House of Commons Library

The Leveson Report: implementation

Published Thursday, March 27, 2014

This note provides pointers to the developments since publication of the report. It does not attempt to summarise the complex arguments involved or differences between the various proposals for draft legislation that have been brought forward.

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Lord Justice Leveson published his long-awaited report into the “culture, practices and ethics of the press” on 29 November 2012. In response, the Prime Minister indicated that, while he accepted the bulk of the report’s recommendations, he did not accept the need for statutory underpinning of a press regulator. The Labour Party and Liberal Democrats called for legislative reform, and the parties engaged in cross-party discussions on the issue.

In February 2013 the Conservatives published proposals for a draft Royal Charter which could be introduced without statute. The previous week, during passage of the Defamation Bill, the Lords passed Opposition amendments designed to give statutory force to Leveson’s proposals on arbitration; these were reversed when the Bill returned to the Commons.

Matters came to a head in March 2013. Faced with a threat to other bills in the Government’s programme, the Prime Minister withdrew from the cross-party talks. Intense activity over one weekend resulted in a compromise acceptable to all three main parties. A new draft Royal Charter was agreed, to be protected by “a relatively small legislative change”. This “embedding” measure has now been enacted (via the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013), as have clauses that would impose the risk of exemplary damages on any newspaper declining to subscribe to the new regulator (the Crime and Courts Act 2013).

The compromise allows for one or more independent self-regulatory bodies for the press to be established. Any such body would be recognised and overseen by a “Recognition Panel”. The Panel will be established under Royal Charter and the Charter will be protected by statute from amendment. Reaction to the settlement has been mixed. Major newspaper publishers responded by presenting an alternative Royal Charter of their own, which was considered by the Privy Council ahead of the Government’s own proposal.

On 8 October 2013 the Culture Secretary announced that the press’s own charter had not been recommended for approval by the Privy Council. The final cross-party charter therefore went forward to the next meeting of the Privy Council on 30 October, where it received the royal seal. In the meantime the press has published proposals for a new self-regulatory body, the Independent Press Standards Organisation, which has the support of the “tabloid” but not all of the “broadsheet” press. IPSO is not expected to seek recognition under the Charter.

Commons Briefing papers SN06535

Author: Philip Ward

Topics: Media, Press

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