Press regulation talks break down
Cross-party talks on proposed reforms to press regulation have broken down after Prime Minister David Cameron told the other party leaders that the gap between them was too great.
Mr Cameron is shortly expected to announce plans to put Conservative proposals for a Royal Charter to underpin a new press regulator to a vote in the House of Commons on Monday.
Labour leader Ed Miliband and Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg have been pushing for legislation to back up the new system, as proposed by Lord Justice Leveson in his report on phone hacking.
But in a phone conversation between the three leaders, Mr Cameron told them they were trying to push him beyond a position he was comfortable with and beyond something the press would sign up to.
A senior Labour source said: "The Prime Minister's decision is very disappointing. We still hope for an agreement. We still believe there can be an agreement. We urge the Prime Minister to reflect on his actions."
In his response to the Leveson Inquiry's recommendations in November, Mr Cameron said he wanted to see a new strong regulator for the press, able to impose penalties of £1 million, but had "serious concerns and misgivings" in principle to any statutory interference in the media. He made clear then that he did not want to "cross the Rubicon" into writing elements of press regulation into the law.
Following the publication of the Leveson Report, Cabinet Office minister Oliver Letwin drew up plans for an independent body, backed by Royal Charter, to oversee the press self-regulation system.
Mr Cameron believed that this provided a workable solution to the impasse, but the plan has come under attack from supporters of reform, including the Hacked Off campaign, who want Leveson's recommendations implemented in full.
A series of cross-party discussions culminated in a meeting on Wednesday between Mr Cameron, Mr Miliband and Mr Clegg at which no agreement was reached. The latest phone call appears to have brought an end to the process.
Monday's vote will impose considerable strain on the coalition, as Liberal Democrat MPs would be able to inflict defeat on the Conservative proposals by combining with Labour.