Reject papers' plan for regulation, says Gerry McCann

Image caption The Privy Council is expected to announce its decision later this week

The newspaper industry's plans for press regulation are "a gentlemen's club agreement" and should be rejected by politicians, Gerry McCann has urged.

The father of missing girl Madeleine McCann said the recommendations of the Leveson inquiry into press ethics were the "minimum acceptable".

The Privy Council is due to announce its decision on a royal charter.

It is also considering a government-led plan, which has been supported by campaigners against press intrusion.

Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry was set up in July 2011 after it emerged journalists working for the now-defunct News of the World had hacked the mobile phone of murdered Surrey schoolgirl Milly Dowler.

Politicians and the press have been at odds over the details of a royal charter - a formal document used to establish and lay out the terms of a body such as universities or the BBC - to underpin the regulator.

The government's proposals published on 18 March have cross-party backing and the support of the Hacked Off campaign.

Mr McCann and his family were subject to intense press attention after Madeleine went missing while they were on holiday in Portugal in May 2007.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's The World At One, he said: "I have been disappointed at the speed of progress - almost a year on from Leveson, seven months on from the approval by all parties of the royal charter.

"But I think this is a key week, really, for our politicians and hopefully they will reject the press charter which has been proposed, because from my point of view, as a victim and representing others, it will be inadequate."

He supported the government proposals as he had been "assured that essentially it delivers Leveson by another means".

On the rival press plans, Mr McCann said "it's not independent enough of the press and we should have no confidence that we would get any improvement over what is currently in place".

Mr McCann said the press "does a lot of good" but there needed to be protections in place for ordinary people.

He said: "Certainly, from the point of view of going through Leveson and testifying, certainly the key thing for us was to have Leveson implemented. For me, it was the minimum acceptable recommendations."

There are a series of key differences between the industry's plan for press regulation and that agreed by politicians and campaigners.

The newspapers' proposals would:

  • Remove a ban on peers and former editors serving on the newly created "recognition panel", which will decide in future whether newspapers are being regulated properly
  • Remove Parliament's power to block or approve future changes to regulation. Instead the regulator, trade bodies and the recognition panel would have to agree to changes
  • Make it more difficult to bring group complaints
  • Give the regulator the power to "require", rather than "direct", the nature, extent and placement of corrections, and abandon the idea of giving it the power to force newspapers to publish apologies

Fraser Nelson, editor of the Spectator, told the BBC his magazine would not take part in a system of regulation "mandated by politicians".

He told the BBC it "would in effect end the principle of free press that we've had in this country for three centuries or more".

"What happened to the McCanns was terrible, a lot of what has been revealed in the phone hacking scandal has been deplorable as well... Current laws are sufficient to deal with this."

On Thursday - the day after the Privy Council is due to make its announcement - Lord Justice Leveson will appear before the Commons Media Select Committee.

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