Coalition braces for split over Leveson as Brooks and Coulson face court

 

The Deputy Prime Minister is considering taking the extraordinary step of dissenting publicly from his own Government’s response to the Leveson Inquiry’s blueprint for the future of a free press in Britain.

In an unprecedented move, Nick Clegg yesterday appeared to have won the approval of the Commons Speaker, John Bercow, to make a separate response to the Leveson Report, after David Cameron, at the same Government dispatch box yesterday afternoon.

The two men are due to meet this morning to try to thrash out a joint approach to the report, but admit this may prove impossible.

Meanwhile, former government spin doctor Andy Coulson and ex-News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks will appear in court today to face charges linked to alleged corrupt payments to public officials.

The pair are among five people who are due to appear at Westminster Magistrates' Court accused of conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office.

In an attempt to win Liberal Democrat support, the Prime Minister is expected to reject the proposals from the Press Complaints Commission for self-regulation of the newspaper industry and will open the door to a form of regulation that is more independent of the industry – but without Parliamentary legislation.

But should Lord Justice Leveson come out strongly in favour of statutory regulation, this may not be enough to win over Mr Clegg, who is determined not to be seen to be giving in to a concerted lobbying campaign by newspapers.

If that is the case, he will make his own response to the report from the Government benches, setting out how his party sees the future of press regulation.

“We would obviously prefer not to do this,” said a Liberal Democrat source. “But clearly we have to examine our options if we can’t agree on a joint way forward. This is as a unique set of circumstances. If there isn’t a collective government view we should be able to express our views.”

A spokeswoman for the Speaker suggested Mr Bercow would not stand in Mr Clegg's way.

Both Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg spent yesterday afternoon with aides trying to formulate a response to Lord Justice Leveson's report, which was delivered to No 10 at lunchtime and was said to run to some 2,000 pages. As he left Prime Minister's Questions, Mr Cameron quipped to Mr Clegg: "Right, let's go away and do our reading."

In public, Mr Cameron promised to seek cross-party agreement on newspaper regulation. The Culture Secretary, Maria Miller, will meet her opposite number Harriet Harman to try to agree a joint way forward. In the Commons, Mr Cameron warned newspapers the status quo could not continue, and said he wanted to end up with an "independent regulatory system that can deliver".

"This Government set up Leveson because of unacceptable practices in parts of the media and because of a failed regulatory system," he said. "I think we should try to work across party lines on this issue. What matters most, I believe, is that we end up with an independent regulatory system that can deliver and in which the public have confidence."

The Labour leader, Ed Miliband, welcomed Mr Cameron's commitment to consensus. He told MPs: "I hope we can work on an all-party basis. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for real change and I hope that this House can make it happen."

The Tory MP Philip Davies said statutory regulation of the press was a straight choice, with no third-way alternative. He said: "Can I warn you not to be remembered as the Prime Minister who introduced state regulation of the press. A free press is an essential part of a free democracy."

Mr Cameron replied: "I would agree a free press is absolutely vital to democracy. We should recognise all the press has done and should continue doing to uncover wrongdoing, to stand up to the powerful. This is vitally important. Whatever the changes we make, we want a robust and free press."

Ahead of today's publication, The Spectator said in a leading article that it would accept contractually binding self-regulation but would not sign up to anything "enforced by government". "If such a group is constituted we will not attend its meetings, pay its fines nor heed its menaces. We would still obey the [other] laws of the land. But to join any scheme which subordinates press to Parliament would be a betrayal of what this paper has stood for since its inception in 1828," it said.

In his first intervention on the issue, News International's chief executive, who was brought in after Rebekah Brooks quit, also warned against statutory regulation. Tom Mockridge said "fundamental" reform of media regulation was needed but that hacking victims should not be able to determine how it was done. "There is a strong view across the industry and outside it that the previous structure wasn't fully effective," he said. "But you still do not cross the Rubicon. Once the state intervenes, the state intervenes."

The Metropolitan Police has been formally warned to expect criticism in Lord Leveson's findings. The force was reported last night to have received one of the inquiry's "rule 13 letters" for its handling of the phone-hacking scandal and its relations with the media.

Timetable: The Judgement In Full

Yesterday

Six copies of the Leveson Inquiry report were handed to the Prime Minister, David Cameron, with one copy expected to be handed to his Liberal Democrat deputy, Nick Clegg.

Today

8am: Labour leader Ed Miliband receives a copy of report.

1.30pm: Lord Leveson publishes his report on Levesoninquiry.org.uk – where it can be viewed  for free by the public. Lord Leveson reads a statement  on the report at QE2 Centre, Westminster.

The judge will treat the statement like a judgment and will not take questions. He will leave soon afterwards for a conference on privacy in Australia.

3pm: David Cameron makes a statement to the House of Commons. Afterwards, Ed Miliband and MPs will give their responses.

4pm: The Hacked Off campaign holds a press conference.

3 December

Full debate in the House of Commons on press regulation.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine