Lord McCluskey criticises royal charter

Help

Lord McCluskey said using a royal charter to regulate the press would set a "wonderful example to Putin and Mugabe and other dictators", as he gave evidence to the Education and Culture Committee on 16 April 2013.

Lord McCluskey, who produced a report on press regulation in Scotland after the Leveson Inquiry, criticised the UK government's proposals.

The three largest parties at Westminster all agreed to a royal charter, due to be approved by the Queen at a Privy Council meeting in May, which will establish a "recognition panel" to oversee press regulation.

But Lord McCluskey, senator of the College of Justice and a former solicitor general, said the Leveson Inquiry into press standards never considered such a method.

Using a royal charter to regulate the press would "bypass" Parliament, he said.

"The charter is a creature of this Government. It is written by the Privy Council, by those three or four members of the Privy Council who are convened, and is signed by the Queen," Lord McCluskey said.

"A wonderful example to Putin and Mugabe and other dictators to say the way we regulate the press in the United Kingdom is we don't allow the democratically elected Parliament to have a say, we do it with the Queen signing a document."

Lord McCluskey went on to tell MSPs on Holyrood's Education and Culture Committee that Leveson "never considered the merits or demerits" of using a royal charter.

A royal charter "does not go through Parliament" and would also not be covered by a legislative consent motion in Scotland, meaning MSPs at Holyrood "would be denied a voice" on it.

He highlighted the "very important question" of who should be covered by the charter.

"That decision is one that ought to be taken by the elected Parliament. That ought to be looked at by legislators, not decided in smoke-filled rooms, or pizza-filled rooms I think it is nowadays, of the Privy Council.

"I've already made the point that Putin and Mugabe must be rubbing their hands in glee with the idea that you can just issue a decree. What a terrible example for us to offer to the world: we bypass our legislature in all these matters and they are to be done by the unelected head of state."

Campbell Deane from Bannatyne Kirkwood France & Co and David Sinclair from Victim Support Scotland also gave evidence.

The second evidence session on Lord McCluskey's report can be viewed below:

Education and Culture Committee 3

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.