Cameron hopes for late deal on press reform

DAVID Cameron and Nick Clegg last night held crisis talks to avoid a damaging coalition split over today’s Commons vote on press regulation.

The Prime Minister faces defeat when MPs vote on the issue tonight, as Labour and the Lib Dems have joined forces to back a proposal that will hand parliament control over the royal charter that will ensure the independence of a new press regulator.

Culture secretary Maria Miller last night said she was hopeful of a last-minute deal: “I hope the discussions we have over the next 24 hours can really make sure we can come together and have a real solution here.

“I think there’s been compromise on both sides to make sure we take the Leveson Report, which was never a blueprint for the regulation of the press, and make sure it works in practice,” she told the BBC.

All-party talks on the issue collapsed last Thursday after Cameron decided they could not reach an agreement.

The Prime Minister strongly opposes any form of statutory underpinning for the new press watchdog. He fears it would end centuries of press freedom by handing politicians authority over news outlets and tempt future governments to adopt an even more hard line approach to publications.

But unless a deal can be done today Labour and the Lib Dems are expected to push through their amendment as together they outnumber the Conservatives in the House of Commons.

Three newspaper groups threatened last night to boycott the Labour and Lib Dems’ proposal.