Osborne Hints at Parliamentary Deal Over Media Regulation

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne suggested Britain’s main political parties may be able to agree on measures to regulate the press as coalition partners side with the opposition in a vote today.

Osborne said that “there is still an opportunity” of agreement before a vote. Cross-party consensus is needed to ensure the powers remain in place, he said.

“It will be great on Monday if we can get some kind of agreement even at this late stage between the parties because, frankly, I think press regulation that is achieved in a way that divides the political parties is not press regulation that’s really going to last,” Osborne told BBC Television yesterday.

Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives will introduce amendments to the Crime and Courts Bill to establish a “Royal Charter” backing a system of non-statutory regulation. The coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, are siding with the Labour Party, demanding tougher regulatory powers.

“Ultimately we’re not about grandstanding on this,” Osborne said. “We’re about getting a press law that works.”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg last week accused Cameron of “party-political point scoring” after talks among the U.K.’s three main parties over the new system of press regulation broke down.

The parties have been split over how to implement the findings of Judge Brian Leveson’s report into media ethics, published last year, with differences over whether to accept its recommendations in full and on passing laws to give backing to a new media regulator.

“On this issue I don’t think there should be any party political dividing lines,” Labour’s deputy leader, Harriet Harman, told Sky News yesterday. “I think we should protect the freedom of the press but also protect victims from abuse.”

The Leveson inquiry was set up after the phone-hacking scandal at News Corp.’s now defunct News of the World tabloid, which has led to at least 36 arrests. Trinity Mirror Plc’s Sunday Mirror was dragged into the affair last week as London police arrested four journalists connected to the newspaper.