Maria MillerIn a statement to the House of Commons this afternoon the Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport, Maria Miller said that the Committee of the Privy Council was “unable to recommend” that the Press proposal for a Royal Charter be granted.

She said that

Whilst there are areas where it is acceptable, it is unable to comply with some fundamental Leveson principles and government policy, such as independence and access to arbitration

The reasons for the rejection of the PressBoF charter are set out in a Letter to the Clerk of the Privy Council [pdf] of 8 October 2013.  The Committee found that the petition fell short of Government policy for a number of key reasons:

  • Independence – the recognition panel was not sufficiently independent and the proposed recognition criteria would not deliver a sufficiently independent self-regulator.  It also pointed out that the proposed charter did not take advantage of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act provisions limiting the ability to amend the charter
  • Arbitration: – it was noted that the provision of an arbitration service was not a condition of recognition and that, as result, the incentives created by legislation would not be properly activated.
  • Standards Codes: – the Committee were not satisfied the Charter would deliver a robust standards code which was ultimately the responsibility of the self-regulator.
  • Apologies – the self-regulator did not have the necessary power to direct apologies.
  • Third Party Complaints – The higher thresholds in the Charter were not consistent with Government policy.

The Considerations taken into account by the committee are set out in an Annex to the Letter.

In a footnote the letter records that there were 19,400 responses to the consultation on the PressBoF charter – 19,000 of which were generated largely by a Hacked Off campaign and 136 by a Newspaper Society campaign.

In her statement the Secretary of State went on to say that the Cross Party charter would be on the agenda at a specially convened Privy Council meeting on 30 October 2013.  She said that various technical amendments had been made but that the Committee had identified arbitration and the editors code as areas for improvement.  She said that

“all three political parties will work together in the forthcoming days and produce a final draft of the cross-party Charter to place in the Libraries of both Houses on Friday. This will allow Parliamentarians, the public and the press to see the version we intend to seal”.