The Conservative amendments to the Crime and Courts Bill which introduce their Royal Charter for press regulation proposal are now out, although Labour and the Lib Dems are yet to table all their formal amendments. Most of the amendments – which are signed by David Cameron, Theresa May, William Hague, George Osborne, Chris Grayling and Maria Miller – relate to exemplary damages for publishers, but the new system of regulation is also defined in this amendment:
For the purposes of subsection (2), a body is “recognised” as a regulator of relevant publishers if it is so recognised by any body established by Royal Charter (whether established before or after the coming into force of this section) with the purpose of carrying on activities relating to the recognition of independent regulators of relevant publishers.
Ed Miliband and Harriet Harman have also signed an amendment by Simon Hughes which deals with attempts to change or destroy the Royal Charter:
‘Where a body is established by Royal Charter after 18 March 2013 with functions relating to the carrying on of an industry, no recommendation may be made to Her Majesty in Council to amend the Body’s Charter or dissolve the body unless any requirements included in the Charter on the date it is granted for Parliament to approve the amendment or dissolution have been met.’.
But it’s clear from this set of amendments from the Tory leadership that the provisions for the Royal Charter really are as minimal as possible. Much of the argument in the cross-party talks centred on whether there should be more robust underpinning than that. And it will be on how robust the clauses from Labour and the Lib Dems are that pro-statute Tories will make up their minds. The Prime Minister’s official spokesman yesterday refused to answer a question on whether Cameron is confident he has the full support of his party on this matter. That’s because he doesn’t: but it’s not clear how many will rebel on rival clauses introducing more statute for the Royal Charter. Once those amendments from Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband’s parties have been published, we’ll start to get a better picture of which members of the Conservative party are going to defy the whip – and indeed which members of the Labour party feel their own side has gone too far.Tags: Leveson, Press regulation, UK politics