The Queen’s Privy Council will today consider for the first time the Royal Charter on press regulation proposed by the majority of the newspaper industry as the wrangle over the implementation of the Leveson Report enters a new phase.
This week former deputy prime minister Lord Prescott quit the council over its refusal to consider the Parliament-backed Royal Charter ahead of the industry one.
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Campaign group Hacked Off has accused the industry of trying to hijack the process by putting together a Royal Charter after the cross-party version was agreed at a late-night House of Commons meeting in March.
But Nick Clegg, the Privy Council president, said yesterday that the council should be allowed to give “objective” consideration to the Royal Charter forward by owners’ body Pressbof, telling MPs it would happen “whether you like it or not”.
The Pressbof Royal Charter, which has been backed by most newspapers but not yet the Guardian, The Independent and the Financial Times, was published in May but was the first of the two charters to be formally submitted to the Privy Council.
The council meets once a month, usually to effectively rubber stamp recommendations made by the Cabinet or government departments.
However, in this instance, it is not expected to reach a decision today and will instead appoint a sub-committee to appraise the Pressbof Royal Charter. That committee would not report back until the next meeting in October.
This could mean the Parliamentary Royal Charter, agreed by three main Westminster parties, may not be up for consideration until November.
Earlier this week, the newspaper industry published details of a proposed new regulator, to be known as the Independent Press Standards Organisation. This regulator, which the industry is hoping will have more than 200 publishers signed up to it within weeks, needs the approval of Royal Charter-backed recognition body if it is to insulate publishers from the threat of exemplary damages in libel cases as outlined in the Crime and Courts Act 2013.
One of the architects of the new regulator has warned that a Royal Charter that did not recognise it could fail through lack of support from newspaper owners.
Trinity Mirror legal director Paul Vickers told BBC Radio 4’s The World At One on Monday that “there will be large parts of the industry that will find it difficult to support it”.