TALK OF THE TRADE : Fiddly complaint

The story behind the month-long speculation about whether Sir Bernard Ingham will become the most controversial member yet of the beleagured Press Complaints Commission is as follows. The PCC's appointments committee has first to be brought up to strength - five members - before it can appoint the seven new people needed by the PCC proper. The appointments committee currently has only three members, Lord Wakeham, chairman of the PCC, Harry Roche, chairman of Pressbof (which finances the PCC), and Lord Irvine, the Labour peer. In April 1993, in accordance with the Calcutt report, the PCC changed its articles of association to ensure five members gave a degree of independence to selections. But the PCC did not implement the changes (which also means members appointed since that date are technically invalid).

The good news is that two eminent people are being sounded out about joining the appointments committee. Once in place, they can collectively decide whether to extend an invitation to Sir Bernard, though the odds against him must be lengthening. Meanwhile, all this fiddling about, however constitutionally vital, is serving only to paralyse the PCC.

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