Press regulation stand-off could come to a head before 10 July Privy Council meeting

The stand-off over the future of press regulation could come to a head next week as the agenda is drawn up for the next meeting of the Privy Council on 10 July.

A statute-backed system of press regulation outlined in a Royal Charter was originally agreed by Parliament in March and was set to go to the Privy Council for Royal Assent in May.

But this was delayed after most newspaper publishers rejected Parliament’s Royal Charter and filed their own press regulation Royal Charter, via owners’ body Pressbof, in May.

That rival charter removes an element of statutory underpinning and retains more control over press regulation in the hands of publishers.

It was put out to official consultation meaning that it could not be considered at the last meeting of the Privy Council on 13 June.

Now campaign group Hacked Off has urged Culture Secretary Maria Miller to send Parliament’s press regulation Royal Charter for approval with the Privy Council on 10 July. The next Privy Council meeting after that is not thought to be taking place until October.

Hacked Off director Brian Cathcart said: “The draft Royal Charter on press self-regulation was agreed amid some fanfare on 18 March, but more than three months later nothing has been done to put it into action. Unless something changes in the next few days, it could be months before real change can begin.

"You would think that when all three main party leaders sign a solemn agreement, and when that agreement is approved by every single party in Parliament, whatever it was they all decided on would actually happen. Yet for reasons that are unclear but worrying, ministers are failing to act on Parliament’s clear instruction. It seems that key politicians are treading water.

"Until a week ago the delay could be explained by the spoiling tactics of the press bosses, which forced the Government to waste several weeks. But now there are no grounds for inaction. And while the delay goes on, everything that came out of the year-long Leveson Inquiry is left in limbo, and the day when the press barons and editors face a measure of accountability is pushed farther into the future."

Cathcart speculated that Pressbof is planning “further legal manoeuvres” to stop the cross-party Royal Charter going ahead and said: “a self-interested clique of newspaper bosses must not be allowed to stand in the way of Parliament’s will and nor would the Government allow any other vested interest to obstruct it in such a way. 

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