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LONDON – U.K. culture secretary Maria Miller said Monday she hopes members of the British parliament will reach a consensus without the need for a vote on the press reform recommendations published in the Leveson report last week.
Miller, opening a parliamentary debate on Lord Justice Brian Leveson‘s findings published last weekend its central call for an independent self-regulatory body for newspapers, backed by law.
Leveson’s report arrived after months of evidence taken in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal that engulfed The News of the World and The Sun, the tabloids owned and published by News International, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. division.
Miller notably ended her speech declaring that the government would legislate if the press did not set up its own independent regulatory body.
She repeated the government’s “grave concerns” about underpinning regulation by statute.
But Labor described the Leveson proposal as “ingenious” declaring it was “essential” it be implemented.
Cross-party talks are ongoing and the government is drawing up draft legislation for a new press watchdog.
The prime minister’s office told the BBC there was no timetable for producing this legislation and said the process had only just begun.
MPs will debate the report in detail, but there will not be a vote on it.
Both Labor leader Ed Miliband and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg have voiced their support for the Leveson report to be implemented.
Labor says it is drafting its own bill in case no agreement can be reached.
But Prime Minister David Cameron has indicated he has “serious concerns and misgivings” about any legislation to regulate the press and wants newspapers to sign up tougher new regulator, without the need for legislation.
Miller said the report marked a “dark moment in the history of British press” and called for cross-party unity.
She said: “We must not allow this debate to polarise us. We all agree on the need for a tough and independent regulator for the press … we all agree that the suffering of the victims and their families cannot be allowed to happen again.
“We all agree that the status quo is not an option. It is the responsibility of this House to ensure that whatever is put in place is effective.”
However, she stressed the government had a “grave concern about the use of statutory legislation” to underpin the new regulator.”
Miller, Cameron, the Press Complaints commission chairman Lord Hunt and national newspaper editors will take part in talks on Tuesday.
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