By Ray Fleming

WHEN Lord Leveson began his inquiry into the British press last year he commented that at its heart would be the age-old Roman question, “Who will guard the guards?” In other words, given that the press should be a guardian of freedom who should ensure that it carries out that function satisfactorily? In the event, however, Lord Leveson's answer was disappointing. His recommendation that the government media agency Ofcom should have the responsibility found few supporters and David Cameron immediately ruled out any solution that would involve parliamentary legislation. Since then there has been little progress and yesterday the prime minister was due to meet Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg to see whether a unified political lead can be given -- improbable because they both favour some substantive oversight of the press.

After several months of mostly closed door discussion two very different streams of thought have emerged: either some form of press law which would control the sort of irresponsibility seen in recent times or a much stronger independent self-regulation than was provided by the Press Complaints Commission. The latter would require a statutory basis similar to the BBC's Royal Charter and also a cast-iron requirement for very large majorities in both House of Parliament to change its status. Within each of these very different approaches there are many unanswered questions that still require very careful consideration.