Failed promises? Ministers 'still to look at' new plan for press regulation

Special sub-committee set up four months ago to examine alternatives has so far failed to hold a single group meeting, according to Cabinet Office information

David Cameron has failed to deliver on his promise that the final decision on the future structure of UK press regulation will have included a "robust" four-month examination of the self-policing model backed by some leading UK newspaper groups.

A special sub-committee of the Privy Council made up mainly of cabinet members, which was set up four months ago to examine an alternative to the system of regulation backed by Parliament in March, has so far failed to hold a single group meeting, according to Cabinet Office information.

The Privy Council is scheduled to reveal on Wednesday which of two competing systems of press regulation – one already approved by Parliament, the other an update of the old self-regulation model – should be passed to the Queen for automatic royal approval. Insiders expect the government scheme, backed by all three major parties in Westminster, to be endorsed.

However, the revelation that one of the two options may not have been fully investigated is likely to fuel criticism of the way the Government has dealt with press reform and seems certain to provoke a call for judges to review the way the process has been dealt with. Any such delay is likely to is likely to fuel criticism that the Government is allowing the issue to be kicked into the long grass. Critics will argue that by failing to be seen to scrutinise the plan backed by the Daily Mail Group, Telegraph Media Group and News International, it is open to the charge of unfair dealing.

Others may allege that any delay, with an election just 18 months away, will suit a government reluctant to antagonise powerful newspaper groups. Although, with the possibly politically embarrassing phone-hacking trials of a number of senior former News International executives beginning at the end of this month, Whitehall insiders say the Government does not want the issue dragging on still longer.

Whatever the political sensitivities, the absence of even one group meeting, according a senior Whitehall lawyer, "doesn't look too smart, especially when it's a matter affecting the press directly. Public perception is important here, and this has been ignored. A judicial review of the way this has been handled is now inevitable."

The scheme promoted by the Press Standards Board of Finance (PressBoF), which is chaired by Lord Black of Brentwood and which ran the now discredited Press Complaints Commission, was launched in May. No 10 subsequently promised the industry-backed charter, which retains key elements of self-regulation, would be examined by a special sub-committee of the Privy Council "in a manner consistent with delivering a robust and justifiable decision". This meant that sealing the cross-party charter was suspended until the committee examined the industry model.

With the Privy Council's October meeting three days away, the sub-committee's examination can be only perfunctory. Its final decision to back the system, which has already been approved by Parliament, is seen as a foregone conclusion.

Although the Privy Council told The Independent on Sunday that it would not give a "running commentary" on its discussions, sources close to ministers on the sub-committee confirmed that it had yet to meet as a group.

The committee is being jointly chaired by the Culture Secretary, Maria Miller, and the Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander. Three other Tories are involved: the Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, and the Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude. A further three Lib Dem politicians are also on the committee: the justice minister Lord McNally, Scotland's Lord Advocate, Lord Wallace, and the Scottish Secretary of State, Michael Moore.

For the sub-committee to force the industry-backed charter into consideration, it would need to unanimously agree to oust the Commons-approved all-party charter.

The IoS has been told that this has not happened and that, when the Privy Council meets on Wednesday, there will be only one option on the table. This means the Queen will approve a regulatory system currently opposed by the majority of the UK's major newspaper groups.

Although a parliamentary sub-committees of this kind can often discuss issues with "a write-around", where members exchange correspondence with each other before reaching their own individual conclusions, the absence of any group meeting on the sensitive subject of statutory press regulation could be problematic if a judicial review follows.

The lack of press consensus on the likely new parliament-backed regulatory framework also points to further delay and potential testing of any new system in the courts.

This was effectively confirmed by a leading print industry executive who said: "This has always been a complex issue, and one that cannot be examined by politicians sending each other a sequence of emails or texts, then perhaps holding one eve-of-decision gathering. We are concerned that the outcome may effectively be a stitch-up and that Wednesday's announcement will confirm our worst fears."

The cross-party system, involving a Royal Charter, will shortly lead to the establishment of a recognition panel capable of approving a new press regulator expected to meet the standards of practice and ethics specified in the Leveson report.

Those newspaper groups that fail to sign up to the new regulator could face higher costs in defending complaints than those who accept the authority of the new system.

Brothers united

The bitter row between Ed Miliband and the Daily Mail has brought harmony in one respect, at least – he has joined forces with his brother in their battle to defend their father's memory.

The Labour leader spoke to David Miliband twice in the past week, first following the Daily Mail article last Saturday under the headline "The Man Who Hated Britain", and secondly when it was revealed that a Mail on Sunday reporter had gatecrashed a memorial service for their uncle. When he was told by aides about the first Daily Mail article, Ed called David in New York, where he is working as chief executive of the International Rescue Committee charity. On Thursday, David was in San Francisco when he learnt of the reporter turning up at Professor Harry Keen's memorial service.

Labour aides revealed that at the height of the row last week, 200 people signed up to become Labour party members in the space of 20 hours. According to one staffer, this was unprecedented and redolent of the Tony Blair years.

A Labour source insisted Mr Miliband's battle with the Mail group was not motivated by regulation or Leveson, but about "a man who wanted to stand up for his father".

Jane Merrick

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmWhat makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes hobby look 'dysfunctional'
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SECONDARY SUPPLY TEACHERS NEEDED IN AND AROUND DARTFORD

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: Description Randstad Education i...

SECONDARY SUPPLY TEACHERS NEEDED IN AND AROUND SWALE

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: Description Randstad Education i...

Geography Teacher, full time supply role, Thanet Academy

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: The School Randstad are proud to...

Science Teacher, full time supply role, Thanet Academy

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: The School Randstad are proud to...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week