UK & World News
Cameron Pulls Plug On Press Regulation Talks
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 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.
Mr Clegg claimed the talks had been making "real progress" and admitted he had been "surprised and disappointed" by the Prime Minister's decision.
He refused to say whether his party would vote with Labour on Monday and vowed to continue to seek a cross-party consensus in the coming days.
"David Cameron has decided to turn his back on a cross-party approach. I have not," he said.
"I am determined to reach out to others and work together with MPs from Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative MPs to get this right."
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.
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.
Several of the group's other campaigners also expressed their dismay.
Jacqui Hames, a former Metropolitan Police officer who gave evidence at the Leveson Inquiry, said: "I'm incredibly disappointed to see that David Cameron wants to walk away and go back to where we were.
"It's back to press and media moguls bullying and harassing the public and we cannot go on like this."
British Irish Rights Watch director Jane Winter, whose emails were hacked, added: "Who is running the country? Is it parliament or is it the press?"
Executives from newspaper groups and press bodies issued a joint statement in support of the Prime Minister's stance.
They said there were ready to "move with speed" to set up a new system which fully delivers on the Leveson principles and would provide real protection.
The statement was signed by News International, the Daily Mail Group, the Telegraph Media Group and Express publisher Northern & Shell among others.
The Guardian, Independent and Financial Times were not on the list having broken ranks with other titles earlier this week to propose a compomise underpinned by statute.
what do you think?
I sometimes wonder if Clegg would be happier allied to Labour.He appears to throw the dummy out of the pram at every opportunity.Or is he as many in his party think just incompetent?
I agree Mike,not only does the Limp Dims tear the coalition apart in public, but Cable is in not so secret talks with Labour for a future coalition, Whats more Cameron knows its game over for the tories........Cant wait for the next general election.
has mr cameron got a spare bedroom i can haveillnpay if gas and electrick are all in
It matters little. Cameron won't be leading his party much longer...
Sounds like Cameron, was the sort of child that took the ball home if you would not play the game his way.
Another bung to keep the law at bay?
all rich conuservtives are the same
Paul Rich ?
its about time we stood up and told them we not gonna take all this rich taxes ror the poor while we gain millions for sitting on our tory arses
Mustn't upset Rupert must we Dave.
I'm back after 2 years away. Beware !!! Where's Harry ??? Where's Fentiger ??? Where are all my old muckers??
Welcome back Sir Pedro, long time. Think harrys gone.
This comment has been removed for violations of our Terms and Conditions.
Cameron had no intention of following this press reform plan through. All he was waiting for was an excuse to scrap it.
Fear Not faithful ones U-Turn Cameron will change his mind again next week.
They haven't got the guts to take on Murdoch and the like
d and d Phillips
I wish somebody would pull the plug on Cameron
As much as i despise Cameron this is good news. Press freedom is paramount to a free society. Labour want state controlled communist style media.
Fickle Clegg. When the Labour Party agreed with him with regard to the Mansion Tax, he decided to drop it. Now he's against Cameron. Yawn.
Crack s in the coalition looks like an election in the near future.Bullington boys have blew it yet again.
Don't step out of line with regard to your private life Cameron. The press will get you. You honestly didn't think your gesture would make them go easy on you did you?
The big headed prat thinks he knows better than everyone else how to regulate the press is the impression you get, but the undertones are he is looking after his friends in the Murdoch Empire. One thing he is sure of is that at a vote in Parliament won't be defeated because the cowardly LibDems will abstain in the vote to hold on to their precious moments of glory in Government.
This comment has been removed for violations of our Terms and Conditions.
Not surprised...he needs as many of his tabloid owning chums as he can get before the next election.