Coalition close to breaking-point over press regulation as Labour and Lib Dems set out rival plans to David Cameron's proposals

Tempers fray as Leveson decision day approaches

Coalition tensions intensified tonight as the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats traded blows before next week's crunch parliamentary vote on press regulation.

Tory anger boiled over after the Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, joined forces with Labour to set out an alternative vision of how best to curb media excess in the wake of Lord Justice Leveson's report.

Party sources accused the Deputy Prime Minister of "massive political game-playing" by backing Labour's plan for a strengthened Royal Charter underpinned by statute to establish an independent press regulator.

David Cameron is also proposing a Royal Charter to create a regulator, but does not believe any statutory underpinning should be involved as it could be seen as interfering with press freedom. The two sides published rival plans on regulation yesterday, which will be put to a vote in the Commons on Monday. The debate could be heading to a cliffhanging result with the outcome potentially depending on whether rebel Tories and minority parties back a Labour-Liberal Democrat amendment. Labour indicated it spoke to several Conservatives who share Lord Justice Leveson's view that a press regulator should have an element of statutory underpinning. Up to 20 Tories are thought to be considering defying a three-line whip to support Mr Cameron.

The Coalition was already under strain on Thursday after the Prime Minister dramatically scrapped all-party talks on how to implement the Leveson report. His move took Mr Clegg as much by surprise as it did the Labour leader, Ed Miliband.

But Conservative sources were scathing about the Liberal Democrat leader's decision to take up common cause with Labour instead of working with the Prime Minister to bridge their differences. A senior Tory told The Independent: "Nick Clegg is Deputy Prime Minister and he's part of the Coalition and he should have put his amendment on the Coalition Royal Charter.

"His position was always that he wanted a full Press Bill. And then they publish a Royal Charter. This is a complete U-turn and massive political game-playing. It's astounding."

A Liberal Democrat source responded: "We were initially sceptical about a Royal Charter, but we think a [charter] with improvements can work. That is how negotiations can work – you don't arbitrarily pull the plug on talks when you think you can find a solution."

However, he dismissed suggestions that Mr Clegg could veto a form of the Royal Charter of which he did not approve. The exchanges follow increasing strains between the two Coalition parties over the economy in the run-up to the Budget next Wednesday. Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat Business Secretary, has called for a rise in borrowing to fund infrastructure projects and kick-start growth, but has been slapped down by Mr Cameron.

The Tories claimed their proposals did allow the regulator to enforce prominent apologies and said claims of big differences between the two documents were based on nuance.

It is critical for the success of the Labour and Liberal Democrat strategy that they can present the two Royal Charters as fundamentally different.

The two parties had been sceptical of such a procedure and their members in the House of Lords supported statutory amendments to the Defamation Bill, designed to introduce press reform by law. Both Labour and the campaigning group Hacked Off have previously put forward draft bills for regulating the press through statute.

Brian Cathcart, head of Hacked Off, which has worked closely with Labour and the Liberal Democrats, claimed the difference between the two documents was clear-cut. "It's Leveson or not Leveson," he said.

Mr Cathcart denied Tory claims that the key issue was whether to introduce statute and said he had always had "an open mind" about the idea of a Royal Charter although he admitted "we don't like it in principle".

He said the Tory document allowed the newspaper industry to veto appointments to the new regulator and gave the new watchdog insufficient powers to force a publication to publish an apology in a given place. He also said clauses in the Tory Royal Charter would restrict the investigatory arm of the new regulator.

Gerry McCann, father of the missing Madeleine McCann, said it was essential that the regulator was backed by legislation.

"Lord Justice Leveson was absolutely clear on this. He said that statutory underpinning was essential," Mr McCann told BBC News. Until the announcement I had never really heard of a Royal Charter. It seems something of an archaic system to underwrite something so important. I would much, much prefer that this was put properly into the statute book."

Where they stand: the party lines

Labour/Lib Dems

An alternative Royal Charter has been introduced because Labour and the Liberal Democrats believe the Tory version fails to deliver the Leveson proposals. In particular, there is a feeling that statutory underpinning is crucial to the integrity of a Royal Charter document because it will prevent meddling by future governments and to this effect an amendment will be tabled to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill.

Labour and the Liberal Democrats also claim the need for unanimous approval of members of the panel that will oversee the regulator means the press could veto people it does not approve of.

Conservatives

The Tories are furious a device to avoid introducing a press law has been adopted by Labour and the Liberal Democrats, who previously expressed doubts over such an "undemocratic" procedure. The Tories argue their opponents are involved in nothing more than political chicanery.

