Government accused of ‘buying time for friends in the Press’

John Prescott
John Prescott
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JOHN Prescott has resigned from the Privy Council in protest over delays to Press regulation plans which he said “borders on conspiracy”.

The former Deputy Prime Minister and East Hull MP took the rare step of quitting the 550-strong body which advises the Queen on constitutional issues and the issuing of Royal Charters, over a “political” hold up.

Lord Prescott, one of dozens of high-profile victims of phone hacking, said it could even “embroil the monarchy in a possible conflict with Parliament and political division between the parties”.

The peer, who settled a hacking claim earlier this year for £40,000, said he had been dismayed to discover that the Privy Council’s rules and procedures mean that rival industry-led plans had to be considered before parliament’s version.

And he warned that examination and implementation of parliament’s version could last until January 2015, and possibly beyond.

Lord Prescott – who will no longer be entitled to be referred to as “the right honourable” as a result of quitting – said: “I believe this approach borders on a conspiracy to delay Press regulation. Much worse, it will embroil the monarchy in a possible conflict with Parliament and political division between the parties.”

The industry charter is on the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting of the council, but no decision is expected before the autumn.

Campaign group Hacked Off – which was involved in the late-night negotiations with politicians that produced the cross-party Charter – applauded the move.

A spokesman said: “He is expressing the frustration felt by very many people, including victims of Press abuses, at the stalling of much-needed change on grounds related to the supposed procedures of this obscure body.

“The decision to put the Press barons’ charter through ahead of the parliamentary one is, as Lord Prescott says, a political move by sections of the Government who want to buy time for their friends in the Press.”