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Prescott resigns from Privy Council

John Prescott has resigned from the Privy Council in protest at a delay to new press regulation plans that "borders on a conspiracy".

The Labour former cabinet minister took the rare step of withdrawing from the prestigious body over what he said was a "political" hold-up. It could even "embroil the monarchy in a possible conflict with Parliament and political division between the parties", he suggested.

A cross-party Royal Charter setting up a new system of self-regulation along the lines recommended by last year's Leveson Inquiry into phone-hacking had been expected to be approved by a committee of the Council.

But next week's meeting - led by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg - will instead consider a rival version drawn up by the industry and backed by most newspapers.

Victims of press intrusion have reacted furiously to the delay - which means the Commons-backed system will not be considered until the autumn.

Prime Minister David Cameron told MPs though that the Government had to follow the "correct legal processes" - which means priority must be given to the first of the Royal Charters to be formally submitted for consideration. He insisted that he remained committed to the cross-party proposals and said there were "serious shortcomings" in the industry version.

Lord Prescott - a member of the Privy Council since becoming Labour's deputy leader in 1994 - used his column in the Sunday Mirror to suggest the Government had deliberately "dragged its feet". The peer - who will no longer be entitled to be referred to as "the right honourable" as a result of quitting - said he had only "reluctantly accepted" the cross-party "compromise" on the original Leveson recommendations.

"But this Wednesday the Privy Council won't be considering Parliament's Royal Charter. It will be the rival Press Board of Finance (PressBof) Charter, written by press owners but not supported by all newspapers.

"The Government dragged its feet in further consultation and the Press industry put in its divided charter first. The rules and procedure, we are told, now mean it has to be considered first and consulted upon before Parliament's version, which is clearly a political decision by the Government."

Lord Prescott said he had never wanted to join the Privy Council but was persuaded he must do to have access to certain state documents. "I have resigned as a Privy Councillor on this point of principle about how the charters are considered," he wrote. "I sent off my resignation letter on Friday. The Privy Council must put Parliament and Parliament's Charter first."

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