Peers expected to approve royal charter with statute, and MPs to vote against press veto for board membership
David Cameron is on course for a double defeat on press regulation on Monday when peers are expected to vote to underpin a newspaper royal charter with statute, and MPs to vote against the industry retaining a veto over the members of a new independent board to regulate the industry.
Tory whips will spend the weekend trying to put the squeeze on its backbenchers to back a still radically reformed system of regulation, but which stops short of the demands being made by Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the victims of press intrusion organised by Hacked Off.
In an attempt to show leadership, Cameron pulled the plug on the talks on Thursday, saying the gap between the two sides was unbridgeable, and could only be resolved by a vote in parliament.
Rival royal charters setting out new systems of press regulation were published on Friday by the Conservatives, and by Labour and the Liberal Democrats.
Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem leader and deputy prime minister, said: “I have not given up hope of finding a cross-party agreement, which is why today we are publishing a strengthened version of the royal charter that can deliver what Leveson wanted. We will also put in place an explicit safeguard in law against future governments playing around with the royal charter – a crucial guarantee for both the public and the press.
“I have always been clear that I don’t dismiss out of hand a legislative approach. I hope the approach we are publishing today plots a middle course between the dangers of doing nothing and the fears some people have of a full-scale legislative approach.
“This is a system that both myself and [Labour leader] Ed Miliband back, and that I believe Conservative MPs can also support. It reassures the press that there is no danger to their historical freedom, while giving assurance to the victims that they will be protected from unwarranted bullying and harassment.”
Miliband’s aides said Labour would have preferred MPs to be given a straight choice on Monday between the two royal charters, but Cameron had blocked that option, forcing Labour instead to make amendments to the crime and courts bill.
Unless Miliband suffers a much larger internal rebellion than expected, it is hard to see how Cameron will find sufficient support to overcome the newly combined forces of Labour and the Lib Dems.
Cabinet members are being dragged back from overseas to participate in the vote, but Cameron’s officials acknowledge that defeat is still likely.
For the second day in succession, No 10 said Cameron would respect the will of parliament if the Labour and Lib Dem amendments were passed. “Parliament is sovereign,” the spokesman said.
Cameron will tell the industry that he put precious political capital on the line to protect it, but it will now be down to a divided newspaper industry to decide whether to fight the outcome in the courts.
Oliver Letwin, the minister for policy, had initially proposed a royal charter as a means of regulating the press without the need for statute – Cameron has said any statutory oversight would be crossing a rubicon.
Apart from the statutory underpinning of the royal charter, supported by Labour and the Lib Dems, the two versions of the charter published yesterday differ over the right of the regulatory body to direct corrections, the right for the industry to veto members of the regulatory body and the treatment of complaints by third parties.
Differences over other contentious issues, such as responsibility for drafting the press standards code, and the imposition of exemplary damages on newspapers that do not join the system of self regulation, have narrowed.
The Conservatives still claim that, under Labour-Lib Dem proposals, a court could take account of membership of a recognised regulator in deciding damages, but if the newspaper was a member of the regulatory body, they would still be at risk of exemplary damages.
George Eustice, a Tory MP sympathetic to greater reform, urged the three parties to seek an 11th-hour compromise. At one point Eustice had claimed that 70 Tories supported tighter regulation, but that number will wilt to below 20 as the two charters are examined, and party loyalty kicks in.
Eustice claimed: “All the party leaders were remarkably close to an agreement yesterday. It is a shame that they ran out of time. There were a lot of small, rather nitpicking differences.
“In the end the prime minister concluded he was not going to be able to resolve differences by Monday. I still hope that come Monday calm heads will prevail and people will still come together to resolve a deal. We are very much nearly there.”
He urged the prime minister to move on the newspaper veto over the membership of the self-regulatory board.
A second Tory MP, Robert Buckland, wrote in the Guardian: “The independence of the regulator should be clear and unequivocal. That means that the press should not have a veto on appointments to the board of the regulator. There are plenty of other precedents – besides the legal one – for such a system.”
The body that represents the mobile industry predicts operators will make more money from data than from voice by 2018.
See the rest here: Data ‘to overtake voice’ by 2018
Investment in the North Sea is the highest for 30 years and rising, according to a report by an oil and gas trade body.
Link: UK oil investment ‘at 30-year high’