I thank the Secretary of State for her statement, for advance notice of it, and for her assurance to the House that the Conservatives remain committed to the charter that will introduce an independent complaints system for the press, which was put before the House by the Prime Minister, with the support of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, and unanimously approved by the House on 18 March and by the House of Lords. Will she reaffirm that the charter gives redress to victims when the press breach their code of conduct, while in no way interfering with the freedom of the press?
We believe that the charter should have been submitted for consideration at the Privy Council meeting tomorrow, but it will not be going to that meeting because the Prime Minister has chosen to delay its submission till the end of this month. We regret that, because it has been nearly a year since Leveson reported, and six months since the House agreed the draft charter. There has already been too much delay.
I therefore ask the Secretary of State to confirm to the House that the process that she, the Lib Dems and ourselves have agreed will be followed to ensure absolute transparency of the process and no further delay. That is, that the charter of 18 March will be completed by agreeing any matters that were still in square brackets on 18 March; that aside from that, the 18 March charter as agreed by this House will not be changed unless such a change has the agreement of all three party leaders; that the Secretary of State will this Friday place before the House the final version of the charter—that is, the 18 March charter including the issues that required to be completed, and only any changes if they have been agreed by all three party leaders—and that it will then be put forward to the Privy Council before the end of this month.
Will the Secretary of State agree that what is important for us is to get the charter sealed, to get the recognition panel established and for a regulator to be set up? We must ensure that there will be a fair and effective complaints system independent of the press and independent of politicians. As the Prime Minister said to the Leveson inquiry,
“that’s the test of all this. It’s not: do the politicians or the press feel happy with what we get? It’s: are we…protecting people who have been caught up and absolutely thrown to the wolves”.
So let us have no further delay. Let us get on and implement Leveson as set out by the House on 18 March.