chose the chair and board of the new regulator.

Editors also agreed to wait for Oliver Letwin, David Cameron's policy fixer, to come back with proposals on how to toughen and support the planned new regulator without recourse to statute. However, it was unclear what would happen if newspapers deemed the Letwin plan to be unattractive.

After the meeting, Cameron told the Commons: "I have been encouraged by the meetings I have had with editors of national newspapers that they will put in place that Leveson-compliant regulation.

"We should continue the cross-party talks and make sure we can deliver a regulatory system of which this House, this country, but, above all, the victims can be proud."

Speaking at prime minister's questions, the Tory leader called on MPs to "maximise the amount of consensus there is in this House and in the country about what is required".

He added: "Everyone agrees we need strong, independent regulation along the lines (Lord Justice) Leveson suggests; everyone agrees on million-pound fines (for the most serious breaches of the regulator's code); everyone agrees (on) prominent apologies and independently-handled complaints."

Last night Lord Black of Brentwood, the executive director of Telegraph Media Group, said the press will act quickly to create a new regulator which will “fully embrace the Leveson principles”, removing the need for a Leveson law.

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