Hacked Off ignores politicians and publishes draft Leveson bill

Campaign group says its bill is true to the judge's original report and will stop political meddling

LAST UPDATED AT 15:14 ON Mon 7 Jan 2013

CAMPAIGN group Hacked Off, which represents the victims of press intrusion and is supported by the likes of Hugh Grant and Charlotte Church, has published a draft bill that it claims would implement the findings of the Leveson Report in full and prevent politicians from "subverting" the judge's findings.

Writing in The Guardian, the organisation's director, Brian Cathcart, said it was impossible to have confidence in the politicians who are considering the report as they were still too close to the press. He also warned that "behind-closed-doors" meetings threatened to undermine the report.

"What is happening is a subversion of Leveson and an insult to the idea of an open society that editors and ministers claim to uphold," he wrote. "[Politicians] can't be trusted, and the more they meddle privately with Leveson's recommendations the more they are certain to contaminate and compromise them. Day by day, they are burning up public trust."

Hacked Off has many high-profile supporters, including Grant and Church. Before the Leveson Report was published in November Church even met with David Cameron and said she was confident he would not ignore the findings of the report. It has also been rumoured that celebrity campaigners for media reform could stand for election against cabinet ministers if they feel the Government has not gone far enough on Leveson.

Hacked Offclaims its bill, which was drafted by chairman Hugh Tomlinson QC and parliamentary counsel Daniel Greenberg, would:

  •  Enshrine the freedom of the press in statute for the first time, and make ministerial or other state interference in the media explicitly illegal;
  • Specify the standards which the voluntary independent press self-regulator would have to meet to create an effective system that is independent of Government, Parliament and the newspaper industry;
  • Propose a system to verify that the press self-regulator is doing its job properly;
  • Persuade publishers to sign up to a new system of regulation by using Leveson's 'carrot and stick' approach - limiting fines for those who join to no more than one per cent of turnover or a maximum of £1 million;
  • Be a faithful representation of the Leveson Report, and stick as closely as possible to the intention, content and language of the Inquiry conclusions.

Not everyone was convinced by the group's efforts. Political blogger Guido Fawkes dismissed the proposed legislation, saying: "Their draft bill, which would implement Leveson in full, is nicely dressed up as apparently defending 'media freedom', when in fact the opposite is true... Back to the drawing board please, freedom haters.”

It did get support from Tory MP Robert Buckland. Writing on Conservative Home he said the Hacked Off bill represented "a significant step forward... Most certainly, it is a vast improvement upon the draft Bill that was put forward with great haste by the Labour Party last month".

The draft bill could have political consequences, according to Isabel Hardman in The Spectator, because it was drafted without any input from the main political parties. "That sets the pressure group against all politicians, not just the anti-statute Tories, which is not good news for Labour," she warns.

It also comes at the start of a week that could have serious implications for the future of press regulation.

"Private intensive cross-party talks on how to set up a recognition body reconvened last Thursday and more meetings are due this week," reports The Guardian.

Peers will also debate press regulation on Friday, says the paper, while Ed Miliband has vowed to stage a debate and vote in the Commons this month “to demonstrate the support for some form of press regulation underpinned by statute”. · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.