When the escape route of a royal charter overseen by the privy council as a means of delivering Leveson was first raised over a year ago, I spoke against the idea at a Hacked Off briefing at Westminster. I do not recall if other privy counsellors were present, but it was clear I was in a minority of one. So when Jonathan Freedland (Comment, 12 October) points out that “a new regulator must be just as independent of the state” and that the privy council is the state, he is forensically correct.
The privy council’s oath prevents discussion of its proceedings. In a year there are about eight or nine meetings. Ministers are called, almost in turn, to give them all a chance to attend the palace. The only constant is the lord president of the council, the cabinet minister in charge. So continuity of members attending is impossible. The quorum is three, and usually four ministers are sent for.
However, not all privy counsellors are members of either house at Westminster. It is technically possible for a privy council to conduct business with a couple of Lords ministers and a member of the royal household who happens to be a privy counsellor. Not an elected politico in sight! And we are expected to buy this as delivering Leveson? Thanks, but no; this privy counsellor is not buying it.
House of Lords
• If the major sticking point on press regulation is the power of parliament to change the charter, why not remove that power from both the privy council and parliament, leaving both houses together only with the power to revoke the charter and to then initiate a public debate on its replacement.