So it looks as though a deal has been struck on Leveson after late night talks. Oliver Letwin, Nick Clegg, Ed Miliband and Harriet Harman were holed up in Miliband’s office until 2.30 this morning, and Labour is now confident that it is close not just to an agreement on press regulation, but an agreement on its own proposals for a Royal Charter, rather than the government’s draft.
As Coffee House reported on Friday, David Cameron was facing a rebellion of around 20 Tory MPs and a defeat in the House of Commons on his Conservative amendment which introduced the Royal Charter. That threat appears to have concentrated the mind rather. But if the briefing from Labour – that its proposals are the ones that the agreement revolves around – is correct, then this means that there will be statutory underpinning for a press regulator, which is something David Cameron has resisted. It’s also currently not clear whether any relevant statute will go into tonight’s Crime and Courts Bill, or whether it will make its way into another piece of legislation.
A government source tells me this morning that Labour’s enshrinement clause for press regulation is ‘off the table’, and the Tories have drafted a new clause which prevents the Charter from being changed.
We’ll get further details on the agreement in the Commons later. But here are the main differences between the Tory and the Lib/Lab proposals for press regulation, as a guide:
1. Tories: industry representatives should be able to veto an appointment to the board of the regulator. Lib/Lab: Press should not have a veto.
2. Tories: newspapers can propose changes to the code of conduct which the regulator is obliged to accept. Lib/Lab: the regulator has the final say over changes to the code of conduct.
3. Tories: the regulator should tell a newspaper to apologise for mistakes. Lib/Lab: The regulator should tell newspapers how to apologise.
4. Tories: the regulator should accept complaints from third parties only when there has been a ‘serious’ breach of the rules. Lib/Lab: The regulator should exercise discretion over when to accept complaints from third parties.
5. The Lib/Lab group says the Tory amendments to the Crime and Courts Bill leave it open for future governments to meddle with the Royal Charter without consulting parliament, and that their amendment will make it harder for politicians to do this. The Tories say that a two-thirds majority in both houses is already baked into the Royal Charter.