UK & World News
Press Self-Regulation: Politicians Reject Plan
The newspaper industry's proposals for regulation of the press have been rejected, Culture Secretary Maria Miller has confirmed.
Mrs Miller told the House of Commons the industry's royal charter plan did not comply with some of the "fundamental principles" of the Leveson Report on press regulation, including those regarding independence and access to arbitration.
The cross-party proposals for a charter agreed by Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Labour and backed by Parliament will now be put forward for approval at a specially-convened meeting of the Privy Council on October 30.
Mrs Miller said all three parties will work together in the next few days to agree a number of "substantive" changes to the text agreed in March and produce a final draft of the cross-party charter.
She told MPs: "We have an opportunity to take a final look at our charter. An opportunity to bring all parties together and ensure that the final charter is both workable and effective.
"We have a responsibility to make sure that what we do here will be effective and stand the test of time, so we need to make it the best we can.
"We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to get this right. We all want it to be the best we can do to give individuals access to redress whilst safeguarding this country's free press, which forms such a vital part of our democracy."
The proposed charter will allow for the creation of an independent "recognition panel" to oversee the work of a new self-regulatory body to replace the Press Complaints Commission.
While the new regulator will undertake the task of ensuring that complaints about press activities are properly dealt with, the panel will have the job of verifying that it is doing so effectively and independently.
Following a lengthy inquiry into press conduct sparked by allegations of phone hacking, Sir Brian Leveson's report last November recommended that an independent regulator should have the power to impose fines of up to £1m and direct the positioning of apologies and corrections.
Lord Justice Leveson recommended a statutory body to oversee the new self-regulation system, but this was opposed by many in the industry, who believed it would give politicians too much power over newspapers.
A royal charter was proposed by Cabinet Office minister Oliver Letwin as a compromise solution which would prevent politicians from interfering in the operation of the new panel.
The plan now being put forward for Privy Council approval was agreed in a late-night Whitehall meeting in March between representatives of Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Labour, at which pressure group Hacked Off was present.
Jacqui Hames, from Hacked Off, said: "This royal charter that has been discussed and will hopefully be sealed will make sure and protect the public for the future.
"And after 70 years and seven previous inquiries which have gone nowhere, I do hope that finally we will get something that serves the public as well as the press barons."
Speaking before the announcement, The Sun's associate editor Trevor Kavanagh told Sky News a rejection would not be a shock because there had been "fairly clear clues" it might happen.
He said: "I think it has to be seen as a great victory for the forces of oppression of a free press - Hacked Off in particular - and the politicians who went along for the ride."
Media commentator Steve Hewlett suggested newspapers could launch legal action if their proposals are sidelined.
"People I have spoken to are furious and are now considering whether there might be a legal challenge to this decision by the Privy Council," he said.
Chris Blackhurst, group content editor of The Independent and its sister titles, warned that either charter would "cost all newspapers a lot more money".
"It's well known that the newspaper industry is in trouble," he said.
"Unfortunately, what's happened is that all the positions are completely polarised.
"That's also true of Hacked Off, it's true of the politicians, it's true of the press, and we are all in our trenches and we are all chucking grenades at each other and we are not really very far apart."