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David Cameron pulls the plug about press reform

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David Cameron pulls the plug about press reform

Post  Panda on Thu 14 Mar - 13:47

Last Updated: 12:58PM 14/03/2013



David Cameron has pulled the plug on cross-party talks about press reform after failing to agree with Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband.
The Liberal Democrats and Labour were stunned at the move and campaigners accused the Prime Minister of betraying victims of press abuse.
But Downing Street said divisions between the three leaders were just "too great".
The Prime Minister will instead put Tory plans for a Royal Charter to underpin a new press regulator to a free vote in the Commons next Monday.
The vote will put considerable strain on the coalition because the Lib Dems will be able to combine with Labour to defeat the Tory measures.
At a hastily-convened press conference, Mr Cameron warned the other parties they could either support him or "grandstand and end up with a system that I believe will not work".
Vowing to protect a free press, he cited Winston Churchill's dictum that it is "the unsleeping guardian of every other right that free people prize and the most dangerous foe of tyranny".
He insisted his proposal offered the quickest way to set up the kind of system envisaged by the Leveson report, with large fines and prominent apologies to ensure justice for victims.
The Prime Minister declared: "The deal is there to be done, it is the fastest way to get proper justice for victims."
Mr Miliband said a deal had still seemed possible and warned Mr Cameron he was making a "historic mistake".
"I don't think David Cameron is serving the interests of either the victims of press abuses nor the interests of the country," the Labour leader said.
He argued that a Royal Charter could be watered down later by ministers and that the Tories' proposed system would also not be properly independent of the press.
Both Labour and the Lib Dems are pushing for a new press regulator backed by law, as proposed by Lord Justice Leveson in his report on phone hacking.
But Mr Cameron warns that any form of statutory regulation will "cross the Rubicon" after centuries of a British free press.
After the Leveson report in November, Cabinet Office minister Oliver Letwin drew up plans for an independent body backed by Royal Charter to oversee the new system.
Mr Cameron had hoped this would resolve the impasse but the idea has been attacked by campaigners, including Hacked Off, who insist it is not enough.
After talks earlier this week, the three leaders spoke on the phone again on Thursday morning but Mr Cameron made clear he was holding firm.
He told Mr Clegg and Mr Miliband that they were trying to push him into a position he was not comfortable with and beyond something the press would sign up to.
Mr Cameron told reporters: "There's no point in producing a system that the press won't take part in. As Prime Minister, I wouldn't be fulfilling my duty if I came up with something knowing that it wouldn't work.
"I believe that what we have on the table is a system that will deliver public confidence and justice for the victims.
"It's a system that would introduce the toughest press regulation this country has seen and a system that will defend press freedom in our country."
He insisted he had been forced to act because he could not let talks drift on with no resolution while legislation in Parliament was being "hijacked" by Labour.
"We have a hung Parliament. In the end, Parliament is going to have to decide. Parliament is sovereign," he said.
A top Lib Dem source said Mr Cameron had pulled the plug on the talks "unilaterally" and that the party was considering its next step.
"We were very surprised and disappointed. We thought we were making real progress and inching towards a deal," the source said.
Hacked Off director Brian Cathcart said: "What the Prime Minister has done today is an astonishing betrayal of the victims of press abuse who gave evidence to the Leveson Inquiry."
He claimed Mr Cameron was "in hock" to newspaper proprietors and wanted to let them choose the make-up of a watchdog, filter complaints and "bury" apologies.

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