Tighter press regulation and the Queen’s neutrality

Although the Queen is entitled to reject legislation put forward by the government or the privy council, it is believed the last time this happened was in 1705.

Note: This article is from the Guardian.


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Ed Miliband: tighter press regulation will not compromise Queen’s neutrality” was written by Patrick Wintour and Lisa O’Carroll, for The Guardian on Friday 26th April 2013 18.47 UTC

Ed Miliband urged politicians to reject suggestions that the Queen’s neutrality will be undermined if the privy council goes ahead with endorsing the version of the royal charter on press regulation agreed by parliament, as opposed to the one put forward by sections of the newspaper industry on Thursday.

The Labour leader said he expected critics of tighter press regulation would claim the monarch’s neutrality was being compromised in such a way to prevent the politicians’ charter from being sealed. “No doubt people will claim that but since this was passed by unanimity by parliament I do not think we should worry too much about that,” he said.

Number 10 has said that the privy council – an ancient institution in which the Queen meets with select senior ministers and parliamentarians – will act on the advice of the relevant secretary of state, in this case the culture secretary Maria Miller.

Miliband said his shadow culture secretary, Harriet Harman, had spoken with Miller, and they were in agreement. But there is a private nervousness that David Cameron might use the move by some of the newspaper groups to back away from the regulation agreed by parliament, and leave the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg and Miliband isolated in calling for the tougher form of independent regulation vehemently opposed by the major newspaper groups.

Earlier this week, a group of newspaper owners, including Rupert Murdoch’s News International – owners of the Sun and the Times – plus the publishers of the Daily Mail, Daily Mirror, Daily Telegraph and the Daily Express – sprung a surprise by launching their own royal charter for press regulation with slightly less onerous restrictions.

However, those groups have privately conceded they will have to abandon a proposal to allow the press to veto appointments to the board of the new watchdog if it has a chance of winning over other newspapers not involved in the discussions. An industry source said they were aware that the veto is unacceptable to some and “will have to be revisited” in order to gain the backing of the Guardian, the Financial Times and the Independent, which were not involved in devising the plan.

Chris Jefferies, the Bristol landlord who won damages from eight newspapers for their coverage of his arrest following the murder of his tenant Joanna Yeates, has described the newspaper royal charter initiative as “a brazen attempt by powerful and unaccountable newspapers to pull the wool over our eyes”.

Writing in the Guardian, he said: “It is simply outrageous that those who have caused so much distress to ordinary members of the public should feel that they have any kind of right or legitimacy to lay down the terms for the way in which the press are overseen in the future.”

News International, Associated Newspapers and the Telegraph Media Group, devised the plan, unveiled on Thursday, to apply for a rival royal charter and have already won the backing of Trinity Mirror and Northern & Shell as well as the magazine and regional newspaper industry.

The Guardian, the Financial Times and the Independent are concerned the veto will be a return to the old ways of the discredited Press Complaints Commission which was seen as a poodle of the tabloids and failed to properly investigate allegations about News of the World phone hacking raised in 2009. Concern has also been expressed that veto would be used for both the independent board members and those from the industry. “It’s not that the veto is unacceptable to me, I don’t count, it’s unacceptable to the public and to politicians,” said Chris Blackhurst, editor of the Independent. “It would have been a triumph if they had dropped the veto, it’s just one clause, but they want to cling on to power.” Miliband said: “This is still the best system and the best way forward, and I hope the newspapers will realise that. I really think we cannot go back to the old proposal that was rejected by the parties and had all kinds of problems with it. Let’s make this royal charter work. We had intensive consultations with the victims, the press and this was passed with unanimity.”

Although the Queen is entitled to reject legislation put forward by the government or the privy council, it is believed the last time this happened was in 1705 when Queen Anne refused to approve the Security Act.

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