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Lord Leveson could end up regulating press personally under Labour plan: Inquiry judge in running to be Lord Chief Justice Opposition publishes draft bill calling for Lord Chief Justice to be in chargeLabour says plan would meet Leveson's demand for 'legal underpinning'
But it drops support for Ofcom to oversee new Press Standards Trust
Ed Miliband has discussed plan with Deputy Prime Minister Nick CleggIt raised prospect of Lord Justice Leveson overseeing new system
15:32 GMT, 10 December 2012
Shadow culture secretary Harriett Harman said Labour's draft bill provided the 'essential' legal underpinning that Lord Justice Leveson demanded
A legally-binding plan for the country’s top judge to oversee newspaper standards will be set out by the Labour party today.
With David Cameron refusing to back statutory regulation, the opposition will publish a six-clause bill which would require the Lord Chief Justice power to sign off the effectiveness of an independent panel in holding the press to account.
Lord Justice Leveson, who wrote a 2,000-page report on media standards, has been linked to the role of Lord Chief Justice which means Labour's plan could see him in charge of overseeing the industry he investigated for 18 months.
The Labour bill marks a shift from Ed Miliband’s support for Lord Justice Leveson’s idea that broadcasting watchdog Ofcom should oversee the press regulator.
The Labour leader has discussed his plan with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who supports statutory underpinning of regulation.
The seven-page Bill is being sent to Culture Secretary Maria Miller today.
Harriet Harman, Labour’s shadow culture secretary, said: ‘This gives clarity and certainty. Lord Justice Leveson said in his report that a legal guarantee to underpin self-regulation was essential and this draft bill provides it.’
She denied it would create a slippery slope, where future governments could seek to crack down on a critical media.
‘So long as parliament exists, parliament can at any time enact anything. There is no evidence that anyone wants to take this further,’ she told The Guardian.
The Labour draft bill proposes:
A panel headed by the Lord Chief
Justice which recognises a press regulatory body – the Press Standards
Trust if a majority of newspapers are trust membersThe panel would rule every three
years whether the Trust body is doing its job properly, against critiera
set out in the bill including the make-up of the trust board, its
investigation of complaints and its publication of a code, including
guidance on the definition of public interestThe trust could only
impose fines in cases of serious and systematic non-compliance.Lower levels of high court costs and damages would be offered to newspapers as incentives to joining the trustMinisters and public agents would be required to protect press freedom
Lord Justice Leveson published his 2,000-page report into media standards last month, calling for a new system of regulation to be set out in law
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON'S PLAN FOR A NEW REGULATOR
These were the main proposals for the press set out in the Leveson report in November:
Legislation would give Ofcom power to 'recognise and certify' a new press regulator
Freedom of the press would be written into lawNew regulator would have a board and chairman, including ex-journalists but no serving editors or politicians
The board would be appointed by a panel overseen by Ofcom
The new body would hear individual complaints against newspapers
It would have to promote high standards, including being able to investigate serious or systemic breaches A ‘fair, quick and inexpensive’ arbitration service would deal with any civil law claims against its membersIt
would have powers to demand front page apologies and impose fines of up
to 1million, which would be used to launch investigations
Editors could consult it before
publishing contentious stories, but the body would not have the power to
stop stories being printed
The Lib Dems welcomed the Labour draft
proposals, but suggested it needed to go further to prevent further
state control of the press in future.
A senior Lib Dem source said: 'Although there is more work to be done to ensure that legislation is proportionate and workable it demonstrates that it should be possible to achieve this goal.
'The focus of the Liberal Democrats will be to work to further improve the Bill to make it very difficult to amend in the future.
'Liberal Democrats look forward to discussing this Bill with all parties alongside the draft that the government is currently working on.'
The Prime Minister is deeply opposed to state regulation of the media, a stance echoed by the vast majority of the newspaper industry. But all are agreed that there needs to be more robust regulation of the press.
Immediately after Lord Justice Leveson’s report was published last month, Mr Miliband told the Commons: 'We support the view that Ofcom is the right body for the task of recognition of the new regulator, and the proposal that the House should lay the role of Ofcom down in statute.’
But Labour has dropped that position, after opposition from Mr Clegg and others during debates in Parliament.
Ms Harman added: ‘The debate showed a preference for something other than Ofcom to act as the recogniser, so we have responded to that. If there is greater comfort with the judges due to their independence from the executive that is fine. It is not tablets of stone. It is an effort to facilitate the talks.’
Bob Satchwell, executive director of the Society of Editors, said: 'The industry is already taking urgent steps to create a new regulatory system as recommended by Leveson and it will study Labour's proposals carefully.
'It notes that Labour has reflected and stepped back from the Leveson proposal for oversight by Ofcom but any new system must be free of statutory intervention both now and for the future.
'What is equally important is that this should not be driven by party politics. It is more important that the new body is as effective as both the press and public demand of it than to be driven by the parliamentary timetable. Lord Justice Leveson heard evidence and deliberated for more than a year.'