There is a sense of betrayal that Nick Clegg has chosen to throw his weight behind a rival Royal Charter rather than seeking to introduce amendments to a similar document put forward by his coalition partners.

Ian Burrell

Voices
Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond delivers his speech at the Scottish National Party (SNP) Spring Conference in Aberdeen, Scotland April 12, 2014.
voices
Arts & Entertainment
artYouth club owner says mural is 'gift from the sky' so he can prevent closure of venue
News
Plans to decriminalise non-payment of television licence fees would cost the BBC £500m according to estimates drawn up within the Corporation
people
Arts & Entertainment
Jessica Pare as Megan Draper and Jon Hamm as the troubled, melancholy Don Draper
tvAnd six other questions we hope Mad Men series seven will answer
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
people
Life & Style
The new low cost smartphone of Motorola, 'Motorola Moto G', is displayed in Sao Paulo, Brazil on November 13, 2013. The smartphone, with dimensions 65.9mm W x 129.9mm H x 6.0 - 11.6mm D is equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 with quad-core 1,2 GHz CPU, a 4.5-inch display and Android Operating System 4.3 and a suggested price of $ 179 USD.
techData assessing smartphones has revealed tens of millions of phones are at risk of being harvested
News
Meet Mr Poo: The lumpy, brown anthropomorphised faeces that is the face of Unicef's latest public health campaign in India.
news
Arts & Entertainment
Cody and Paul Walker pictured in 2003.
film
News
David Beckham is planning to build a stadium in Miami’s port for a new football team he will own
news... in his fight for a football stadium in Miami's port area
News
weird newsMan live-photographs cracking of mysterious locked box on Reddit
News
weird news
Arts & Entertainment
Seeing red: James Dean with Sal Mineo in 'Rebel without a Cause'
filmAs 'Rebel without a Cause' is re-released, Geoffrey Macnab reveals how its star James Dean perfected his moody act
News
Obesity surgery in rats has been found to change the way the body processes alcohol
news
Arts & Entertainment
Heads up: Andy Scott's The Kelpies in Falkirk
artThe Kelpies are the latest addition to a growing army of giant sculptures. But naysayers are asking what a pair of gigantic horse heads tells us about Falkirk?
Life & Style
US Airways has been at the centre of a Twitter storm after it responded to customer complaints with a graphic sexual image
techUS Airways takes an interesting approach to customer service
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher - September 2014

£100 - £165 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We are looking for a Teacher of...

English Teacher

Main Teacher Pay Scale : Randstad Education Leeds: English Teacher RequiredImm...

KS2 Teacher

£90 - £120 per day + tax deductable expenses: Randstad Education Leicester: KS...

B2B Bids and Tenders Pricing Specialist

£35000 - £45000 per annum + excellent company benefits : Pro-Recruitment Group...

Day In a Page

Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal
Supersize art

Is big better? Britain's latest super-sized art

The Kelpies are the latest addition to a growing army of giant sculptures. But naysayers are asking what a pair of gigantic horse heads tells us about Falkirk?
James Dean: Back on the big screen

James Dean: Back on the big screen

As 'Rebel without a Cause' is re-released, Geoffrey Macnab reveals how its star perfected his moody act
Catch-22: How the cult classic was adapted for the stage

How a cult classic was adapted for the stage

More than half a century after it was published 'Catch-22' will make its British stage debut next week
10 best activity books for children

10 best activity books for children

Keep little ones busy this bank holiday with one of these creative, educational and fun books
Arsenal 3 West Ham United 1: Five things we learnt from the battle between the London sides

Five things we learnt from Arsenal's win over West Ham

Arsenal still in driving seat for Champions League spot and Carroll can make late charge into England’s World Cup squad
Copa del Rey final: Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right

Pete Jenson on the Copa del Rey final

Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right
Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

With the tennis circus now rolling on to the slowest surface, Paul Newman highlights who'll be making the headlines – and why
Exclusive: NHS faces financial disaster in 2015 as politicians urged to find radical solution

NHS faces financial disaster in 2015

Politicians urged to find radical solution
Ukraine crisis: How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?

Ukraine crisis

How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

A history of the First World War in 100 moments
Fires could turn Amazon rainforest into a desert as human activity and climate change threaten ‘lungs of the world’, says study

New threat to the Amazon rainforest:

Fires that scorch the ‘lungs of the Earth’
Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City: And the winner of this season’s Premier League title will be...

Who’s in box seat now? The winner of the title will be ...

Who is in best shape to take the Premier League prize?