Mar 15 2013
David Cameron said that the bitter parliamentary wrangling over regulation of the press must be brought to an end.
The Prime Minister, who pulled out of cross-party talks with Labour and the Liberal Democrats on Thursday, said he was not prepared to go on seeing the Government's legislative programme "hijacked" by the issue.
Speaking in Brussels at the end of the EU summit, he welcomed apparent moves by the other parties to back away from "full-on legislation" on the implementation of the Leveson Report recommendations.
MPs will vote on Monday on plans to enable the courts to impose "exemplary damages" on newspapers if they do not sign up to a new independent regulator set up by royal charter.
"We can't go on with a situation where bill after bill of the Government's legislative programme is potentially hijacked or contaminated with motions and amendments that are about something that is completely different. That's why I think it is right to bring this to a conclusion," Mr Cameron said.
"It seems to me that the other parties are moving away from a sort of full-on legislation on Leveson and accepting that a royal charter is the right way forward. That's good if we can get on with what I've got on the table and pass the legislative clauses that I have put down. That would be, I think, real progress. But it is right to bring this to a head."
Conservatives have published amendments to the Crime and Courts Bill which would allow the courts to impose "exemplary damages" on publishers of "news-related material" which lose civil cases relating to libel, slander, breach of confidence, misuse of private information, malicious falsehood or harassment.
The threat would be lifted from publishers that sign up to an approved regulator, recognised by a verification body established by royal charter, creating an incentive for newspapers to engage with the new system.
A rival amendment backed by Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband is expected to be published later, setting out proposals to enshrine the regulation of newspapers in parliamentary legislation. Mr Cameron's official spokesman said the Prime Minister's proposed text for a royal charter will also be published later.
If Parliament approves the Conservative amendments on Monday, it is understood Mr Cameron will take it as an endorsement of his approach and press ahead with the enactment of the charter. But a charter will require the agreement of the Privy Council, whose current president is Mr Clegg, which some observers believe could give the Lib Dem leader an effective embargo.