Lord Black: The press will now move with the 'utmost speed' to embrace the 'Leveson principles'

Lord Black of Brentwood last night 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.

The executive director of Telegraph Media Group was speaking at last night’s first Press Gazette British Journalism Awards held at Stationers’ Hall, London.

Black was among the national press editors who visited Downing Street yesterday and were told by Prime Minister David Cameron to urgently revise the new system of self-regulation proposed in the Hunt-Black plan.

He said that the editors’ code committee, chaired by Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre, will meet today followed by a meeting of the Newspaper Society Council on Thursday and then the Newspaper Publishers Association council on Friday.

He said: “The industry’s lawyers are already engaged in determining what changes we need to make to the contract which will underpin the system to fully to embrace the Leveson principles. So work is underway.”

He added that the industry will now move with “the utmost speed” to create a new regulator which will “square the circle… obviating the need for statute to protect the vital freedom of the press.

Lord Black’s speech at the Press Gazette British Journalism Awards in full:

"This has been a turbulent 18 months for our industry – a period of the most severe pressure, unrivalled in our history. Never before have we been subjected to such extraordinary, microscopic scrutiny of our actions and of our business.

"The British Journalism Awards therefore come at a highly opportune moment – reminding us all of what a remarkable industry we work in.

"At their best – and tonight we celebrate with price the very best – British newspapers are the most fantastic in the world.

"We should never cease to remind ourselves of that – and also how lucky we are to have such a diverse media, with a proud heritage, too, of regional and local media that are the heartbeat of local life in their communities the also a vibrant magazine industry which informs and entertains in equal abundance.

“Congratulations to Press Gazette on a timely, welcome initiative. Press Gazette is one of the institutions that, yes, underpins our industry – much in vogue these days – and what you have done is very important for us all.

"Now Lord Justice Leveson told us all that he did not want his report to gather dust on a shelf. I think he need have no fears on that score – as at four volumes very few people will have a shelf big enough to take it.

"Joking aside, it is a remarkable piece of work, that will not only change the face of our industry for ever, but also – through the years – provide historians with a unique, encylcopaedic insight into our business at the moment when it is on the cusp of its final change from print to multi-platform. And that in itself has been a very important public service.

"As you would expect I have read the fourth volume of the Report which deals with future models of regulation in some detail. It takes as its starting point the plan that the industry put forward last summer based on the excellent model provided to us in December of last year by Lord Hunt.

"That plan was only ever intended to be a snapshot of where the industry's thinking was at that point in time. And as I have always made clear, it was not set in stone, and indeed it was intended to be the start of a journey towards change.

"The Leveson Report, of course, was a defining moment in that journey. I am very pleased that a lot of what we proposed Lord Justice Leveson agreed with and, in terms, he made clear that the architecture the industry pioneered in response to his Inquiry was capable of being – in his phrase – adapted to deal with his outstanding points.

"Those points relate in the main to independence, to financing and to the Editors' Code Committee. But none of them are insuperable.

"We need to study them hard, and with the utmost speed to make further progress now in implementing them. And we need to come back to the table with a revised model, dealing with Lord Justice Leveson's outstanding concerns,as urgently as possible.

"The pace of those discussions must now quicken. Time is of the essence. The Prime Minister made clear this morning at a meeting of editors that was extremely instructive and focused that we need to meet tough deadlines, which the Government is rightly imposing on us. It's going to take a great deal of determination, energy and commitment from the whole industry – and I emphasise the word whole, because this is not just an issue for national newspapers, but for the local and regional press, for magazine industry and for newspapers in Scotland, too. They must be intimately involved in decisions about the way forward.

"In short order, there are meetings of the Code Committee tomorrow, of the Newspaper Society Council on Thursday and of the NPA Council on Friday. And the industry’s lawyers are already engaged in determining what changes we need to make to the contract which will underpine the system to fully to embrace the Leveson principles.

"So work is underway. But one thing is going to be absolutely vital in the days ahead and that is that the industry, which is so well represented here tonight, must remain united as we seek to implement the Leveson report and put in place a new tough system of regulation which is fit for the future – and which above all else will make the need for statute irrelevant. And that is the most important test.

"I think there are so many arguments against statute – arguments of high constitutional historical principle, and arguments of practicality – but at the end of the day one will triumph. Namely, that the industry has put its house in order, it has established a new independent system, it has rooted it in law through binding contracts, it has got everyone involved – all of which will mean that statute is simply not needed.

"That is the best, most persuasive reason of all. And it is an urgument we must win.

"We are after all custodians for this generation of the free press and we need to pass it on in good order to our successors and history will damn us we fail to do so.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, I have spent most of my adult working life dealing with the complex issue of how you can balance the vital freedom of the press with the rights of individuals. Based on those years of knowledge, it is my belief that the system we are now proposing, with amendments, will square that circle. It will, by obviating the need for statute, protect the vital freedom of the press, and in turn the liberties of the British people which depend on that freedom.

"And it will – in putting into place a new tough regulator with serious powers of investigation and sanction –  provide real protection for ordinary citizens which I think to us all is of the utmost importance. That achievement is in our grasp and I remain hugely optimistic. We need now to move with utmost speed to make it reality."

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