Ministers take control of ‘independent’ Press watchdog

Ministers take control of ‘independent’ Press watchdog set up after the Leveson inquiry

  • Press Recognition Panel set up by Royal Charter in 2014 after Leveson Inquiry
  • Its independence at risk after it was subsumed into the Ministry of Justice
  • PRP chairman David Wolfe admitted didn’t know about change until December 

The supposedly independent body set up after the Leveson Inquiry to oversee Britain’s Press regulators appears to have been quietly turned into an arm of the Government.

The Press Recognition Panel (PRP) was set up by Royal Charter in 2014 in the wake of the Leveson Inquiry to certify that Press regulators meet Leveson requirements and are independent of politicians.

However, its own independence is now at risk after it was subsumed into the Ministry of Justice without its knowledge.

The independence of the Press Recognition Panel is at risk after it was subsumed into the Ministry of Justice without its knowledge (file photo)

The MoJ’s last annual report states: ‘From April 1, 2018, the Press Recognition Panel has been designated as within the MoJ Departmental Boundary.’

But although that document was published last June, it appears the PRP only learned of the change last month. 

In a letter to the Treasury dated December 20, PRP chairman David Wolfe admitted that he did not know about the change until it was highlighted to him by the National Audit Office.


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He also warned that subsuming the PRP into the MoJ undermines its status. 

‘The Royal Charter on the Self-Regulation of the Press (establishing the PRP) had been carefully designed to ensure that the PRP remained separate from Government…,’ he said in the letter.

‘Whilst we note the decision of HM Treasury, it is the board’s view that the PRP should not be included in any ‘departmental boundary’ not least because to do so risks giving the false impression that there is some ongoing relationship between the PRP and the department. 

PRP chairman David Wolfe (pictured) admitted that he did not know about the change until it was highlighted to him by the National Audit Office in December 

‘The PRP is entirely independent of the Government, Parliament, the Press or any other such interest.’

Yesterday a Treasury spokesman confirmed it had received the letter from the PRP and would ‘respond in due course’.

So far the PRP has only given its Royal Charter backing to one regulator, Impress, which is backed by the disgraced former Formula One boss Max Mosley, who has made it his personal mission to curb Press freedoms.

Impress regulates just over 100 titles, virtually all of them very small hyperlocal publications. The PRP only granted Impress its Royal Charter backing in 2016, but its short existence has been turbulent.

In 2017 Impress was forced to give its own boss and two board members a dressing-down for breaking impartiality rules.

The Daily Mail and the vast majority of national and local newspapers are regulated by IPSO, an independent regulator which has chosen not to apply for recognition by the PRP.

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