House of Lords


The "delicate process" of implementing the Leveson Inquiry proposals and "pulling the press along with a tougher system of self-regulation is not proving as easy as it might", said Lord Wallace of Saltire.

On 1 July 2013, the cabinet office spokesman told peers that "some elements" of the cross-party agreement had been implemented but that "on 30 April the Press Board of Finance petitioned the Privy Council with its own draft royal charter which is now being considered".

He later added that it was "not appropriate" for the Privy Council to consider more than one royal charter at the same time on the same issue.

But former cabinet secretary and Conservative peer Lord Fowler said that people were "suspicious" about the delay, and "we should just get on with it".

In July 2011, Prime Minister David Cameron set up the public, judge-led Leveson Inquiry to examine the culture of the press in response to the phone-hacking scandal.

Following the 18-month inquiry, a cross-party deal of an independent regulator with powers to demand prominent corrections and apologies from UK news publishers and impose £1m fines was agreed upon.

The royal charter, which defined news publishers as newspapers, magazines or websites containing news-related material, can only be amended if there is a two-thirds majority in both houses of Parliament.

In contrast, major newspaper publishing groups and press bodies are proposing a regulator with powers to impose fines of up to £1m for "systematic wrongdoing" and ensure "up-front corrections, with inaccuracies corrected fully and prominently".

The newspaper's alternative charter strips Parliament of planned powers to block or approve future changes to regulation. It also removes a ban on former editors sitting on the recognition panel - which would recognise a regulator - and requires at least one board member to have experience of the newspaper industry.

For the opposition, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara said Parliament agreed in March to send the cross-party draft royal charter to the Privy Council in time for their May meeting, but that had not happened.

"Can you confirm Parliament's Leveson compliant royal charter will be submitted to the Privy Council for approval at the 10 July meeting?" he asked.

In reply Lord Wallace said: "The Press Board of Finance submitted their petition to the Privy Council before the government had presented its own royal charter. I understand that that gives it precedence over the government's own royal charter."

Another former Conservative cabinet member Lord Forsyth queried the Privy Council's priorities: "Can you explain how them government got second in the queue on a matter of this importance?"

Lord Wallace told him: "I suspect there was some very fast footwork by the press."

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