Royal Charter on press regulation may be ‘redundant’, says Culture Secretary Maria Miller

Culture Secretary backs newspaper industry’s progress towards self-regulation

The Royal Charter on press regulation, signed by the Queen last week, is likely to be “redundant” because of the refusal by newspapers to sign up to it, the Culture Secretary Maria Miller has conceded. The Government is not going to try to force newspapers to recognise the charter, but will leave inducements in place in the hope that the industry will change its mind and sign up voluntarily.

Ms Miller’s comments provoked speculation that ministers were backing down under pressure from editors, but sources close to both the Culture Secretary and David Cameron insisted that what she said was not a change in policy and did not conflict with the conclusions reached by Lord Justice Leveson after his long inquiry into newspaper standards.

Ms Miller praised the progress that newspapers have made towards setting up the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) with the power to impose fines of up to £1m. In an apparent dig at the Liberal Democrat and Labour parties, she claimed that “too many” MPs had been pushing for state regulation of the press when the Leveson report came before Parliament last March.

Lord Justice Leveson had recommended that the newspaper industry should set up a body to regulate itself, while Parliament should pass a law setting up a recognition panel that would certify the body’s independence. When questioned by MPs, the judge denied that this would equal statutory regulation of the press. His recommendations were supported by Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs.

Ms Miller told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “What I want to do is to guard against some of those people who are trying to foist upon this country statutory regulation. And ultimately that’s what was happening in March. The best way to stave off that statutory regulation, which I’m afraid too many people in Parliament were free to talk about, is by having an effective system of self-regulation.”

She added that she would “encourage” newspapers to sign up to the Royal Charter, because, by doing so, they would get protection against heavy legal costs and exemplary damages. But when it was suggested to her that the Royal Charter would become redundant if the press had their own system up and functioning and stuck to it, Ms Miller replied, “Yes, exactly.”

Her comments provoked a scathing response from Evan Harris, the former Liberal Democrat MP who is now a leading figure in the Hacked Off campaign, which is campaigning for an end to newspaper excesses. He tweeted: “Maria Miller laughably describes the March draft recognition panel as statutory regulation. Was same text as Charter.”

But Sarah Sands, editor of the London Evening Standard, told the programme: “It sounds to me as if we are getting to a breakthrough.”

Ms Miller also distanced herself from the threat to the BBC made by the Conservative Party chairman, Grant Shapps, who warned last week that the corporation could face a cut in the licence fee unless it reformed itself. Asked whether she agreed, Ms Miller replied: “What I want to see is the BBC doing exactly what they’re doing now, which is looking at a review of the governance. Other issues around the licence fee – you know those are for charter renewal, which is some way off in the future.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Social Media Account Writers

£12000 - £13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This social media management pr...

Ashdown Group: Deputy Editor (Magazine Publishing) - Wimbledon - £23-26K

£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Deputy Editor - Wimbledon...

Ashdown Group: Editor (Magazines/Publishing) - Wimbledon - £26-30K

£26000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Editor (Magazines/Publish...

Ashdown Group: Print Designer - High Wycombe - Permanent £28K

£25000 - £28000 per annum + 24 days holiday, bonus, etc.: Ashdown Group: Print...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent