The Department of Culture, Media and Sport mean business. Work has already started on a draft bill which incorporates what’s now being known as the Leveson Principles. Less than 24 hours after we heard about the recommendations from the 2,000 page report by Lord Justice Leveson on what should be done to make sure the British press behaves itself much more than it’s been doing already.
Prime Minister David Cameron agreed that those principles should be followed, but he had ‘concerns’ about underpinning them by law “We should, I believe, be wary of any legislation which that has the potential to infringe free speech and a free press. In this house which has been a bulwark of democracy for centuries we should think very, very carefully before crossing this line”
The Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s set the coalition government on a collision course over this as he believes otherwise: "Lord Justice Leveson has considered these issues at length. He has found that changing the law is the only way to guarantee a system of self-regulation, which seeks to cover all of the press. And he explains why the system of sticks and carrots that he proposes has to be recognised in statute in order to be properly implemented by the courts. What is more changing the law is the only way to give us all the assurance that the new regulator isn't just independent for a few months or years, but is independent for good."
And let’s not forget the victims of phone hacking, the very practice which prompted Lord Leveson’s 8-month long investigation into the standards and practices of the British press. The words uttered by the Prime Minister, they say were nothing short of a betrayal, that people feel ‘let down’:
Mark Lewis, lawyer for the murdered schoolgirl, Milly Dowler’s family says “…The politicians were in on this. Somebody independent was coming along and made recommendations and cautious optimism lasted for about 45 minutes and then the Prime Minister spoke and said he is not going to implement a report that he instigated."
The Society of Newspaper Editors are against legal reinforcement though and reckon the threat of beefed up fines of up to £1 million and more expedient apologies for wrongdoing is motivation enough for the press to clean up its act. Meanwhile the draft bill - being drawn up by the Department of Culture Media and Sport - should be ready within two weeks.