13 Mar 2013

Leveson inquiry: where are we now?

Party leaders spend 45 minutes thrashing out a deal on the Leveson proposal and after “good talks” agree to reconvene on Monday. But what is the hold up and how close are we to a consensus?


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What exactly would Leveson implemented in full look like?

Lord Justice Leveson suggested an independent regulatory body set up in statute that would have the power to investigate serious breaches, with an arbitration system to allow people to avoid the courts.

Labour agreed and Ed Miliband demanded that Leveson be implemented in full, even drawing up a draft bill last year and giving the Prime Minister a Christmas deadline to implement them. But he has so far failed to act on the threats despite the support of a clear majority in the House of Commons.

Who supports this?

Hugh Grant, Harriet Harman and Lord Puttnam, phone-hacking victims, The Guardian, The Independent and the Financial Times.

What would the royal charter option look like?

The Royal Charter was a device seized upon by Policy Minister Oliver Letwin and billed as the “sensible halfway solution”. It is clearly designed to give David Cameron the option of placating people on both sides of the debate, ensuring a new watchdog that is areed by privy councillors and signed off by the Queen.

Yet some press organisations immediately saw a Royal Charter as less preferable statutory underpinning because it would mean that power over the recognition body rested with the Privy Council – effectively the Cabinet.

For the past six months, the Tories have been trying, during cross party talks, to win a consensus for the royal charter a draft of which they published last month.

Who supports this?

Oliver Letwin, David Cameron and The Daily Telegraph.

Now what?

Wednesday’s meeting comes after Labour upped the pressure on the Tories by tabling amendments that would leave it the option of inserting tough statute-backed reform into the crime and courts bill next Monday.

The move effectively sets a deadline for Mr Cameron to either make progress on the issue or face a Commons vote – which he could lose as Labour and the Lib Dems join forces with some Tory backbenchers.

With the upcoming budget announcement, and the inevitable fallout from abandoning plans to introduce a minimum price on alcohol, he cannot afford to be fire fighting on two major fronts next week. Expect the next meeting – to be held early on Monday – to see an appetite for resolution. Whether agreement will be achieved or not is anyone’s guess.