The Privy Council should be given time to give 'objective' consideration to the newspaper and magazine industry's alternative to the cross-party royal charter on press regulation, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said today.
Yesterday newspaper and magazine industry trade bodies published details of a new press industry regulator called the Independent Press Standards Organisation. They are hoping to persuade more than 200 publishers to sign up to it coming weeks.
The Privy Council is due to meet tomorrow and is set to consider a press regulation Royal Charter put forward by publishers' body Pressbof which was first published in May, rather than a rival press regulation Royal Charter agreed by Parliament in March.
In a question to Clegg today in the Commons, Liberal Democrat deputy leader Simon Hughes said: "In the interests of the victims of press intrusion and many others, can you confirm that the charter agreed by this House and all parties for press regulation will be put to the Privy Council at the earliest possible opportunity for agreement?"
Clegg, who is Lord President of the Privy Council and so could chair tomorrow's meeting, replied: "Of course I can confirm we will do so at the earliest opportunity but first, as you know, we need to respect the processes of the Privy Council and a rival charter has been submitted for consideration at the Privy Council.
"We need to make sure that is properly examined in a way that is objective and is not subject to undue interference.
"That is the process that is under way. You… are impatient to get on with it. I understand that. Our support for the royal charter voted for on March 18 remains but we must also make sure that things are done in a reasonable and objective way within the Privy Council."
Labour MP Chris Bryant said the all-party Royal Charter should go before tomorrow's meeting of the Privy Council. Failing that, he said, there could be an extra meeting in August.
He said: "Government ministers on March 18 tabled a motion saying it would go to the main Privy Council. Did they not know that they were going to be beaten to it by the press barons of this country? The House decided. Why should others be circumventing the will of this House?"
Clegg replied: "I hear your frustration but you will recall on March 18 that there was only one Royal Charter was in play, if you like – that was the Royal Charter that we adopted on a cross-party basis with an overwhelming majority in this House.
"I certainly stand by my support for that as I think everyone does across this House.
"However, since then, another Royal Charter has been put forward for consideration in the Privy Council and whether you like it or not, we must allow the consideration of that additional Royal Charter to be conducted and conducted in an objective manner."