Culture Committee MPs urge press to cease delaying tactics and back Leveson

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30 Oct 2013

MPs on the House of Commons Culture Media & Sport Select Committee today urged the national and local press to halt their delaying tactics and embrace the proper, independent self-regulation set out in last year’s Leveson report.

The call came after the High Court threw out the press barons’ attempt to stop this afternoon’s signing and sealing, at the Privy Council before the Queen, of the press Royal Charter debated over six months ago in Parliament.

The failed attempt at an injunction followed the Privy Council’s rejection of the press’ own rival charter, because it did not ensure that a regulator was sufficiently independent of the industry itself.

The CMS Committee has been deeply involved in events leading up to today’s signing, having pursued the issue of phone-hacking, and the failure of the now defunct Press Complaints Commission, from the outset.

During the consultation on the rival royal charters, a majority of the Committee’s MPs wrote to the government to urge rejection of the press’ version as not complying with many of the central recommendations of the Leveson report.

‘Despite the failure of today’s desperate court action, old-fashioned press barons seem intent on maintaining the stand-off, with threats now of going to the European courts,’ said Paul Farrelly, a Labour member of the Committee and MP for Newcastle-under-Lyme.

‘It won’t pass people’s notice how deeply ironical this would be, given the editorial stance many of the papers on Europe and its Court of Justice.’

‘What they really should do now is embrace Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations,  embodied in this democratically debated charter.’

‘All this does is set up a body to recognise a watchdog the press itself will set up. This time, all it will be asking is that the watchdog passes certain tests, chief among them independence from the industry it oversees. Public confidence demands this.’

‘The regulator the press now wants to set up – Ipso, the so-called Independent Press Standards Organisation – palpably fails the Leveson tests of independence, and others besides. But there is no reason why it needs to, with some common sense from the newspapers.’

Three weeks ago, breaking his silence for the first time since his report last November, at the Committee Sir Brian Leveson said his recommendations were clear, and in no way recommended state regulation, or censorship, as some of his more hysterical opponents claim.

The continued stand-off comes as the first of the phone-hacking trials commences this week, with charges being heard against former News of the World editors Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson - latterly Prime Minister David Cameron’s chief political spokesman.

In court today, the jury heard for the first time that three senior former newspaper staff – chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck and news editors Greg Miskiw and James Weatherup – and the private eye at the heart if the affair, Glenn Mulcaire, had pleaded guilty to hacking charges.

To read a copy of Mr Farrelly’s comment piece in his local Sentinel newspaper on Friday, urging the press finally to come on board, please click here.