Newspapers warn of deep reservations over Press regulation deal

  • A statement from the newspaper industry said: 'This remains a charter written by politicians, imposed by politicians and controlled by politicians'

Plans to regulate the Press are a political stitch-up that is neither ‘voluntary nor independent’, critics warned last night.

The three main parties finally agreed the detail of a royal charter setting up a system of newspaper regulation in the wake of the Leveson Inquiry.

But the newspaper industry last night warned there were major problems with the deal – holding out the prospect that papers may boycott the deal and press ahead with plans to set up their own regulator.

In a statement, the industry steering group, representing national, regional and local newspapers, made clear that while it would consider the proposals it had deep reservations.

Maria Miller

Plans: Following the inquiry chaired by Lord Justice Leveson, left, proposals for a new press regulator have been announced by Culture Secretary Maria Miller, right

‘This remains a charter written by politicians, imposed by politicians and controlled by politicians,’ it said.

‘It has not been approved by any of the newspapers or magazines it seeks to regulate.

'Meanwhile the industry’s charter was rejected by eight politicians, meeting in secret, and chaired by the same politician who is promoting the politicians’ charter.

‘Lord Justice Leveson called for “voluntary, independent self-regulation” of the Press.

'It is impossible to see how a regulator operating under rules imposed by politicians and enforced by draconian and discriminatory provisions for damages and costs in civil cases, could be said to be either voluntary or independent.’

Culture Secretary Maria Miller insisted she had worked hard to wring concessions from Labour and the Lib Dems.

The changes include provision for a fee for use of a new arbitration service, intended to deter speculative claims, with the option for regional and local newspapers to opt out altogether in some circumstances.

They also agreed that serving editors can be involved in drawing up a code of conduct for the Press, to be approved by the independent regulator. But the views of editors will not be ‘decisive’.

The deal was struck at talks between Mrs Miller, Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman and Lib Dem peer Lord Wallace of Tankerness and will now go forward to the Privy Council for final agreement on October 30.

Mrs Miller said: ‘We have made really important changes which I think will make this charter work much better, safeguarding the freedom of the Press and also importantly helping safeguard the future of our local Press which so many of us value so much. We want to make sure that this works for the long-term.’

Chris Blackhurst, content director of The Independent, said there were concerns within the industry that it did not provide sufficient protection against future interference by politicians.

Hacked Off, which has campaigned for tighter regulation, said that with the latest concessions there was no longer a reason for newspapers not to sign up.