Saturday 21 April 2018

MPs would oversee UK press watchdog under new plans

Tim Ross London

BRITISH political leaders have disclosed joint plans for MPs to effectively oversee a new newspaper regulator, ending centuries of press freedom.

Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg, and Labour leader Ed Miliband issued an unprecedented joint clause for parliamentary legislation that would oversee a new system to regulate newspapers.

Under the plan, a new Royal Charter would be established to oversee the regulation of the press – but parliamentary legislation would formally recognise the charter in law.

Prime Minister David Cameron and freedom of speech campaigners believe such a move would undermine the free press – as MPs would be able to use the legislation to effectively regulate the media in the future.

Mr Cameron published rival plans – which do not involve MPs in the new system – but he is poised to lose a parliamentary vote on Monday to the new Liberal Democrat-Labour axis.

The prime minister is expected to attempt to appeal to the Liberal Democrats over the weekend to drop their determination to use legislation to recognise the Royal Charter.

Yesterday, Mr Cameron insisted it was "good news" that Mr Clegg and Mr Miliband had now accepted that the charter was the best way to regulate the press – but sources stressed that the prime minister would never accept legislation.

Mr Cameron said: "What I think is good news is that we are bringing this is to a conclusion.

"What I think we can't go on with is a situation where the victims and the public don't know what sort of press regulation we're going to have. That needs to change," he added.

Deal

The Liberal Democrat leader, Mr Clegg, stressed that he was hopeful that a deal could still be struck between all political parties.

"We are actually working towards building on what the prime minister has already advocated; strengthening it in a few simple places and hopefully that will enjoy the cross-party consensus that I think is still necessary in order to make progress," he said.

On Thursday, Mr Cameron dramatically terminated negotiations between the three party leaders on the future of press regulation in the wake of the Leveson Inquiry into media standards.

MPs will now vote on the two different plans on Monday evening and Mr Cameron has ordered ministers to return from abroad to back the Conservative plans.

However, Labour believes that dozens of Conservative MPs may defy the prime minister to back its scheme.

Irish Independent

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