Body overseeing press regulation could take a year to set up

Labour MP brands delay 'pathetic'

The body responsible for overseeing a new press regulator could take up to a year to set up, Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary, told MPs.

Ms Miller said the Royal Charter signed on Wednesday, agreed on a cross-party basis but opposed by the majority of newspaper groups, was the best way forward for press regulation.

The Charter, officially approved by the Privy Council, establishes a recognition body that is intended to oversee a powerful new press regulator with the power to levy fines of up to £1 million.

Labour MP Chris Bryant, who was awarded damages after his phone was hacked by the News of the World, had asked Ms Miller when “the body will be set up that will regulate the body that is going to be doing the regulating”.

Ms Miller responded that the panel would be set up “in the next six to 12 months”. Mr Bryant took to Twitter to criticise the length of time it could take to establish the body. He wrote: “12 months! Maria Miller says the recognising body for press self regulation will take up to 12 months to be set up. Far too long! Pathetic.”

Ms Miller said of the Royal Charter: “I believe we've got here a way forward, which will both safeguard the freedom of the press and also make sure we've got a good system of redress in place for those where errors and mistakes are made.”

Newspaper groups representing The Times, Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail opposed the Charter, citing concerns that it would lead to political interference in the freedom of the press. They are considering a further legal appeal.

But Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, dismissed claims of an end to press freedom as “wild hyperbole” and said no media outlet would be forced to enter into the new system of press regulation.

Mr Clegg told LBC: “It is entirely voluntary. If the press don't want to enter into this new system they don't have to. Some significant parts of it have said they have got no intention of doing so.“

”The whole point of Leveson is that he does not want, I do not want, direct regulation of the press. No one wants politicians to interfere with our wonderfully vibrant and raucous press.”