The three main political parties have reportedly moved closer to an agreement on a new model of press regulation that could see the creation of a Royal Charter backed up legislation.
The Times (£) reports this morning that Prime Minister David Cameron “has conceded that Parliament may have to pass a Bill to help to set up a new press regulator”.
Cameron had previously spoken of his “serious concerns and misgivings over the use of legislation in a new regulatory framework", claiming that “for the first time we would have crossed the Rubicon, writing elements of press regulation into the law of the land”.
But Labour, the Lib Dems and the Tories could all back a new “overseer of press standards set up by Royal Charter, backed by a Bill that would enshrine its independence”, according to The Times.
The Bill would “stipulate that the terms of the charter could only be changed after a two-thirds ‘super majority’ in both the Commons and Lords”.
The idea reportedly emerged at “productive” cross-party talks attended by Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg
The Royal Charter model is being pushed by Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Letwin, and would “enshrine a panel of eminent figures who conducted regular audits of press standards and would avoid such a body being answerable to Parliament”.
Such a model could also “be claimed as a partial victory for all sides”.
The Guardian, meanwhile, also said this morning that the three main parties were edging closer to an agreement
It reported: "Labour said that Oliver Letwin, the Cabinet Office minister and Cameron's chief adviser at the talks, had for the first time accepted that there would need to be a parliamentary process to ensure his royal charter plan was not subsequently overturned by the executive."
The body might meet infrequently but would need its own budget and secretariat and expertise, paid for by industry through a contract. The culture select committee could also audit the verification body and its decisions might be open to judicial review.
To prevent the charter being amended Clegg proposes that its terms would be unable to be altered save by parliament and with a super majority of two-thirds of MPs, a device already used to entrench a five-year fixed term parliament.
The meeting's participants also appear to have accepted that statute might be needed to give newspapers incentives to join the regulator – such as exemplary damages claims if a newspaper breaches the law and has refused to participate in the regulating body. If legislation were required a single clause could be inserted into the courts bill that would not specifically refer to the press.
Today an implementation group of around 60 representatives from across the newspaper and magazine industries are due to present a draft contract binding publishers to a tougher form of self-regulation.