Isabel Hardman Isabel Hardman

Press regulation: Ceci n’est pas une statute

The party leaders should finish their discussions on Leveson – by phone – in the next hour or so. We’ll then get a statement in the Commons on the outcome of those talks, and it’s highly likely that all three leaders will speak as part of that statement.

But the big debate now is whether what they have signed up to already constitutes the statutory underpinning that David Cameron was so very keen to avoid. There are two amendments to two different pieces of legislation relevant to press regulation: one on the Crime and Courts Bill on exemplary damages, and one to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill which prevents politicians meddling with the Royal Charter. That second amendment reads as follows:

‘Where a body is established by Royal Charter after 1 March 2013 with functions relating to the carrying on of an industry, no recommendation may be made to Her Majesty in Council to amend the body’s Charter or dissolve the body unless any requirements included in the Charter on the date it is granted for Parliament to approve the amendment or dissolution have been met.’

Now the problem is that this is an amendment to a piece of legislation. So it looks and smells rather like statutory underpinning. The Prime Minister’s spokesman didn’t necessarily help clear the confusion this morning when he briefed journalists that ‘what this does is it actually enshrines a non-legislative approach’. He added:

‘The amendment that will be made to the ERR Bill is a no-change clause, it will apply to any Royal Charter, it is not specific in any way to the Royal Charter that has been agreed with regard to the implementation of the Leveson proposals.’

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