Lords debates Leveson report

14 January 2013

Members of the House of Lords debated the recently published Leveson report on the culture, practices and ethics of the press on 11 January

The report examines the relationship between the press and the public, police and politicians and considers the role of the existing Press Complaints Commission and proposes a new self-regulatory body.

Viscount Younger of Leckie (Conservative), government spokesperson for culture, media and sport, requested the debate to look at recommendations made in the Leveson report.

He said: 'We must have a new, independent self-regulatory body that can deliver: independence of appointments to and funding of that body; a standards code by which the press operates; a new arbitration service for victims submitting civil law claims; a fast and thorough complaints-handling mechanism for handling breaches of the press code of conduct; the power to demand apologies, designed to carry equal weight in their exposure to that of the transgression; and the power to levy fines.'

He explained: 'The outcome that we all aspire to see is a set of proposals that truly reflect the spirit of his report, putting in place a robust, independent self-regulatory system for the press that is capable both of protecting the public and of safeguarding freedom of expression.'

Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury (Liberal Democrat), former party spokesperson for Culture, Media and Sport, raised concern about the proposed changes to the Data Protections Act and the role of the Information Commissioner. She said: 'We would not wish to support any reforms that might have a detrimental effect on the vital democratic role of investigative journalism.

She continued: 'Another concern is the failure to address the internet. As a liberal, I firmly believe in a free press that holds the powerful to account and that is not subject to political interference. However, a free press does not and cannot mean a press that is free to bully innocent people, free to abuse grieving families or free to force unethical work practices on its employees.'

Lord Trees (Crossbench) made his maiden speech during the debate. He argued: 'Public protection cannot be an optional extra whether left to the individual whim of the operator to join in with or not as they see fit. There must be a code, of course, agreed by all. There must be independence of the regulator.'

Lord Alli (Labour), media entrepreneur, summarised the main nine judgements made in the report and argued: 'Those provide us with common ground to move forward. So the debate boils down to one single issue: a system of self-regulation underpinned by statute, or not?'

He stated: '...this report sets out a once-in-a-generation route map to ensure a free and fair press'.

Lord Hunt of Wirral (Conservative) declared an interest as chairperson and sole owner of the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), and as a practising solicitor and partner in an international commercial law firm. He said: 'It is clear to me that the industry now understands that, between the existing and inadequate system of self-regulation and what Leveson proposes, there is no acceptable "third way."'

He explained he will continue to 'ensure that until the new structure is fully up and running, the PCC continues to deliver its fast, fair and free service to the public.' He went on to outline his other role to establish a new regulatory architecture: 'I am confident that, together with the industry, I can deliver that new structure with comprehensive sign-up right across the newspaper and magazine industry by the middle of this year. It will then be for others both here and in the other place to decide whether any form of statute is required, either to guarantee the independence of the new regulator or to underpin the proposed incentives to membership.'

Further information

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