THE main political parties have struck a deal on a new Royal Charter to set up an independent regulator of the Press.
After three days of negotiations between Tory Culture Secretary Maria Miller, Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman and Lib Dem Lord Advocate Jim Wallace, politicians have agreed to a slightly amended version of the Royal Charter, first agreed unanimously in parliament on 18 March. But it remains unclear if any newspapers will sign up to it.
The draft proposals are set to be formally agreed by the Privy Council on 30 October in an effort to have a stronger, more independent press regulator following the phone-hacking scandal.
The agreement comes despite disquiet among many MPs that the charter, agreed at a late-night meeting over pizzas in Labour leader Ed Miliband’s office on 18 March in the presence of campaign group Hacked Off, will seriously undermine the freedom of the press and lead to state regulation.
Under the plans approved in March, the job of adjudicating on complaints and imposing penalties will be performed by a new self-regulatory body set up by the industry to replace the Press Complaints Commission. A recognition panel would be required to verify whether this watchdog was effective and genuinely independent of publishers.
Ms Miller succeeded in persuading the other parties to agree to minor changes to make the charter more palatable to newspapers, including introducing small fees for complainants.
The three main parties believe the regulation meets the criteria laid out by Lord Justice Leveson following his lengthy inquiry into the conduct of the Press.
The new charter will also apply in Scotland after discussions between Ms Miller and the Scottish Government.
Campaigners said changes to the proposals meant there is “no reason” for the Press to refuse to back the charter.
“The way is now open to create a system of independent, effective press self-regulation that will benefit the public and poses no threat whatever to freedom of expression,” said Brian Cathcart from the Hacked Off group, which thought the Royal Charter not strong enough.
However, the newspaper industry has criticised the latest proposals, saying they could not be described as either “voluntary or independent”.
The three main political parties finally struck a deal on amendments to the planned Royal Charter establishing the new system intended to address some of the industry concerns.
Ms Miller said that she hoped they would be accepted by the industry, bringing an end to 11 months of wrangling since the publication of the Leveson Report on press standards.