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Royal Charter will set out blueprint for overseeing regulation of Press

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: February 12, 2013

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The Government will today set out plans for Press regulation in response to the Leveson inquiry into media ethics.

Cabinet Office minister Oliver Letwin will publish a draft Royal Charter that ministers want to use instead of legislation.

David Cameron has set his face against using statute to underpin regulation, arguing that it would "cross the Rubicon" after centuries of Press freedom. Under the proposal, an independent "verifier" would oversee a new-look Press watchdog, making sure newspapers abide by rules that could include right of reply and that information can be gathered only through legitimate means.

A Royal Charter sets out a body's duties, limits and how it is regulated. The mechanism is attractive as a charter cannot be changed without government approval, meaning it is immune from manipulation.

But nor is it as susceptible to political interference as legislation, as a Royal Charter is usually only ever reviewed every ten years.

The proposal will be driven by the Tories, with Liberal Democrats supporting a Royal Charter as a means of securing cross-party support.

Labour has argued more determinedly for statutory underpinning.

Justice Leveson last year condemned the "culture of reckless and outrageous journalism" that dominated sections of the national Press. On the other hand, regional newspapers, he said, make a contribution to their communities that is "truly without parallel", arguing that the criticisms should not be applied to local print journalists.

George Eustice, Conservative MP for Camborne and Redruth, who has called for Press reform, said: "Lord Leveson was clear there should be no state regulation of the Press – but self-regulation would be far better if there is some measure of statutory under-pinning. The proposals Oliver Letwin has come up with seem very interesting, and I will keep an open mind about them."

More than half of voters think a new system of Press regulation should be backed by law, according to a poll.

Some 53% felt statute was necessary if the new regime was to be effective and independent, while 23% thought legal backing would put at risk the freedom of the Press, the YouGov survey found.

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