Who has won in the late-night Leveson talks? Both Harriet Harman and Maria Miller seem to think their own party’s Royal Charter has come out tops. And one says they’ve secured statutory underpinning, while the other says there isn’t any underpinning. And again, one says the deal is done, while the other says the parties are ‘close’ to a deal.
This is what Harman had to say on the Today programme:
‘There is an amendment going forward into the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill which says that where a Charter says in that Charter it can’t be dissolved or amended without a two-thirds majority in both Houses then that should have the force of law.’
‘The framework is set up in a Royal Charter, not by statute but in a Royal Charter. But just to make sure that the Royal Charter, which is run by the Privy Council essentially, which is effectively ministers, just to make sure that ministers can’t tamper with it in the future, there’s just a small piece of legislation in the House of Lords today which will say you can’t tamper with or water down this charter.’
And this is what Maria Miller had to say a bit later on the same programme:
‘We’re very close to a deal but I think what has been accepted by all the parties is that the Prime Minister’s Royal Charter should go ahead, and that importantly we’ve stopped Labour’s extreme version of the press law, which now, as part of any deal, the Labour party would actually vote against.’
‘I think now there’s a very clear acceptance from Labour, from the Liberals, that the Prime Minister’s Royal Charter is the right way forward and we should stop the extreme version of press law that has been tabled.’
Miller also insisted that there ‘is no statutory underpinning for the approach that we are taking’, while Harman used the words ‘bit of statute’. What appears to have happened is that Labour has defined the terms of the deal before anything has really been finally signed off on, leaving Miller to respond later.
Labour is saying that the ‘small piece of legislation’ Harman was referring to is the enshrinement of press regulation in law, which will make its way in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, which has its report stage in the House of Lords this afternoon.
What’s impressive is that where previously Labour and the Lib Dems were worried that the Royal Charter idea was like – as one Labour source put it – ‘Dolly the Sheep’, the contest now is about whose Royal Charter has emerged victorious from last night’s talks. I understand that there will be a final meeting to cross the ts of this agreement this morning.
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