Government says Pressbof Royal Charter has 'serious shortcomings' but must go through 'due process'

Prime Minister David Cameron said today that industry-backed proposals on press regulation have "serious shortcomings".

His comments during Prime Minister's Questions came as it emerged today that a Parliament-backed press regulation Royal Charter will not go before the Privy Council until October at the earliest.

Parliament's plan for an independent press regulator underpinned by statute was published in March but was not formally submitted to the Privy Council. A rival Royal Charter, backed by most newspaper and magazine publishers via owners' body Pressbof, was submitted first to the Privy Council in May and is now in the process of being considered.

During an urgent debate on the situation in the House of Lords, Government culture spokesman Lord Gardiner of Kimble said: "We have to undertake due process as far as the Pressbof Royal Charter application is concerned. One of the reasons is that the period of openness has resulted in 19,000 responses."

He said that Government legal advice is that the Privy Council must now give the Pressbof plan due consideration. Press Gazette understands that it will be referred to a sub-committee of the Privy Council after next Wednesday's meeting and then be considered again by it in October.

Lord Gardiner said that in the meantime the Government is working through "a few outstanding points that remain" with regard to Parliament's press regulation Royal Charter, adding that culture secretary Maria Miller would update the housee on the situation "very shortly".

"I hope that will be helpful, as we all want to make progress for the victims," he said.

Former Tory Cabinet minister Lord Fowler, who tabled the urgent question, said: "Am I right in saying that the effective decision on the press proposal for their Royal Charter will be taken by a group of ministers who also happen to be privy councillors?

"It is four months since the beginning of this Royal Charter process. Why has it taken so long?

"And given that the Government and Parliament has already rejected the press's proposals, why do they need until October to give it further consideration?

"Are you aware that the press proprietors are now in the process of setting up their own body in any event and one story is that they are about to start recruiting staff?

"Can you tell me just when we will get round to deciding the Royal Charter which was overwhelmingly approved by Parliament in March? Surely it is that charter – the charter approved by Parliament – that is pre-eminent and the one we want to see considered and implemented."

Lord Gardiner said "due processes" had to be undertaken.

"So far as any press proprietors' considerations are concerned, this is a matter for the Privy Council, not a matter for the press proprietors.

"The Privy Council will go through due processes that are required. They may be lengthy or arcane to some but they must be undertaken."

For the Opposition, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara asked: "Why is the Privy Council uniquely incapable of mutli-tasking?"

He said there were "about 500 members of the Privy Council" and more than enough members in the Lords to hold a meeting straight away to "begin to do what the victims want and what Parliament has decided".

Lord Gardiner said the press-backed proposal was being given "proper legally-robust consideration in line with the Privy Council process".

He said that it would be considered after the Privy Council has considered the Pressbof plan.

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