Tory minister says 'no enthusiasm' for Royal Charter plan among Conservative MPs

A Tory minister has told party colleagues he thinks it "reasonable"  for newspapers to launch a legal challenge to his own Government's regulation plan. 

In an interview with the Conservative Home website, Nick Boles MP said:  “There’s nothing we’ve done that troubles me as much as this.”

He said the Royal Charter arrangement was being introduced to prevent the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats from forcing through a more onerous system. 

The Planning Minister said his colleague Culture Secretary Maria Miller warned of a worse system in the absence of the Royal Charter. 

Boles revealed: "If it didn’t go through, Labour and the Liberal Democrats would do something much worse through explicit statutory legislation rather than this constitutional contraption of the Royal Charter. She was very explicit that it was for fear of something worse that she was urging the press to take a role in this.”

The Privy Council rejected the publisher-backed system of self regulation and instead recommended a Royal Charter. 

He said: "There is absolutely no legal reason why any newspaper publisher needs to play along with it. I think they have full legal rights, this is a very, very big constitutional innovation, using a mechanism that is itself a pretty arcane piece of constitutional machinery, and I think it would be surprising if they didn't need to subject that to pretty close scrutiny. I'm not a lawyer, I wouldn't seek to advise them, I'm just simply observing we're doing this because we're trying to prevent something worse. There ain't no enthusiasm, certainly in my breast."

Boles said the Conservative Party were only considering the Royal Charter because they were in coalition with the Liberal Democrats. 

"One of the strands that connects Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher and modern Conservatives is freedom under the rule of law. We do not believe in freedom under the watchful eye and wagging finger of a state-sponsored regulator."

Earlier this week, Mayor of London Boris Johnson blasted the Royal Charter plans. 

He said: "We are undermining the work of everyone from John  Milton to John Wilkes – men who fought for the right to say and publish things of which politicians disapproved.

"The last and most powerful point against any new regulation of papers is that it is so completely pointless. We live in a world in which vast quantities of news can be instantly disseminated across the internet, and by companies way beyond any conceivable reach of Parliament or Government."

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