Royal Charter on Press Conduct

Oral Answers to Questions — Communities and Local Government – in the House of Commons at 3:38 pm on 18th March 2013.

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Application for emergency debate (Standing Order No. 24)

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Speaker of the House of Commons

I call the Prime Minister to make an application for leave to propose a debate on a specific and important debate that should have urgent consideration under the terms of Standing Order No. 24. The right hon. Gentleman has three minutes in which to make such an application.

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party 4:14 pm, 18th March 2013

I seek leave to propose that the House should debate a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely the welcome publication of the draft royal charter by the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition today, and the Prime Minister’s intention to submit the charter to the Privy Council for Her Majesty’s approval at its May meeting.

What happened to the Dowlers, the McCanns, Christopher Jefferies and many other innocent people who had never sought the limelight was utterly despicable. It is right that we put in place a new system of press regulation to ensure that such appalling acts can never happen again. We should do that without further delay. The royal charter, which I would like us to take note of now, will help do exactly that.

Furthermore, the cross-party agreement that has been reached today will allow the Bills that had been blocked or amended with concepts of statutory press regulation to be unblocked, including the Defamation Bill, which makes important libel reform, and the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, which sets up the green investment bank. As a result, the Government’s legislative programme will be able to proceed. I would therefore be grateful, Mr Speaker, if you would grant this application.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Speaker of the House of Commons

The Prime Minister asks leave to propose a debate on a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely the welcome publication of the draft royal charter by the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition today, and the Prime Minister’s intention to submit the charter to the Privy Council for Her Majesty’s approval at its May meeting.

I have listened carefully to the application from the Prime Minister and am satisfied that the matter is proper to be discussed under Standing Order No. 24. Has the right hon. Gentleman the leave of the House? The Prime Minister does indeed have the leave of the House.

Application agreed to.

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am sorry to do this, but it is all very well to talk about the publication of the draft charter, but it is not available in the Vote Office or in the Library. The Clerk has a copy of it but hon. Members do not have copies of it. It is an odd way of doing business for us to debate something that we have never had an opportunity to see.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Speaker of the House of Commons

I say to the hon. Gentleman, whom I thank for his point of order, that my copy and that held by the Clerk came from the Vote Office. Therefore, my understanding is that copies of the document are lodged in the Vote Office, and I say that only on the basis of my experience. If copies are not so lodged, they most certainly should be. I can deal only with the exigencies of the situation as they arise. I am not knocking the hon. Gentleman; he has raised his point of order and I have sought fairly and accurately in my terms to respond to it. The responsibility now is for the House to move on to debate the matter. I call the Prime Minister to move the motion and I emphasise that the debate can last for up to three hours.