Robert Buckland MP is Joint Secretary of the 1922 Committee and Chairs the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission
After fifteen months of public inquiry and three months of negotiation, the Leveson process is nearing its climax. A deal on the wording of a Royal Charter and the precise extent of any accompanying legislation is likely to be confirmed. Otherwise MPs will be facing what has been termed “an historic decision” about the future of our free press. Yes, a legislative version of the Battle of Gettysburg is upon us. The accidental battleground over which this verbal war is to be waged is the report stage of the Crime and Courts Bill, which is as unlikely a setting for this drama as that small Pennsylvanian village was for the turning point of the American Civil War one hundred and fifty years ago.
After the Prime Minister’s surprise announcement on Thursday morning that he was breaking off negotiations about the implementation of the Leveson proposals, initial concerns about the suitability of the Bill for provisions relating to press regulation gave way to a free for all which saw both sides dashing about with drafts and re-drafts of their respective amendments. MPs are now being expected to make decisions on amendments that have only just emerged from the Public Bill Office with the ink still glistening upon them.