- It included co-founder Brian Cathcart and former Lib Dem MP Evan Harris
- Newspaper industry saw charter for first time at 4.30am yesterday
- Downing Street did not know 4 senior Hacked Off officials would be present
01:25, 19 March 2013
01:26, 19 March 2013
The Prime Minister sent Oliver Letwin as the only Conservative representative at late-night talks on the new Press regulation deal – unaware that campaign group Hacked Off would also be present.
Cabinet Office minister Mr Letwin agreed to go to Labour leader Ed Miliband’s offices in the House of Commons late on Sunday to rubber stamp a Royal Charter deal.
What Downing Street did not know was that four senior officials from Hacked Off, the campaign group fronting demands for a Press law, were there too – including co-founder Brian Cathcart and former Liberal Democrat MP Evan Harris.
Four senior officials from Hacked Off, the campaign group fronting demands for a Press law, including former Liberal Democrat MP Evan Harris (centre), were present when the Royal Charter deal was rubber stamped
Professor Brian Cathcart from the ‘Hacked Off’ campaign was also there. There was no one from the newspaper industry present
There was no one from the newspaper industry, which played no part in drawing up the Royal Charter and only saw it for the first time when it was published at 4.30pm yesterday.
Labour politicians in attendance included Mr Miliband, deputy leader and media spokesman Harriet Harman, her special adviser Ayesha Hazarika, former Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer and Labour chief whip Rosie Winterton. Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg was also present for most of the discussion.
Fuelled by Kit Kats and delivery pizza, the talks lasted until 2.30am. Tory sources insisted Mr Letwin had discussed the Prime Minister’s ‘red lines’ with him beforehand and made only ‘tiny’ concessions.
Downing Street dismissed the idea that Mr Cameron had been asleep, saying he had been in touch with the Cabinet Office minister ‘throughout the night’ and was last in contact at 3.20am.
The Prime Minister then took part in a conference call with senior colleagues to discuss the deal shortly after 6am.
The Prime Minister sent Oliver Letwin as the only Conservative representative at the late-night talks
However, aides admitted he had not been aware that Hacked Off would be present, a fact they described as ‘not ideal’.
Mr Letwin told Number Ten that Hacked Off had not been in the room as the deal was finally struck, but Labour insisted it had been. Some sources suggested the Cabinet Office minister may have spent some of his time in an ‘ante-room’, accounting for some of the confusion.
Conor Burns, a Tory MP who has been a leading member of the campaign to protect press freedom, said Hacked Off’s presence at the negotiations suggested a ‘grubby’ deal.
But Dr Harris said: ‘We think it is a very wise move by [Mr Cameron] to accept essentially the Royal Charter proposed by Labour, Liberal Democrats and members of his own Conservative party which we much preferred in the negotiations.
‘It delivered cross-party support and that means it is much harder for the press to make politics out of this by divide and rule.
‘It is true to say that in the negotiations last night concessions and gains were made by him in terms of scope and the timing of exemplary damages – those are the only significant changes that were made that they had requested.’
As well as Dr Harris, the other Hacked Off members at the talks were co-founder Professor Cathcart, who lectures in journalism at Kingston University and is former deputy editor of the Independent on Sunday; Martin Moore, who founded the group and its predecessor, the Media Standards Trust; and chairman Hugh Tomlinson, QC, a barrister specialising in media law who has represented phone hacking victims.
How four Hacked Off campaigners sat in on the talks – but no-one from the … – Daily Mail
Top Stories – Google News