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Politicians block plan for independent press regulation

Plans drawn up by the newspaper industry for a new system of press regulation have been rejected by a committee of senior ministers, it has been confirmed.

Leading publishers put forward plans for an Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) which would be free from political interference.

But culture secretary Maria Miller confirmed to MPs this afternoon that a sub-committee of the Privy Council, set up to examine the proposal, has come out against it.

The government will now consider further “substantive” changes to the original Royal Charter backed by the three main political parties, with a final decision to be announced later this month.

Ms Miller said that the industry plans did not comply with some of the “fundamental principles” of the Leveson Report on press regulation, including on independence and access to arbitration.

The cross-party proposals for a charter agreed by Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Labour and backed by Parliament would now be put forward for approval at a specially-convened meeting of the Privy Council on October 30.

The news that the sub-committee had rejected the industry’s plan was greeted with dismay – although little surprise – by one senior figure in the industry.

Trevor Kavanagh, associate editor of The Sun, told Newsnight: “It is not a shock. It’s what we’d been given fairly clear clues would happen.

“I think it has to be seen as a great victory for the forces of oppression of a free press – Hacked Off in particular – and the politicians who went along for the ride.”

Hacked Off, the lobby group which has campaigned for tighter press regulation, welcomed the sub-committee’s decision but expressed concern at the prospect of further delay.

“We are alarmed to hear that the Prime Minister now seems prepared to risk the breakdown of the cross-party agreement by once again delaying the approval of the Leveson royal charter,” it said in a statement .

“Ten months after the publication of the Leveson report and seven months after all parties in Parliament endorsed its recommendations in a royal charter, there can be no legitimate excuse for yet another delay.”

The industry submitted its proposals after arguing that a royal charter agreed by the parties in response to the Leveson report on press standards was too restrictive.

Hacked Off executive director Brian Cathcart said the industry plan had been a “delaying manoeuvre” by the big national newspapers.

“The problem with the papers is that they do not want to deal fairly with complaints,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
Chris Blackhurst, group content editor of The Independent and its sister titles, told the programme that either charter would “cost all newspapers a lot more money”.

He went on: “It’s well known that the newspaper industry is in trouble.

“Unfortunately, what’s happened is that all the positions are completely polarised and that’s also true of Hacked Off, it’s true of the politicians, it’s true of the press, and we are all in our trenches and we are all chucking grenades at each other and we are not really very far apart.”