1. ITV Report

PM: New press regulation deal protects free press

Prime Minister David Cameron called an emergency debate in the Commons today. Photo: Press Association

David Cameron has insisted a cross-party agreement for a new system of press regulation protects the principle of the free press as well as "protecting the vulnerable and innocent." But newspaper groups say the deal contains "several deeply contentious issues".

The deal was made in the early hours of Monday morning - with all three main political parties claiming victory.

Speaking in the Commons, David Cameron said it is "now time to make the system work" and added he was "grateful" for the spirit of "give and take" from all sides.

I'm grateful for the spirit of give and take on all sides. We stand here today with a cross-party agreement for a new system of press regulation.

It supports our great traditions of investigative journalism and free speech. It protects the rights of the vulnerable and the innocent.

If this system is implemented, the country should have confidence that the terrible suffering of innocent victims, like the Dowlers, the McCanns and Christopher Jefferies should never be repeated.

My message to the press is now very clear: we have had the debate, now it is time to make this system work.

– Prime Minister David Cameron

Setting out plans for a Royal Charter to back a new, tougher press regulator with the power to impose big fines and prominent apologies on errant newspapers, Mr Cameron told MPs the proposals delivered on the recommendations of last year's Leveson Report on press standards.

Lord Justice Leveson with his report on press regulation. Credit: Press Association

David Cameron today acknowledged that legislation was necessary to establish a system of exemplary damages for newspapers which did not sign up to the regulator.

He also confirmed that the need for two-thirds of parliamentarians in the Commons and Lords to change the Royal Charter would be enshrined in law.

But he insisted: "It is legislation to protect the Royal Charter, it is not legislation to recognise the Royal Charter."

The key points of the draft Royal Charter on press regulation are:

  • To create a body known as the Recognition Panel
  • To remain in place unless two-thirds of MPs and peers decide otherwise
  • To impose "financial sanctions up to 1% of turnover attributable to the publication concerned with a maximum of £1,000,000"
  • To be funded by public money “to commence its operations and thereafter fulfil its purpose for the first three years”
  • To be governed by a board made up of a chair and at least four members

In a joint statement, representatives of some of Britain's largest newspaper publishing groups said they would need time to study the cross-party proposals before responding, noting that early drafts contained "several deeply contentious issues which have not yet been resolved with the industry".

The statement was issued by the Daily Mail Group, Telegraph Media Group and News International - the publishers of The Sun and Times newspapers - as well as the Newspaper Society and Professional Publishers Association, it read:

No representative of the newspaper and magazine industry had any involvement in, or indeed any knowledge of, the cross-party talks on press regulation that took place on Sunday night.

We have only late this afternoon seen the Royal Charter that the political parties have agreed between themselves and, more pertinently, the Recognition Criteria, early drafts of which contained several deeply contentious issues which have not yet been resolved with the industry.

In the light of this we are not able to give any response on behalf of the industry to this afternoon’s proposals until we have had time to study them.