The Privy Council is only expected to consider the newspaper industry-backed plan for a new system of press regulation 'to avoid a battle in the courts'.
According to the BBC, a meeting of the Privy Council next Wednesday will only look at the Royal Charter put forward by the newspaper industry, backed by the Press Standards Board of Finance (Pressbof), the body that funds the Press Complaints Commission.
That would mean the tougher Parliament-backed press regulation Royal Charter could not be up for consideration by the Privy Council until it next meets in the autumn.
Parliament's press regulation Royal Charter was published in March, with agreement from the three main political parties and Hacked Off. It was thought that it would be submitted to the Privy Council in time for its May meeting, but the timetable was changed after the newspaper industry submitted its own alternative proposal to the Privy Council first.
According to the BBC: "Ministers insist they are not about to back down and approve press proposals but are, instead, following due process to avoid a battle in the courts – even if that makes further delays inevitable."
Victims of press abuse have written to culture secretary Maria Miller demanding that the Government send the cross-party charter to Wednesday’s meeting.
The open letter is backed by press regulation campaign group Hacked Off and signed by a number of high-profile victims of press abuse, including Christopher Jefferies, JK Rowling and Kate and Gerry McCann. It claims that “consideration of the Pressbof petition has run its course” and urges Miller to send the Parliamentary charter to the Privy Council.
The letter says:
We are aware of calls for further delay. We urge you to recall that the March 18 Charter has the backing of Parliament, is founded on the recommendations of a duly constituted public inquiry that painstakingly took account of the views of all stakeholders, and is supported by the great majority of victims of press abuses. Standing in opposition to this are representatives of parts of the press, and in particular of a part that was found by the public inquiry to have ‘wreaked havoc in the lives of innocent people’. In short, a tiny if powerful vested interest with a record of causing harm to the public is challenging the democratic will of Parliament. We feel it is your duty to stand up to this.
It would be appalling if such people, in defiance of the will of the rest of society, were allowed to delay the implementation of a Government policy that has been formally approved by Parliament.”
Among the changes that the Pressbof charter are: the removal of Parliament’s ability to dictate future regulatory changes, lessening the power of a new regulator to rule on the placement of apologies and making it more difficult groups of people could make potentially expensive complaints against newspapers.
The Pressbof charter also allows the newspaper and magazine industry to retain more control over the system of press regulation.
The Pressbof charter is supported by most of the newspaper and magazine industry, with the exception of The Guardian, The Independent and the Financial Times.
Earlier this week, in a House of Lords debate, peers asked the Government to explain why the alternative charter was receiving precedence, with Labour peer Lord Richard calling the situation “ludicrous”.