Cross-party deal agreed on regulating the Press

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The main political parties have reached agreement on a proposed royal charter establishing a new system of Press regulation, Government sources have said.

Labour has agreed to a series of changes put forward by Culture Secretary Maria Miller intended to make the charter more palatable to the Press.

“We have a deal and the Labour Party have finally agreed to the changes proposed by the Culture Secretary to try and make it more workable,” one source said.

The agreement came at talks between Mrs Miller, Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman and senior Liberal Democrat peer Lord Wallace of Tankerness.

It will now go forward to the Privy Council for final agreement on October 30.

The changes include provision for a fee for use of a new arbitration service, intended to deter speculative claims.

They also agreed to the industry drawing up a code of conduct for editors, to be approved by the independent regulator.

The new version supersedes the text agreed by the parties at a late-night meeting over pizzas in Ed Miliband’s office in Westminster on March 18 in the presence of lobby group Hacked Off.

Under the charter, the job of adjudicating on complaints and imposing penalties will be performed by a new self-regulatory body set up by the industry to replace the Press Complaints Commission. A recognition panel would be required to verify whether this watchdog was effective and genuinely independent.

However, it would be up to individual publishers to sign up to a regulator endorsed by the panel, and there is speculation that many or all of the major newspapers could opt out of the proposed system if it does not address their concerns over freedom from political interference.

The agreement by the parties was welcomed by Hacked Off , which has led the campaign for tighter regulation of the press.

The group’s executive director, Brian Cathcart, said it should finally bring to an end the 11 months of wrangling over the recommendations of the Leveson report on press standards.

He said of the charge: “This is not what Lord Justice Leveson recommended and may well deter some members of the public from seeking redress when they have been wronged by news publishers.

“We trust that those newspaper organisations which have been demanding this change – notably the local and regional press – will now accept that they have no reason to object to the system and will fully embrace the charter.”