POLITICS
05/11/2013 04:18 GMT

John Whittingdale Warns Of Inevitable Press Regulation 'Car Crash'

John Whittingdale MP speaks during a tribute to Baroness Margaret Thatcher in the House of Commons, London.
PA
John Whittingdale MP speaks during a tribute to Baroness Margaret Thatcher in the House of Commons, London.

The government and newspapers are heading towards a "car crash" in their battle over the regulation of the press, the chairman of the Commons culture, media and sport committee has warned.

Conservative John Whittingdale said the stand-off between the press and parliament would inevitable come to a head in the European court of human rights once the first newspaper is forced to pay out huge damages in a libel case that it wins.

Last week the cross-party royal charter was approved by the privy council. However the newspaper industry has so far refused to sign up, meaning the government could be left with having created a regulator which has no one to regulate.

The press are instead pushing ahead with the creation of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), a sort of beefed up Press Complaints Commission (PCC), which would not be formally verified by the charter.

The downside for the newspapers of not submitting for formal recognition would be that they have to pay out huge amounts of money in any libel or defamation case even if they win it. Supporters of the royal charter, including Hacked Off, believe this means newspapers will eventually give in and agree to be regulated by the charter.

However the industry has indicated it could take the government to the European court of human rights should this happen and are confident of victory. The press would argue having to pay large sums of money even in the event of victory in cases brought against them would breach article 10 of tbe European Convention on Human Rights which provides for freedom of expression.

Whittingdale told The Huffington Post UK: "the trouble is the royal charter has be signed off and once in place that's it. Unless there are further changes every newspaper has said they ware not willing to accept it."

"IPSO will be set up. It will be there and offering a complaints process a lot tougher than the PCC. but it doesn't meet the specific the conditions of the royal charter."

"Sooner or later there is likely to be that confrontation where, because they [newspapers] are outside the royal charter, they are punished in the courts and that's when the cars crash occurs.

He added: "An action will be brought and the newspaper will get a huge bill as a result of it, win or lose, and that's when I suspect they are suggesting they will challenge it the European court."

On Sunday culture secretary Maria Miller indicated she was prepared to let the press give IPSO a go at regulation, admitting that it could make the royal charter redundant.