John Prescott has resigned from the Privy Council in protest at a delay to new press regulation plans that “borders on a conspiracy”.
The Labour former cabinet minister took the rare step of withdrawing from the prestigious body over what he said was a “political” hold-up.
A cross-party Royal Charter setting up a new system of self-regulation along the lines recommended by last year’s Leveson Inquiry into phone-hacking had been expected to be approved by a committee of the Council.
But the meeting this week will instead consider a rival version drawn up by the industry and backed by most newspapers.
Victims of press intrusion have reacted furiously to the delay that means the Commons-backed system will not be considered until the autumn.
Prime Minister David Cameron told MPs that the government had to follow the “correct legal processes”, which means priority must be given to the first of the Royal Charters to be formally submitted for consideration. He insisted that he remained committed to the cross-party proposals and said there were “serious shortcomings” in the industry version.
Lord Prescott said: “The government dragged its feet in further consultation and the press industry put in its divided charter first.
“The rules and procedure, we are told, now mean it has to be considered first and consulted upon before Parliament’s version, which is clearly a political decision by the government.
“I believe this approach borders on a conspiracy to delay press regulation.”