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April 29, 2015

Sajid Javid rules out Tory press regulation intervention: ‘Our job is done as a government. It’s up to the press’

By William Turvill

A Conservative government would not seek to change the current system of press regulation, Culture Secretary Sajid Javid has said.

Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party all said in their election manifestos that the press should be forced to sign up for Leveson-compliant regulation.

The vast majority of newspaper and magazine publishers are currently signed up the Independent Press Standards Organisation, which replaced the Press Complaints Commission in September last year. The Guardian, Independent titles, Evening Standard and Financial Times have not signed up to IPSO.

Asked by the Daily Mail whether a Conservative government would “force the press to abide by a Leveson-approved system”, Javid said: “No, we won’t. But Labour will. It interferes with the freedom of the press.

“It goes fundamentally against one of the Leveson principles, which is independent self-regulation.

“I think we have achieved what we set out to do. Everyone accepted the old system, the Press Complaints Commission, didn’t work. Our job is done as a government. It’s up to the press.”

On press regulation, the Conservative Party manifesto said: “We will continue to defend hard-won liberties and the operation of a free press. But alongside the media’s rights comes a clear responsibility, which is why we set up the public, judge-led Leveson Inquiry in response to the phone-hacking scandal, created a new watchdog by Royal Charter and legislated to toughen media libel laws.”

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The Labour Party manifesto said: “We remain strongly committed to the implementation of the recommendations of the Leveson Inquiry.

“We expect the industry to establish a mechanism for independent self-regulation, which delivers proper redress for individuals, as set out in the Royal Charter, and agreed by all parties in Parliament.

“We made a promise to victims of the phone hacking scandal. We stand by that promise and will keep it.”

The Liberal Democrats, meanwhile, said that if the press does not sign up to “genuinely independent self-regulation” within a year, “Parliament will need to act”.

The manifesto said that if, in the judgment of the Press Recognition Panel, this has not been achieved, Parliament should step in, “drawing on a range of options including the legislative steps necessary to ensure that independent self regulation is delivered”.

It said: “Where possible, we would seek to do this on the same cross-party basis that achieved the construction of the Leveson scheme by the Royal Charter.”

In his interview with the Daily Mail, Javid is also reported to have accused the BBC of anti-Conservative "bias".

In its manifesto, the Conservative Party pledged a “comprehensive review of the BBC Royal Charter, ensuring it delivers value for money for the licence fee payer, while maintaining a world class service and supporting our creative industries”.

Its manifesto said: “That is why we froze the BBC licence fee and will keep it frozen, pending Charter renewal."

In his interview with the Mail, Javid is quoted as saying that some of the corporation's election coverage has left him thinking: "What was that? I’m sure they could have done a more balanced job."

He also described a recent debate of Radio 4's Today programme as coming "across as very, very anti-Tory".

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