November 30, 2012 12:57 pm

McCann presses Cameron to back Leveson

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David Cameron’s resistance to key elements of the Leveson report came under further pressure on Friday after a prominent victim of intrusive press coverage urged the prime minister to implement the recommendations in full.

Maria Miller, the culture secretary, reiterated the Conservative party’s view that it was undesirable, and might not be necessary, to legislate to “underpin” a new independent self-regulatory body to oversee newspapers.

She confirmed that her department would produce a draft bill, but largely to confirm the belief that it would be extremely hard to pass satisfactorily into law.

However, Gerry McCann, who with his wife Kate won huge libel damages from newspapers that had accused them of involvement in the disappearance of their daughter Madeleine in 2005, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that “full implementation of Lord [Justice] Leveson’s report is the minimum acceptable compromise for me and I think for many other victims who have suffered at the hands of the press”.

He said: “The prime minister and our other elected politicians have an opportunity now to do the right thing. And if they do the right thing, for the public, then it will help restore a little confidence.”

Asked about Mr Cameron’s words in the Commons on Thursday when he rejected statutory underpinning of a new regulator, something Lord Justice Leveson said was “essential”, Mr McCann said: “I clearly respect his opinion but I personally disagree with the viewpoint.

“Lord [Justice] Leveson, as a senior law judge of our country, has made clear that what he is proposing is not a state-run press. It is a fine distinction but without the statutory underpinning this system will not work.”

The awkward problem for Mr Cameron is that he has previously cited the McCanns as an example of innocent members of the public caught up in press intrusion for whom any reform of press regulation must be satisfactory.

The other victims he gave as examples, Bob and Sally Dowler, whose murdered 13-year-old daughter had her phone hacked by the News of the World, have yet to speak in public about the Leveson report, but their lawyer Mark Lewis said on Thursday that Mr Cameron had failed his own test by rejecting a core recommendation of the inquiry.

Labour was quick to exploit the situation.

Ed Miliband, the leader of the opposition, told BBC News: “I’m going to stand up for people like the McCanns, and the Dowlers, who’ve been appallingly treated by sections of the press, and who put their faith in David Cameron, put their faith in the Leveson inquiry, and who are frankly I think astonished by what has happened and what the prime minister has done.”

Also on the BBC, Ms Miller said the government, or at least the Conservative part of the coalition, was concerned about the ramifications of legislation.

“What we are concerned about is creating amendable legislation that could in the future give a framework which could give parliament the opportunity of stopping reporting on certain areas. You have to consider that carefully before going forward.”

The culture secretary added: “The horrific experiences of the McCanns and others cannot be allowed to happen again and that is why we are absolutely clear that we fully accept the principles of Leveson but, as you would expect, we would look at the details of implementation.

“We have some grave concerns about the principle of putting into place statutory underpinning for this new self-regulatory body but we are also not convinced that it is absolutely necessary to achieve the objectives that both Lord [Justice] Leveson set out and indeed the victims have set out.”

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