Saturday, 20 July 2013

Royal Charter for a new system of press complaints

The Prime Minister – with the support of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition – set up the Leveson Inquiry in July 2011 following the revelations of the hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone, the treatment of the McCanns and serious abuse by the press that, in the words of the Prime Minister, led to victims suffering ‘in a way that we can barely begin to imagine’.

In November 2012, Lord Justice Leveson produced a report that recommended a system of independent self-regulation, guaranteed by law. After over three months of cross-party talks and discussions with both the newspaper industry and the victims of press intrusion, agreement was reached by all three party leaders on 18 March 2013. That Royal Charter was then approved by both Houses of Parliament. It complies with Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations and sets up a proper complaints system.

Under the terms of the cross-party agreement, this Parliamentary Royal Charter should have been submitted to the Privy Council in May.

However, there has been a delay because parts of the newspaper industry were unhappy with the Parliamentary Royal Charter. PressBoF, the body that funds the current Press Complaints Commission on behalf of the industry, put together their own Royal Charter and submitted that Royal Charter to the Privy Council.

It is unusual for the Privy Council to be dealing with such controversial issues and it now has two Charters to deal with.

The delay in submitting the Parliamentary Royal Charter is regrettable. But it is important that the Privy Council adheres to due process.

Labour hopes that the Royal Charter agreed by Parliament on 18 March will be submitted to the Privy Council as soon as the process allows. We remain committed to that Royal Charter, the subject of cross-party agreement and approved by both Houses of Parliament, which delivers the recommendations of the Leveson Report and is the right way forward.